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David Poland

By David Poland

Finding Neverland Call & Response

A note from a reader read:

"Maybe because I liked this film so much that I am being too sensitive but for the second time in a month USA Today has taken a shot at Finding Neverland by drawing unnecessary comparisons of J. M Barrie and Michael Jackson. Nevermind that nothing was ever proved against Mr. Barrie. The jury will soon try Mr. Jackson and we will know whether he is guilty or innocent, but in the court of public opinion, the court that matters when it comes to box office receipts, J.M Barrie’s named mentioned next to Mr. Jackson’s is a cultural guilty verdict and a serious blow to the films Oscar chances. Whether you feel Finding Neverland is worthy of Oscar consideration or not is a fair debate but do you agree that USA Today is being irresponsible in their attempts at humor."

I responded:

“I think it is irresponsible to bring up in a blithe way… there is a real debate and I do think that the discussion is fair game… in no small part, the film creates its own problem by being, at the very least, overly blurred as to Barrie’s motives to be so much a part of this family’s life. If Mr. Jackson was believed to be having heterosexual relations, the suspicion about his potential as a gay pedophile would lessened… even if that is an inaccurate indicator. Finding Neverland does not fess up about Barrie’s sexual peculiarities… whether he just had a low sex drive or was a closeted homosexual or, indeed, an active or inactive pedophile.
But no… not really funny any way you cut it.”

What do you think?

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37 Responses to “Finding Neverland Call & Response”

  1. Mark says:

    I don’t think you can have a movie about Barrie and not cover his pedophilia. Either by discrediting or playing it up. To totally blow it off is irresponsible.

  2. Quentin says:

    First of all, it is never totally blown off. It is clearly and distinctly mentioned, treated as a spurious rumor, and accordingly dismissed – by Barrie (Depp) himself.
    The writer and other creators of the film have an artistic responsibility – only to themselves – to tell a story their way. They told that story, and it considers rumors of Barrie as a pedophile to be utterly false. The film is not about sex and has no responsibility whatsoever to address rumors even as much as it does. If you’re bringing luggage with you to the film, that’s your problem.
    It clearly defines Barrie’s relationship with the boys as loving, caring, protective, and parental. End of friggin’ subject. You have another take? Make your own movie. And, no, just because the film shows the strained and asexual relationship with his wife does not mean it has to delve further into pedophilia rumors. They are unrelated (once again, unless you choose to draw a correlation).
    As for USA Today – their coverage is typically reprehensible attention grabbing. It’s so easy and base. I never touch the rag myself, but just another reason not to. Unfortunately, it MAY hurt the film’s award chances. But, I’m more of the mind that the film never really picked up enough steam in the first place.

  3. PeppersDad says:

    First of all, I want to make it clear that I have not yet seen Finding Neverland.
    I therefore cannot speak to the actual content or tone of the film. But if it in any way presents itself as a genuinely biographical treatment of a period in Barrie’s life, then I may legitimately contend that it certainly does have a responsibility to address the issue of his rumored pedophilia. (The film Kinsey had the same problem.) Here’s an easy analogy: Whether he’s found guilty or not, can you imagine a biography of Michael Jackson that does not deal with the same rumors and charges?
    In either case, the narrative problem for a filmmaker telling these stories occurs when the rumors turn out to be wrong or unfounded. It’s a lot easier to show criminal or scandalous conduct on screen than to disprove a negative. That is, at least in these cases, how would you show in dramatic form that these men never once committed an act of pedophilia? I don’t envy filmmaker who has to accomplish that.
    As for USA Today, I generally consider it a rag that I only look at when I get it for free in a hotel room. On the other hand, any project these days that uses the word “Neverland” in its title is just begging to bask in the current glow of the Michael Jackson spotlight. In contrast, I don’t recall any such Jackson comparisons being made when last year’s Peter Pan movie was released.

  4. PeppersDad says:

    Sorry, the second sentence of the thrid paragraph about should say “prove a negative,” not “disprove.”

