Tinker Bell as Feminist Literature?
Posted on March 27, 2013
After Ruthie met Tinker Bell at Disney World last week, I decided to introduce her to The Secret of the Wings, which is a 2012 movie about Tinker Bell and the other fairies in Pixie Hollow. Tinkerbell wants to cross a forbidden border into the Winter Woods so that she can explore, and in doing so, meets her sister Periwinkle for the first time. (Fairy siblings are those “born of the same laugh.”) Periwinkle and Tinker Bell’s exploration causes problems, though, when the balance of the seasons is thrown off kilter. They must try to save the pixie dust and figure out a way that they can continue to see each other.
This is actually the only Tinker Bell movie I’ve watched, so I can’t vouch for the others. However, I have to say that I loved letting Ruthie watch this movie. Here’s why:
- The Secret of the Wings passes the Bechdel Test without question. I don’t know why it’s ranked as “dubious” on the Bechdel Test website–apparently there is a question based on whether or not female fairies count as women. I think it’s pretty clear that they do. As a reminder, the Bechdel Test is a simple measuring stick to examine the presence of women in film. To pass, a movie must simply: include two women characters with names who speak to each other about something other than a man. The Secret of the Wings is all about Tinker Bell and Periwinkle, and when they are together, they talk about everything except male characters. They’re also not the only women characters with names who talk with each other. Throughout the movie, the female fairies talk with each other extensively. How nice to show Ruthie a movie about girls who are actually friends!
- The film had nothing to do with marriage or romance. Although there is a love story told in the background between the fairy queen (voiced by Anjelica Huston) and the weirdly handsome male fairy (voiced by Timothy Dalton), and a slight flirtation between some of the Summer/Winter fairies when they meet, the thematic focus of the film was devoid of romance. That goes against what so many other Disney films are, especially the ones Ruthie already loves. I am consciously working to introduce her to texts that are not romance-centric so that when she does encounter romantic texts, they don’t make up the majority. Just looking at her collection of books shows me that this is a problem I need to be better at monitoring.
- Mae Whitman voices Tinker Bell! Her? Yes her!
I don’t know that I can flatly call Tinker Bell a feminist character. After all, it’s hard to explain away the racist and sexist history of Peter Pan. I also know that one of the most obnoxious messages I saw at Disney World was in a video of Tinker Bell playing with a jingle bell that she had found and getting upset when it reflected her rear end to look larger than life. (Yeah, let’s tell the five year olds in line that they, like Tinker Bell, should be worried about whether or not their butts are too big.) Like I said, I’ve only seen this one Pixie Hollow/Tinker Bell movie, and so I don’t know how the character is represented in the other recent films.
This movie, however, I feel like I can safely approve as part of my daughter’s media diet.