Feminism Gets Screwed: Pirate Fairy


Which one are you, girls?

I took my six year old daughter to see Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy today.  Berkeley, Mission Bay.  Total for tickets and light snacks = $36.00.  And who says movies these days are expensive?  Cough.

We had a lovely time.  She snuggled into me and munched on popcorn and sipped lemonade.  I snuggled into her and had 1.5 hours of her all to myself, sipping my $950 flat white.

So, to the plot.  I’ve divided it into two parts.

Review for the Children

Girl movie. Not Frozen.

Review for the Adults

Ok, on the surface the movie is gorgeous.  Lots of wonderful colour and movement.  Perfect for a group of little girls to watch and then want to dress up afterwards.  A delight in that sense.

But what have Disney done for the girls, really?  We all remember Tinkerbell from the Peter Pan movies.   Here is the pirate connection – of course Tinkerbell, as in Peter Pan, as in Captain Hook and so on.

It’s as if the creators have decided it’s high time for a new franchise, and set of fairy dolls and costumes to market.  How they go about this is to attempt to cover all bases, race and culture-wise.  I am not sure this is a genuine attempt to be inclusive or if it’s a genuine attempt to ensure girls on every continent will want to spend money on the franchise.  I guess Disney’s gotta try, right?  Coz Dreamworks has got the boys all tied up in Dragons and stuff.

Which fairy are you?  There’s a negro fairy, an Asian fairy, a Southern Belle fairy (that’s a race, apparently) redheads, blondes.  All are slim but curvaceous, all gutsy yet feminine, all beautiful.  Negro fairy pumps her head in derision and shakes her index finger.  It’s like yes, but also NO.

Pirate Fairy herself is Zarina, a well-meaning science nerd who manages to create all-important pixie dust in secret.  Pixie dust is like “money”.  Once you have it, you have power.

In one experiment, she accidentally destroys most of her village and decides to leave, in shame.  A year later she has hooked up with a bunch of pirates and is at the helm of a ship.  Since she has the recipes for the dust, she is made Captain.  James (who is the young Hook) seems her ally, until…

He stiffs her out of the dust recipes, and as soon as he does so, he undergoes the classic Dr Jekyll transformation.  All along, Zarina thought she had the power.  Now she is reduced to nothing more than a stowaway fairy, with no friends and no hope.

Predictably, the other fairies find her and help her stop Hook from using the dust to make the pirate ship fly wherever he wants, because if he does, he will rule the world, unstoppably.  They stop him.  Zarina repents, and her peer-group fist pumps their way back to fairy land, victorious.

On paper it all looks legit.  But I can’t help thinking that they haven’t quite broken through yet with positive messages for little girls.  One scenario here is that you have to be a type.  You search for the one you are most like.  I think this is wrong.  Where is the scope for idiosyncrasies?  Could a girl be all types in one, and if so what would that look like?

It’s just as bad for the men in this film.  Not one of them is normal.  They are positioned in order for the fairies to appear more functional, and that’s it.  Captain Hook is a sociopath.  The good guy left back at the village on guard is obese and hapless, no threat to the girls, but at the same time useful to them.  He gets used.

There’s inherent sexism everywhere.  I mean, no one gets hurt.  My daughter has not left the cinema scarred by negative stereotyping.  She’s not looking at me with hurt eyes because the fairies weren’t fighting in a trouser.

Anyway, as usual, I’ve probably read too much into it.  Girls love it – or do they?  Do they think they have to love it?  Sorry, there I go again.

We are going to see Big Hero 6 next.  Now that looks funny.  The trailer is here.  Very short, 1 minute.  Have a look!


Disney is possibly getting something right here.  Getting kids to laugh at situations and attitudes, rather than looking around for idealisations of themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *