Decoding TXT’s Neverland
TOMORROW X TOGETHER have been incorporating the themes of Peter Pan into their music video universe since the very beginning.
Although TOMORROW X TOGETHER have just started to overtly pay homage to Peter Pan in their music, Peter Pan parallels seem prevalent throughout their whole discography in hindsight. TXT’s journey mirrors those of the children Peter whisks away to Neverland, a dream world where no one grows up. Neverland represents all the best traits of childhood: curiosity, excitement, and the comfort of knowing someone else is in charge. But TXT realize Neverland also represents the worst traits of childhood, and their dream life there turns into a nightmare. Detailed below is the evolution of Neverland in TXT’s minds and how the ways Neverland reveals its dark side to them speak volumes about Peter Pan’s true meaning.
The “Dream Chapters”
In TXT’s debut era, they recreate a new dream world with every music video. From computer screens to pop-up books, they experiment with many different storytelling formats. The bright and colorful “CROWN” music video is followed by the humorous “Cat & Dog” and a story told with a theatrical flair and a stop-motion feel, “Nap of a star.”
“[A] child’s mind is described like a bunch of scribbles. A bunch of disorganized, super-colorful, incoherent drawings. The map of an adult mind is very categorized. It’s more like a filing cabinet system, as opposed to a floor cluttered with papers!”
TXT’s early-career music videos match this description: vibrant, playful, and seemingly without rhyme or reason for specific aesthetic pivots.
After The Dream Chapter: STAR comes The Dream Chapter: MAGIC, which further represents TXT’s childlike mentality. Much like Peter Pan never grasps the level of danger he puts himself into, TXT act reckless and do not stop to think through their actions. In “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away),” they enter their school late at night and swim in the school’s pool while fully clothed. They find a trap door at the bottom of the pool and enter a dream world, their own personal Neverland. In an ultimate “be careful what you wished for” moment, the doorway back to the real world catches fire, leaving the boys stuck in Neverland. As they stare at the past life that is going up in flames, there is subtle foreshadowing of the scary realizations to come.
Further reminders that the boys are stuck in Neverland include the fact that SOOBIN's phone battery dies at 5:54, and 5:53 marks the peak of TXT’s “Blue Hour,” that blissful period when time stands still for a moment between day and night. “Just stay forever in this place where we ran away,” they sing in “Can’t We Just Leave the Monster Alive?” The irony of TXT becoming permanently trapped in the dream world and looking so disappointed by it matches the irony in this song. The song’s lyrics indicate excitement about this “forever place,” but the song’s title implies they know deep down this place is home to a hidden monstrosity.
As detailed on 17 Carat K-Pop, Peter Pan is a tragedy disguised as a fantasy. Peter Pan’s eternal boyhood could be seen as enviable: he can spend his days playing in Neverland, shirking responsibilities, and never worrying about the fears that come with an unknown future and a world that is constantly changing. However, it is also profoundly sad to think of Peter never growing up: his playmates move on and mature into more empathetic, intelligent people who face many struggles but become even better people as a result of them. The permanence of Peter’s escapism makes it no escape at all; he is trapped. TXT do not yet realize it fully, but they are trapped too.
The fear and frustration that consume people in young adulthood take center stage in “Can’t You See Me?” and its album, The Dream Chapter: ETERNITY. The music video begins with a scrapbook of memories catching fire. “My friends don’t understand me anymore,” TXT complain. “Save me,” they repeat, despite realizing their past is “Gone in a dream / Abandoned island, that forgotten memory.”
TXT’s continued childlike mentality leads to a not-so-smart choice: instead of feeling capable of tackling obstacles head-on and embracing opportunities for growth, their all-consuming fear and lack of emotional readiness make them take a shortcut instead. In other words, they opt to ignore their current pain instead of working through it. They run from their problems, trying on a new identity in “PUMA” and then crossing over to the dark side as devilish creatures in the “Eternally” short film. During the latter, each member is seen for a split second with a new trademark. Most notable are SOOBIN’s elf ears, resembling those of Peter Pan’s, and YEONJUN’s devil horns, especially when remembering he is the character most fixated on the past.
