In the recent stage production of Treasure Island by The National Theatre, Jim was a young girl (played by brilliant Patsy Ferran), rather than a young boy. She had the same desire for adventure, same loyalty for her family, and same wonderful spunk, but was just a she. The other characters did not ignore that she was girl, but the action and dialogue of the play addressed it.
During the opening scene, a characters ask, “Are you a lad or a lass?” to which she replies, “That’s my own business.”
Beautifully put, young Jim.
The fact that Jim ends up working in the kitchen, when she would rather be on the helm or in the cabin’s quarters reading maps, reminds audiences of the stereotypes prevalent in everyday society. Interestingly enough, her friendship with Long John Silver forms when he teaches her how to navigate with the stars–a task the captain said was only for boys.
No wonder she decides he is her best friend in the whole wide world.
Let’s digress, though, to talk about what they did not do with a female Jim.
At no point, does Jim express any romantic interest in anyone. Ever. Her focus is on treasure, and adventure, and pirate hunting–not worrying about romance. Not even with her new best friend.
In this production, the dashing Arthur Darvill could easily have served as childhood infatuation for our young girl, turning her into a Lolita type character. We have all seen the plot before. Nevertheless, their friendship is fully platonic.
Until, that is, Silver takes his manipulation one step to far. Working to convince her to turn pirate and murderer, Silver refers to her as “my darling” and kisses her. She does not melt, or swoon, or even slap him indignantly.
A rare sight, we see a realistic response to an unsolicited and unexpected kiss.
Turning to the audience, she observes with a startled frankness: “In that moment, I realized 3 things. First, I was still too young for some of that…” and then of course she sees his manipulation for what it is, and decides to return to her previous job of Pirate-Hunter.
Jim is a character I wish I could have seen growing up. A girl who is focused on adventures, not boys, and completely confident in herself despite some (although not all) adults trying to limit her. A girl who has the opportunity to go on adventures, and be supported by some (although not all) adults.