What the Hell, Tinker Bell?

What happened to Tinker Bell? This has been bothering me more and more with every new Tinker Bell and friends straight to DVD release i.e. The Pirate Fairy, The Secret of the Wings, etc. Disney has completely rebranded Tinker Bell as, “Sassy, Fashionable, Creative.” This positive spin first appeared in 2008 with a computer animated version of Disney’s long-time favorite fairy. With the new, more plastic looking Tinker Bell (I mean really, her face has clearly been under the knife) comes an attitude that is way more about sharing, caring, and friendship. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. The reason I and many, many others have always adored Tink is because she’s morally ambiguous and, frankly, a bit of a bitch.

This quote has been taken from the Disney website:

“Tinker Bell is both sweet and sassy. She is loyal to her friends and will help fix their problems like a true Tinker Fairy. She loves adding lost things to her collection and going on adventures.”

Beg pardon? Sassy. Check. Sweet? The hell you say! Tink is loyal to herself and Peter Pan exclusively, and has committed some highly questionable acts in the name of that moral compass. SHE TRIED TO KILL WENDY. How do you gloss over attempted manslaughter??? The Disney Wiki explains away Tink’s outbursts due to her size, saying that she is only capable of feeling one emotion at a time, which is why she occasionally exhibits vindictive or angry behaviors. Poor wee woman with her wee emotions sometimes loses control because she’s so small. I realize I’ve over reduced the argument here, but holy crap is that a condescending statement about females and their emotions.

A screen-grab from Disney's Peter Pan courtesy of the Disney Wiki.

A screen-grab from Disney’s Peter Pan courtesy of the Disney Wiki.

And maybe I never knew about Tinker Bell’s “tinker heritage” before but I’ve got issues with this new spin too. First of all, if that is her breed or job description or whatever exactly you want to call it, how terrible is it that her name starts with her job? Does that mean her proper name is Bell? Even so, she should be more than her vocation. The other fairies in this new world have regular names that invoke their skills without making it sound like the job defines them–Rosetta the garden fairy or Iridessa the light fairy. Since it’s geared towards children I’m willing to accept a certain amount of literal naming, but having Tinker explained as a job description sounds borderline fascist. The new fairy world is dominating canon and it’s making me uncomfortable.

The other thing that bothers me about the tinker element is that it feels smashed in to create this new understanding of fairies, and it also happens to limit the abilities of the individuals. When I was younger, I thought Tinker Bell could do darn near anything. She was Peter Pan’s companion and felt utterly free in her powers…now she’s got specified skills and feels tamed. Her brief displays of “sass” now feel completely foreign from the Tinker Bell of the Disney classic.

And now the new Tink taken from Amazon.com. Notice the visual differences?

And now the new Tink taken from Amazon.com. Notice the visual differences?

I understand that positive role models for young girls are important. Yet women comes in all types and temperaments. Why can’t we embrace that Tinker Bell isn’t perfect, nice, and sugar sweet? Short of idolizing the villainous females like Ursula and the Evil Queen, Tinker Bell was the feistiest heroine for young  girls to identify with. We as women responded to Tinker Bell because she was saucy, sensual, and a tad vindictive. Trust me, grown women are not walking around with Tink tattoos because she was a sweetheart. And if you’re a concerned mother/grandma/aunt then use her not-so-nice behavior as a talking point with your kid.  My own Mother had similar conversations with me and it got me to engage more with her and with the thematic material. All of which are good things and I could still enjoy the characters for what they were.

Disney is clearly trying to “fix” many of its perceived wrongs about women, which we can also see with Frozen (Don’t even get me started with that one). But sometimes women are bitches, and that’s OK. We’re allowed moments of it, why not celebrate it? Because, really, Tinker Bell has moments, not constant displays of bitchiness. Not that I’m condoning bad or violent behavior, but changing an iconic character in such a drastic way completely ignores why Tink was lovable in the first place. Sidenote: They’ve also given the girl a longer skirt so she’s more modest. Again, I’m not saying encourage young girls to wear mini-skirts; my point is that Disney has sterilized an original and complex character in every way.

What inspired me to write this post was the abundance of trailers for The Pirate Fairy, which made me feel kind of betrayed. Why do we have to change Tinker Bell? For product lines and straight to DVD releases? Because that is exactly what it boils down to–marketability. Which saddens me. Disney forgot one of its greatest truisms that audiences have recognized for a long while now: you don’t mess with Tinker Bell. So knock it off, Disney and bring back the Ms. Bell that even Captain Hook respected.

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