The “Eternally” short film concludes with the following message on the screen:
“In the blink of an eye, the boys felt [like they had] returned from a long journey. The widening space between us, scribbles that unfold before our eyes, wade[d] again through this dream. In fear, the boys asked, ‘Was it all nothing more than a dream?’... The boys did not know that this was but the start of the chaotic turmoil.”
minisode1: Blue Hour
A prominent aspect of the mind of a child is the inability to distinguish between pretend play and reality. This explains why Peter Pan never seems afraid of the dangerous situations he puts himself into, and it is also why he treats Neverland as the “real world.” The children who spend time in Neverland likely also fail to understand which memories come from their time in Neverland and which come from their time in the real world. Likewise, a sense of surreality is at the core of the “Blue Hour” music video. For example, a camera zooms out to reveal the ferris wheel that looked physically present a minute ago is really just a painting on a large canvas. The carousel in front of which TXT dance does not appear illusory, but when the lights go out at the end, no one can be sure they have not just imagined it. The sight of it is gone as quickly as it appeared.
A few of the singles released between minisode1: Blue Hour and the start of the “Chaos Chapters” reiterate the members’ thoughts on Neverland. “Higher we can fly / Before the day comes when I eventually lose sight of it,” they sing in “Force.” A sign of real maturity is present on “Everlasting Shine,” when they start to accept that growing up has its benefits: “What if we go out on a journey to find ourselves? / If we do that, I’m sure life will be good.” But before it can be good, it is a culture shock for those who have been residing in Neverland to re-enter reality.
The “Chaos Chapters”
In a teaser video for The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, TXT run for their lives as the building they are in starts to fall apart. It has been frozen in time but abruptly starts to break down, ice and snow falling everywhere. The members duck and dodge rubble and snow from all angles, symbolizing how all-consuming their nerves are as they re-enter a world in motion. Having left the stable, predictable Neverland, they must get re-accustomed to the rollercoaster that is real life.
The one anchor that guides them through this turbulent time is a loved one. This album’s main single, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You),” is about finding meaning in life’s daily struggles by knowing that when all they have ever known is gone and they do not know where to turn, at least they have a loved one to lean on as the world crumbles.
If Peter Pan were to be persuaded to move out of Neverland and into the real world, it would obviously not be an easy transition! He would make many mistakes before fitting in, and TXT are in that fish-out-of-water state now. In “LO$ER=LO♡ER,” the main single on The Chaos Chapter: FIGHT OR ESCAPE, TXT drive a car off of a cliff after a series of other errors in judgment! They even decide to jump and try to fly despite knowing their “Wings [are] broken.”
To recap: TXT are captivated by the thought of living in Neverland, give it a try, realize its downsides, return to the real world, and now feel compelled to return back to Neverland! Still having the mind of a child, at the first signs of things not working out, they decide to abandon their plan to re-acclimate themselves to the real world and return to Neverland after crashing the car.
In the music video for “Frost,” TXT’s relief at returning to Neverland proves to have been short-lived: “That small island enclosed in a veil / In my soul overwhelmed / I’m hollowed out once again… Suspended in time, I’m dying… On [the] dream island, only chaos exists.”
This time, instead of reacting to trouble by running from it, TXT try to actually confront it. They do some introspection, trying to understand “What if [they] had been that PUMA;” why do they feel the need to pretend to be something they are not in the first place? They realize they feel paralyzed with indecision: “Pick your answer, A or B… Jaded in this endless game… Falling into a dilemma… my head is already overloaded.” They realize they are so overwhelmed by how many decisions humans are expected to make every day that they have given up on acting like humans at all, pretending to be pumas instead!
