After Rose and Natacha started talking about how great the Tinker Bell movies were, I figured there must be something to them. Basically, the first movie was like a cross between A Bug’s Life and My Little Pony, two properties to which I’m deeply attached. I didn’t love it quite as much as those, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you skipped it the first time around! I liked the focus on female characters that didn’t exclude the presence of male characters altogether. It worked as a simile to women in technical fields in the real world. I also really liked the visible diversity of the fairies and the complete lack of misogyny. I think Rose and Natacha have pretty well covered the pros of the movies in detail, so I won’t rehash all that again… What I would like to talk about is activism. (Spoilers ahead).
When fairies are born, they walk through a circle of items. When one of the items glows, it indicates the fairy’s talent. Then the fairy goes off to work with the other fairies of the same talent. Tinkering is a rare talent, and a vital one — tinkers like Tinker Bell are responsible for making all the gadgets the other fairies will use as they go about the tasks involved in changing the seasons. In Tinker Bell the fairies are getting ready to travel to “the mainland” to carry out their tasks related to spring. However, even though tinkering is rare, it isn’t valued, and the tinkers aren’t allowed to go to the mainland for spring.
The other fairies aren’t segregated. Fairies with talents related to water, animals, flowers, etc., are all friends, and will all be headed to the mainland. Tinkers aren’t exactly ostracized, but they’re really not part of the same mixture as the others. It basically parallels “geeks” and “everybody else.” Tinker Bell, as the newbie, wants to go to the mainland. She decides she doesn’t want to be a tinker, and tries to learn other talents, but none of them work for her. She finally learns to accept herself and love her skills, and as a cosmic reward for this self-knowledge, the fairy queen announces she’ll be able to visit the mainland. It’s a pretty traditional “Once you give up what you want, it’ll be given to you” children’s story.
That’s all very nice. There’s a theme in several places about how all the talents are vital, which I appreciate. Some fairies are snotty about how they’re the most important, others are just happy with their own contributions, and others are more humble, still perfectly aware that Pixie Hollow couldn’t function without them. I like having such a girly, classically pretty and feminine character who’s good at engineering.
What bothers me is that Tinker Bell doesn’t even consider asking for the mainland policy to be changed. There’s a brief exchange with the queen where Tinker Bell tries to invent some doodads that would be useful for tinkers on the mainland and the queen (and the tinker boss) shoot her down. After that, she tries to change who she is as a person instead of pointing out the policy is discriminatory. Sure, she’s only a few days old, and maybe children watching the movie would also think like in terms of identity, but all the more reason to introduce the concept of activism! You can’t just expect the government to reward you for being content with your lot in life. It doesn’t work like that. If you’re content with the treatment you’re receiving, you’re just going to get more of it.
In this case, in the process of discovering her talent she saved Pixie Hollow in a high-profile way, which led to the queen seeing her value and giving her a job to do on the mainland. But demonstrating your worth isn’t incompatible with demanding change. I wish they’d taken the opportunity to at least introduce the idea of activism and equality.
I’ve been watching the rest of the Tinker Bell movies and loving them — short reviews coming every day this week!