  5. Quentin says:

    “That is, at least in these cases, how would you show in dramatic form that these men never once committed an act of pedophilia?”
    In “Finding Neverland”, a “society man” and friend of Barrie tells him of the rumors. Barrie is appalled, scolds the man, dismisses the rumors, states his parental role.
    If the movie is not ABOUT pedophilia (the movie is not – it is about Barrie’s relationship with the LD family and how they became the motivation/muse for Peter Pan), then why should it address the problem any more than that? HOW would it without detracting from the subject matter and theme at hand?
    I find it curious that no one finds the need to call the movie on its revisionist history of FACTS regarding Arthur Llewellyn Davies, but continue to dwell on the lack of time dealing with RUMORS of pedophilia. Why is that? I think it’s probably because extra-marital affairs are no longer scandalous. Pedophilia is a much more hot topic.

  6. PeppersDad says:

    Quentin –
    Nice job! Just to be clear, like I’ve already said, I haven’t even seen the movie. For all I know, the movie does a remarkably brilliant job handling the pedophilia issue. All I meant to convey above was that if the movie aspires to be a biography (and I honestly don’t know whether or not it does), I would expect such a biography to give an appropriate amount of attention to the unavoidable pedophile rumors still associated with Barrie to this day.
    Did the movie give it an appropriate amount of attention? Again, I have no idea. But until I’m shown otherwise, I have no problem taking your word for it.

  7. Martin says:

    Finding Neverland is a mediocre film but I do think that it made a reasonable effort to include the various rumors around the guy.

  8. Stella's Boy says:

    As far as I know, there is zero evidence to support the claim that Kinsey was a pedophile. Those are rumors intended to tarnish the man’s name. As for Finding Neverland, I saw it back in August, and when I did, I had never heard about the possible pedophilia. The movie really doesn’t mention or address it, save for a brief scene where one of Barrie’s friends mentions that “people are talking” about the nature of his relationship to the family.

  9. PeppersDad says:

    For the record, I thought Kinsey was a genuinely great, courageous movie. I am in no way qualified to speak about the validity of the pedophile rumors attached to the man, but I have heard them uttered in the mainstream media (and I’m not just talking about the Fox network) since the movie came out. Because I’m unfamiliar with any conclusive proof one way or the other, to me it’s just one unaddressed detail within a complex, important film. But I do wish the film had confronted the issue, at least in some small way.

  10. Stella's Boy says:

    But is there anything to confront? Is anyone other than insane right-wing groups like Focus on the Family, or whatever they are called, accusing him of being a pedophile? I have done a little research on the subject (far from extensive, admittedly) and I could not find anything that suggested there is even a shred of evidence to support that Kinsey was a pedophile. Therefore, there may be nothing to confront. It’s likely merely a vicious rumor intended as a smear campaign.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    As long as we’re talking about biopics, how do people generally feel about their tendency to leave out some of the more controversial details of their subject’s life? There’s the already mentioned Kinsey and Finding Neverland. Apparently The Aviator leaves out some sordid details. I’m sure everyone remembers the controversy surrounding A Beautiful Mind a few years back. The list goes on and on. And there have been plenty of biopics this year. What do people think?

  12. Eric says:

    I thought Kinsey (the movie) did do a pretty good job of addressing much of the criticism targeted at Kinsey (the man).
    It did so subtly, in the Kenneth Braun scene. The accusations against Kinsey, that he readily accepted pedophilia as healthy, are well-known– not addressing them in some way would have been a choice that calls attention to itself. It would have agitated the audience, regardless of the filmmaker’s intent.
    The movie acknowledged that part of his story, without dwelling on it, and with a very ambiguous stance. That was satisfying enough for me, a viewer mostly uninformed of Kinsey’s story.

  13. PeppersDad says:

    Stella’s Boy –
    You pose entirely valid questions. I don’t know the answers. My hazy impression has been that the rumors, whether supportable or not, were around a lot farther back than the release date of the movie. If so, I think they should have been addressed. If not, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  14. PeppersDad says:

    FYI: My last posting was in response to the very specific questions Stella’s Boy raises in his 6:54 posting, not the more general ones in his 7:12.