Just as TXT start to learn to sit with their discomfort and uncertainty, they revert back to a childish choice. They quickly stop analyzing what they could do better and instead choose apathy. Rather than risk getting a decision wrong, TXT choose to not make a decision at all, and their love for Neverland’s lack of questions is strengthened. They are duped into falling once again for the illusory promises of a life where ignorance is bliss.
minisode 2: Thursday’s Child
As “Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go” indicates, TXT cannot hide from the future anymore; there are no more chances for them to revert to childish avoidance and cowardice. They have to grow up, literally and metaphorically. This proves to be an excruciating process, which is why “Good Boy Gone Bad” is the epitome of angst.
The apathetic front TXT put up clashes with anger and despair, leaving them in severe pain. “Erase that boy inside of you… Then fill it with the wreck I’ve become,” they sing. The music video shows them kicking, screaming, recklessly driving a motorcycle until it crashes in the middle of the road, setting flowers on fire, and throwing roses into a grave. All the emotions they have suppressed while in stasis in Neverland explode out of them.
In Neverland, it is a sin to grow up even a tiny bit; a single sign of maturity is interpreted as the start of a slippery slope, provoking one’s banishment from the kids-only island. This is why Wendy sobs upon realizing she cannot stop herself from getting older; she feels like she has personally failed and let Peter Pan down. Because the ability to understand and process complex feelings is part of growing up, Neverland is a place where negative emotions do not get to be worked through, making TXT’s outburst post-Neverland the logical outcome of their time there. The emotions they never learned how to handle have been unleashed.
At this point, TXT are closer than ever to understanding the true tragedy of Peter Pan’s story. No longer do adventures in Neverland bring to mind just games and laughter; they now look back on those times with sadness for what could have been, had they chosen to stick out tough times in the real world instead. They dwell on memories that sadden them in “Opening Sequence”: “The calendar that takes a step backwards / It drives me even more crazy… Countless memories fade and dissolve / Someone stop this opening sequence.” They label Neverland as just a “paradise for the losers [with] no redemption” in “Trust Fund Baby,” and they come full circle with “Lonely Boy (That tattoo on my ring finger)”: “A doodle that loses its meaning… I was stupid.” While this is likely a reference to drawing a tattoo instead of actually getting one, it is interesting how this line harkens back to their early eras, when their aesthetics mimicked the mind of a child - the “scribbles,” as Peter Pan’s author describes them. The messy scribbles that make up a child’s mind are now seen as pointless, not cute. In short, the magic of Neverland is gone.
The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION
Despite having seen the dark underbelly of Neverland, the alluring island draws TXT back to it once again! The “Sugar Rush Ride” music video features the members reveling in picturesque spots on the island, letting the world become a carefree, colorful blur around them, where nothing seems to matter and the passage of time is a non-issue. Their worries float away like the colorful butterflies that surround them. But TXT know enough by now to not fully fall for the mirage. Deep down, they recognize the deception within this utopia. Their moment of bliss is just a moment, a temporary “sugar rush” of tantalizing, sweet freedom. “I met the devil by the window / Traded my life / Temptation touched my tongue / Spread the wings of desire / He’s whispering / ‘Give up, don’t you put up a fight… Dream on, dream on, good night,’” they sing in “Devil by the Window.” Peter Pan is this “devil by the window,” convincing children to turn away from chances to learn and grow into adulthood.
Peter displays the worst traits of an immature mind: self-centeredness, a need for instant gratification, and stubbornness about getting what he wants, which are permanent playmates. TXT keep falling for Peter’s pitch, quickly forgetting the downsides of never becoming patient, mature, and independent. Peter Pan pulls TXT back into the comforting arms of nostalgia at the cost of finding themselves. Peter’s investment in making sure TXT stay childlike like him, rather than develop into more three-dimensional people who see through Neverland’s facade, is alluded to in “Devil by the Window”: “Waste, waste away / In the gutter with me / No, I can’t tell what is fake.” Peter wants TXT to keep believing that Neverland is as real as can be, so that they avoid learning it has a metaphorically hollow core.
