I’ve always been a fairy fan. I loved fairies as a kid, and since my daughter was born, I’ve tried to subtly steer her toward the winged cuties over the crowned beauties. At least fairies have magical powers. Princesses don’t seem to have much power at all—except the power to entice.
When we’re talking about fairies these days, we’re mostly talking about Tinker Bell; 50 years after the original Peter Pan movie, Disney has built a universe around the beloved pixie. The new Tink has evolved quite a bit from her formative self. But she has retained some of her fundamental characteristics. They just might not be the ones you’d be happy about your daughter emulating.
But it seems that Tinker Bell wasn’t necessarily designed with girls in mind.
With her hourglass figure, teeny deconstructed suit and provocative poses, she’s clearly referencing the pin-up girls who were in their prime while she was being drawn. In fact, she was rumored to be modeled after Marilyn Monroe, who rose to stardom at around the same time. The legend is false—Tinkerbell was modeled after Margaret Kerry, an actress who was known at the time for having “The Best Legs in Hollywood”. But a history of Disney Studios suggests it was Tinkerbell’s deliberate sexualization that may have given people that impression:
“Kerry says it was her pantomime of Tinker Bell standing on a hand mirror sizing up her hips that got her the part. Other scenes such as that of the pixie stuck in a keyhole, hips gratuitously wriggling in a rear-view shot lent an uncharacteristically saucy element to this Disney classic…Perhaps owing something to this combination of mature allure and girlish innocence, an urban legend rose during the 1980’s that Marilyn Monroe had been the model upon whom Tinkerbell was based.”
Today’s Tink has undergone a body revamp on par with Barbie’s: instead of an even hourglass, she now features a modest bustline with a sizeable butt. Though this redesign, in both cases, was presumably an effort to show a more “realistic” figure, I find the new versions, in some ways, even more sexualized. The gratuitous rear-view shots have made it into the next incarnation. And Tink’s fairy friends also seem to enjoy displaying their shapely behinds to the public—though they get to obscure them in more fabric. (Just slightly. This is still the world where female characters in G rated movies wear less than those in R rated movies, and fairies are an easy fit for scanty “nature inspired” clothing.)
I must admit that I haven’t actually seen any of the new Tinker Bell movies, having successfully held out thus far. Judging from web presence and marketing materials, it looks like Tinker Bell has lost her edge along with those couple of bra sizes. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Let’s face it, Original Tinkerbell was no picnic personality-wise. Unreliable and undermining are not particularly role-model-ready traits. But could we not have added an inch or two to her skirt in the process? As Melissa points out in the post that inspired this one— on Pigtail Pals—even the sexy adult Tinker Bell costumes are less revealing than the ones the real Tinker Bell is wearing. And if you don’t think our girls are taking note, check out “Tinker Bell’s Inbox” on the Disney Fairies website, and see how many times you see the words “I love your clothes!”
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