  15. Joe Leydon says:

    I don’t think ANY biopic can reasonably be expected to cover every aspect of a subject’s life. I mean, the filmmaker always makes a conscious decision regarding what aspects will be emphasized, what aspects will get passing mention — and what apsects will not be touched upon at all. It’s not necessarily a lie, or an attempt at hagiography. It’s simply a matter of knowing that, every time you decide to tell a story, you also decide to NOT tell five or ten other stories. “Finding Neverland” gave the pedophile rumors all the weight that the filmmakers decided they were worth. Sure, they had to at least BRIEFLY raise the issue — just as the people who made “About a Boy” had to at least briefly address the mother’s very reasonable fear that the character played by Hugh Grant might be behaving badly with her young son. But “Finding Neverland” isn’t about pedophilia, it’s about romanticized notions regarding the interplay of life and art.
    BTW: Pepper, you are aware, aren’t you, that you (or someone posing as you)posted a message in another area regarding sex with children?

  16. Mark says:

    Kinsey shows real courage in dealing with the issues. Neverland is like a kids movie. How kids deal with death and how they overcome. Questions aren’t asked or answered. Amazingly, Kinsey is not getting enough credit for being a top notch movie.

  17. PeppersDad says:

    Joe –
    If you’re talking about the entries on the BEST PICTURE CANDIDATES AT THE BOX OFFICE page, I saw them. They are from bloggers who identify themselves as PeppersMom and PeppersSon, not PeppersDad. If those are not the entries you are talking about, please let me know ASAP.
    Speaking of which, here’s another warning to the brainless jackasses who’ve been attacking me so viciously: There really are members on AOL named PeppersMom and PeppersSon. I do not know them personally and have no association with them whatsoever. But their AOL e-mail addresses were linked to those names on the BEST PICTURE… page. If they are not in fact the people who posted those disgusting entries, does anybody doubt they can sue David Poland and the morons who assumed their identities here BIG TIME?
    Like I’ve said before, Mr. Poland really needs to rid his house of these juvenile delinquents before he’s exposed to a lot of ruinous liability. And if I continue to get goaded, I may choose to contact PeppersMom and PeppersSon personally. Or my lawyer will.

  18. bicycle bob says:

    i’m gonna sue you! sue you i tell u balboa! touch me i sue! –pepers mom/don king

  19. bicycle bob says:

    what it comes down to is that kinsey is a better overall flick than neverland. neverland is a good little flick but oscar worthy? no chance. how does it beat a sideways? or even the aviator? unless miramax’s pull is that good.

  20. Sammy the Fibs says:

    I haven’t read the articles, but in these times I got suspicious that a rival studio is behind it in order to hurt the pic’s Oscar chances. (Beautiful Mind anyone?)

  21. bicycle bob says:

    maybe its revenge on miramax for starting those beautiful mind rumors. wouldn’t surprise me.

  22. David Poland says:

    No litigation, please.

  23. Mark says:

    Maybe you guys can get lucky enough to hire Mark Geragos. I’d stick with Elle Woods.

  24. PeppersDad says:

    With all due respect, if you don’t want litigation, don’t open yourself up to litigation.
    If you don’t take control of the libelous comments that are routinely smeared here by people like bicycle bob and Mark, you can be found directly and vicariously liable for their statements in a court of law. Libel is unprotected speech under the U.S. Constitution, so I would hope you would not be so naive to assume that you could present any kind of First Amendment free speech defense (as some ignoramuses have suggested here). And now, to top even that, there appear to be identity theft issues at play here as well, resulting from the arguably negligent way this site has been constructed.
    That’s the reality, plain and simple. Believe me, I’m on your side, and I’m trying to protect you. To do that, it’s necessary to provide you with the truth. I’m sure you have an attorney. Please consult him/her about this ASAP.

  25. PeppersOverworkedAttorney says:

    “Look, Dave Poland, I’m trying to protect you from me having to sue you. Clearly I’m on your side, which is why I want you to understand the real danger of me taking you to court.”
    There is no more self-deluding, self-satisfied group in America than the habitually litigious.

