Children's & Middle Grade · Fantasy · TV & Movies

Tinker Bell Answers: The Basis of Our Protagonist’s Identity

  • “what is the basis for our protagonist’s identity? in the movie tinkerbell”
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Something tells me there’s a homework question going around about the basis of Tinker Bell’s identity! Well, I’m not doing your homework for you, but I do think this is a really interesting topic, and if it helps inspire your homework answer, awesome.

Tinker Bell tinkering

The most obvious basis for Tink’s identity is the fact that she’s a tinker. It’s even part of her name. The whole first movie is about her rejecting that talent and trying other occupations, eventually learning that she really is meant to be a tinker fairy and there’s nothing wrong with that. As I described yesterday, all fairies are assigned a career at birth. That sounds a little dystopian, but mostly it seems to work for them, because it’s not random. Each fairy has an affinity and talent for her, well, talent. The tinkers are the fairies who make all the tiny gadgets the other fairies use in their occupations. The tinkers are undervalued in the first movie, but one of the more subtle messages is that all the other talents depend on tinker skills — just like the tinkers depend on the other fairies to function. All the talents are interconnected and valuable, so Tink shouldn’t be ashamed of being a tinker.

I feel that’s a shallow analysis, though. Tinkering is her job, and it’s her job because she has an affinity for it, but we’re all more than what we happen to be doing. I said in my review of the first movie that Tinker Bell works as a simile of a young woman in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). More on that first movie and initial entrance into tinkering later, but I think it’s important that Tink’s personality means she’s a tinker, not the other way around. That science-y STEM association in the real world works for Tink’s personality, too. She’s curious about the world and how thinks work. She’s persistent — even if she gives up once in frustration, she’ll come back and try again with a new angle. She’s willing to try anything once and see what happens. When she looks at a machine, even one she’s never seen before like an automobile, she has the mental skill of deconstructing that new machine into its parts and seeing how they fit together, without ever laying hands on it. She’s also a fundamentally helpful person — she sees a problem and wants to fix it, even if it’s not her problem. She makes things that make life easier for all of Pixie Hollow, not just gadgets to do her own chores. When Fawn and Zarina get themselves into trouble in The Pirate Fairy and Legend of the Neverbeast, Tink is able to recognize that she’s done the same things herself, empathize with them, and support them. She’s loyal, dedicated, and wants to help no matter what. These are the things that make up Tink’s identity, and these are the reasons she makes a good tinker. Because she’s fulfilled and satisfied as a tinker, she grounds her own identity in that — the same way I’m perfectly happy identifying myself as a history major. But I think it would be a mistake to say “She’s a tinker because she’s a tinker and that’s the end of it.” It’s important — even vital — to her fully-formed identity, but it’s also a surface manifestation of a set of skills and interests that make up Tinker Bell.

That STEM link is to a friend’s discussion post, and I definitely recommend reading it — it’s all about how girls get the message that they aren’t good at STEM. One of the many reasons I love these movies is that there’s no subtle “she’s good at this even though she’s a girl…” message. Not a single one, as far as I can see!

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4 thoughts on “Tinker Bell Answers: The Basis of Our Protagonist’s Identity

  1. It’s really interesting to see how this character has evolved from the fairy of Peter Pan to her own autonomous identity. I think it’s great.

    As a side note, I show a lot of Curious George to my class, because its educational and totally G (unlike some cartoons that sneak in some adult humor)…. and I was shocked when an internet search led me to the very first movie for him… The Man with the Yellow Hat literally stuffed George in a bag and kidnapped him from the jungle… What a change!

    Like

    1. It’s definitely interesting to follow how they tie this character in with the original cartoon, and how in some ways she’s totally different. I think part of the reason they’re doing movies about other fairies (beyond simple variety) is so they don’t have to deal with her as she eventually would be in Peter Pan, since these are prequels.

      For George: Oh my goodness! That’s an important change indeed…

      Liked by 1 person

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