“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces,
and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.
And now when every new baby is born its first laugh becomes a fairy. ”
~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
When I bought Disney’s Tinker Bell movie (which is the story of Tinker Bell before she started hanging out with Peter Pan) for my very own Pixie, I was not surprised that she loved it. What did surprise me, was that I loved it too.
You won’t normally find me lauding Disney movies. As I see it, the basic job of a Disney Princess is to be unhappy, sing about it, and then get married. I don’t really like the message, but I swallowed my reservations and I let my kids watch Disney Princess movies.
I began to realize this was a mistake when my daughter saw her big-girl bed set up for the first time and spun around saying à la Cinderella, “It’s just what I’ve always dreamed of!” Another time she told me that she “HAD to get married, because that’s just what girls do.”
And I thought, What the hell have I done???
But that’s what all the girls she knew—all the Disney Princesses— did. Now, please don’t think I’m against marriage. I love being married and I think most of my friends do too—but it disturbs me to think that my brilliant and much beloved four-year-old sees getting married as the entire point of her existence.
Cinderella daydreams about the day a Prince will come to her rescue, then she gets a new dress and marries the Prince whom she barely knows. (And, by the way, the Prince doesn’t even have a name in the movie; if the Disney Princess message is bad for my daughter, I hate to think what it’s doing to my son.) The so-called modern Disney Princess movies aren’t much better. Belle wants “so much more than this Provincial life” but then she meets the Beast-turned-Prince (again, nameless) and is perfectly content. She has a palace and a husband. I guess that was the “more”. Or what about Jasmine? She didn’t want to get married… but then she did, so it was okay.
And don’t even get me started on the Little Mermaid. Her big contribution to the social and moral development of my children was show how disobeying her father, abandoning her entire world, radically altering her body, and giving up her VOICE—all so that a boy would like her— was a Good Thing. I have banned the Little Mermaid from my house.
Of course, Tinker Bell is not a Disney Princess, she is a Disney Fairy. And that, it seems, makes all the difference. Tinker Bell is smart, talented, and (so far, after four movies) unmarried.
In Pixie Hollow (where the fairies live), each fairy has a talent… and each talent is important and has a place in the running of Pixie Hollow; there are Garden Fairies and Water Fairies, Light Fairies and Animal Fairies, there are Dust Keeper Fairies, Fast Flying Fairies, and, of course Tinker Fairies. At first, Tinker Bell is not keen on her role as a Tinker Fairy; Tinkers make—or fix—the things the other Fairies need to do their jobs and Tinker Bell envies the glamorous lives of the Nature Fairies. Rather than whining about it, though (okay, she does whine a little), she concocts a plan to have her Nature Fairy Friends teach her their talents. As you would expect, it goes poorly, but amid some pretty significant catastrophes, Tinker Bell learns something: She has an amazing talent and she doesn’t need to abandon who she is to be valued. All she has to do is figure out what she’s good at and do it the very best she possibly can.
Now that is a message I would like my Pixie to hear!
But it gets better. Physical appearance is never mentioned in the movies, but if you watch the movies carefully (or just if you watch them over and over and OVER again) you will notice fairies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Tinker Bell has kind of a big butt; Fawn’s is bigger. Vidia and Bobble are rail thin, Rosetta is curvy. Fairy Mary is short and round, Clank is tall (for a fairy) and round. Iridessa is black, Terence is white, Silvermist appears to be Asian. Fairies just flit through life and no one cares what they look like. I love it.
But it gets even better. Fairy Mary is the top Tinker Fairy—that’s right, the head of the entire engineering department of Pixie Hollow is a girl! And Tinker Bell, who is arguably the most talented of all the Tinker Fairies, is also a girl. Now, if I can’t use that to nudge my daughter into an interest in math and science (not to mention someday being in charge of changing the oil on the car; her father will be thrilled), then I don’t deserve my stretch marks.
So when my Pixie asks if she can watch a Tinker Bell movie, I don’t roll my eyes and try to distract her, I say, “Scooch over. I love this one.”