The other new songs on The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION demonstrate the opposing forces pulling TXT between Neverland and the real world. They have the “ignorance is bliss” mentality that Peter Pan wants them to in “Happy Fools”: “It’s happy every day / I’m trapped tightly in a sweet moment / Leave the worries to the me of tomorrow.” But the emptiness of their lives when frozen in time comes into focus in “Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock)”: “A noisy dawn / But a void at the end / Tinnitus filling my ears / It’s deafening as if I am locked inside.” The album concludes with “Farewell, Neverland,” which repeats this realization that Neverland has nothing to offer them after the “sugar rush” wears off: “To the paradise of irresponsible dreams / I’ll say my last goodbye… At full speed toward the ground / Time to fall.”
The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION tells the story of one of TXT’s nights in Neverland. They start out feeling a natural high, the mood boost children get when their need for instant gratification is met. The first few songs and the “Sugar Rush Ride” music video are about these easygoing days that are to Peter Pan’s liking. But when the high wears off, so does the novelty. There is nothing beneath the surface in Neverland; it is actually a sad, broken place. It is a barren wasteland with dreams and futures unfulfilled, inhabitants who refuse to grow into new, better versions of themselves, and discarded sources of long-term satisfaction.
The second half of the album focuses on this discontent. In “Farewell, Neverland,” they remind themselves that Neverland is a “paradise full of lies.” They now know the only way out of their struggles is through them; they will never see rainbows if they do not endure rain first. After all, this false paradise bears “A kiss from the sun that never sleeps,” so “No one can see the stars.”
Summary and the Future of TXT’s Story
TXT spend the “Dream Chapters” exploring Neverland and easily ignoring warning signs that their time there will not stay rosy forever. They spend the “Chaos Chapters” navigating a world they have not yet learned how to cope in, making many wrong decisions and struggling with many intense, new-to-them emotions. When coping becomes too difficult, they take the easy way out, regressing back to Neverland’s state of mind and postponing their entrance into adulthood. Now, TXT are in the “Name Chapter,” during which the severe problems with this regression are coming into focus.
TXT have not yet found a way to fully sever ties with Neverland and stop falling for Peter Pan’s lies. They know now that life is full of trade-offs and any claims of a perfect world existing are not truthful, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep falling for a comforting lie about life’s simplicity. The chance to revert back to a child’s view of the world - as a clear-cut, easygoing, relatively straightforward and stable place - remains enticing.
Despite Peter trying to get TXT to delay it, the “Name Chapter” marks a step forward on TXT’s journey of self-discovery. They are developing full-fledged identities through lived experiences and now see that true freedom comes from saying “Farewell, Neverland” and “Hello” to a daunting but rewarding world of possibilities.
TXT know now that people cannot develop a perpetual sense of inner strength and an appreciation for sunnier times without weathering some storms. Peter Pan has prohibited them from experiencing those storms, so TXT learn that a true, long-lasting, and substantial escapism comes from confronting adulthood head-on and leaving Peter’s alleged miracle cures for their pain in the past.
Will TXT ever fully free themselves from Neverland’s clutches? Will they forever feel drawn towards Neverland in times of “real world” crisis, or will they recognize the strength within themselves to endure crises without running and hiding in Neverland? Will their thoughts become more in-depth and ordered over time, rather than the “scribbles” they have been in youth? Will this new order and level of detail to their thoughts encourage them to keep on growing and seeing the positives that come with age? These questions remain to be answered, but one thing is for sure: TXT will keep on evolving whether Peter Pan likes it or not!
For more thoughts and theories about TXT’s music video universe, check out this episode of 17 Carat K-Pop, and stay tuned for an upcoming episode focused on The Dream Chapter: TEMPTATION!
Stream the episode on Spotify here!
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