  26. PeppersOtherLessSkilledAttorney says:

    In addition to suing you, my good man, I may have to sue Ray Pride, Gary Dretzka, Jeff Wells, Corey Haim, Steven Seagall and The Barbi Twins. Its a class action suit.

  27. Mark says:

    I see. When someones views differ from Peppa’s it must be libel. Oh damn. I missed that day in law school. Darn Bill of Rights! I also forgot the day we lost the Cold War. I must have been sick that day too. Wooo is me.

  28. bicycle bob says:

    pepper has a better legal team than orenthal james simpson

  29. PastePot Pete says:

    Is it even possible to libel a psuedonym?

  30. Joe Leydon says:

    Paste Pot Pete? What the hell? Did you finally make parole or something? I thought Thing and Human Torch busted you YEARS ago!

  31. Mark says:

    Reed Richards and Sue Storm are on the case now though. Have no fear.

  32. Joe Leydon says:

    Hey, everybody: I know this doesn’t have much to do with what we’ve been talking about, but I just have to ask all you long-time comic book fans: Do you ever remember Invisible Girl looking quite this slutty?

  33. Eric says:

    Invisible Girl actually was that slutty for a time, and more so, when Marvel was desperately trying to inflate sales amidst the mid-90s T&A boom. Part of the reason I stopped reading comics altogether.
    My real complaint about that cast is that Mr. Fantastic looks like he’s barely old enough to be a grad student, let alone the world’s preeminent scientist. That choice alone probably tells you a lot about the direction the movie’s taking.

  34. PeppersDad says:

    Joe –
    Not just slutty, but Britney Spears-type slutty. And anorexic to boot!
    Fantastic Four happened to be my favorite comic when I was a kid. I haven’t seen or heard anything about this project that leads me to believe this movie will be a faithful adaptation. You’d think the producers would have gotten the message from the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises that real success depends on staying as note-perfect to the specifics of the original comics as possible.

  35. Joe Leydon says:

    Say it ain’t so, Eric! Sue Storm, T&A Queen? Oh, the humanity. But then tell me this: I’m, ahem, mature enough to have read the first issues of various Marvel titles. And I don’t remember anything about Bruce Banner’s father being involved with his becoming The Hulk. Was this also something they added to the mythos during the ’90s? (I have to admit — I stopped reading in the mid-to-late ’70s.) Or was this simply BS in the movie script?
    BTW: I know “Daredevil” got the scorched earth treatment from most critics. But as I recall the comics — and, trust me, I go back to the days when DD had a bright yellow outfit — the movie was fairly faithful to the source material. More faithful, it seems to me, than Ang Lee’s “Hulk.”

  36. PeppersDad says:

    Joe –
    I stopped reading comics about the same time as you, so I can’t answer your question about Hulk. But I agree with you that Daredevil, at least in spirit, was more faithful to the source material than it got credit for. Which is not to say that it’s a good movie. On the other hand, I’ve seen it on cable and for some reason it worked much better for me on a small screen than it did in the theatres. (But it’s still not a good movie.)
    Has anybody else ever re-evaluated a film and found that it actually improves when shrunk down to TV size? (Another example that comes to my mind is Ridley Scott’s Hannibal, which I watched recently on DVD.) I suspect it probably has a lot to do with an onslaught of visuals that are just too overpowering in theatres.

  37. Joe Leydon says:

    Oddly enough, I remember being more impressed by “Apocalypse Now” when I saw it on BROADCAST television a few years after seeing it during its original theatrical release. Maybe there’s something to the idea that, when you’re not distracted by specatcle, you can concentrate more fully on the performances, themes, dialogue, etc. On the other hand, I think there are some movies that are every bit as impressive in both venues. I don’t mean this as a swipe at “Sideways” — I movie I really, really like — but I don’t think it will lose anything when reduced to home-screen size. In fact, it might actually gain something through being presented in a more intimate medium.
    BTW: Anyone out there ever see the “Captain America” movie released by Cannon Pictures in the ’80s?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

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