Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Or Why I Will Never Buy Another Tinker Bell Movie…

I am very careful about the kind of TV I allow my daughter to watch. While I’m generally not a helicopter parent, in this area I absolutely am. It all started when I read the excellent book Nurture Shockduring my pregnancy. This book discusses studies that overturn a lot of common parental advice from the last few decades. One fascinating chapter, Plays Well With Others, talked about how the advent of “educational” media has had the unintended effect of increasing relational aggression!

In other words, the more educational TV a child watches, the more likely she is to be nasty and unkind to her peers. 

You can read more about that study in particular HERE. This was the biggest trigger for me in being extremely choosy in what I allow my daughter to watch. I also limit her screen time to an hour or less per day most of the time. And yes, sometimes I let her go longer – the movie I discuss in this post is 76 minutes long.

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to discover if a show is worthwhile. To stay safe, I’ve stuck with classics like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Diego, and Curious George. I’ve also given her the chance to watch classic movies from my childhood: Winnie the Pooh (1979 version), Mary Poppins, Disney Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Mermaid. I have no complaints about those. But I decided to branch out a little, and having heard that the Tinker Bell movies are decent, I bought Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue at a used bookstore and let her watch it.
Contrary to my usual practice, I didn’t watch the movie with my daughter the first time around. I mean, it’s rated G, it’s Disney, what could be wrong? But I’ve watched it several times since, and each time I see something else that, in the context of the question of relational aggression, bothers me more and more. Tinker Bell’s “friends” act like particularly nasty 7thgraders, and there are no consequences. I’m not a total Grinch, so I’m not going to remove the movie from her viewing rotation. Instead, whenever we watch the movie, or talk about it, I point out the issues I am concerned about to help my daughter process these elements.
So what are my problems with this movie?

The fairy Vidia is just mean, but receives nothing but acceptance and forgiveness from her friends.  

    The first time we meet Vidia, she is imposing herself on Tinker Bell, trying to keep Tink from going outside the fairy camp. Enforcing rules is fine, but she is nasty about it. So nasty that one of the other fairies calls her “grouchy,” and it’s accepted as just her personality.
    Fine, Vidia is a grouchy fairy. But then she follows Tinker Bell outside the camp and moves from being grouchy to being mean. Tinker Bell sees a fairy house and wants to explore, but Vidia is afraid, and not without reason. However, Tinker Bell ignores her warnings and goes into the house. Vidia decides to “teach her a lesson” and shuts the door behind her.
    So far the movie has taught us that sometimes our friends are grouchy jerks who play mean pranks that cause actual harm. So when does Vidia learn her lesson and suffer the consequences of her actions?
    NEVER. When the fairies are journeying to rescue Tink, Vidia finally confesses, explaining that it’s all her fault that Tinker Bell got rescued. The fairies gather round Vidia and assure her that she is still loved and accepted. That’s nice, but maybe she should have to learn a lesson about not playing mean pranks?  

After the fairies grant love and consequence-free forgiveness to Vidia, they immediately go into victim blaming mode.

    They assure Vidia that Tink is quite capable of getting into trouble all on her own. So apparently, despite the actual fact that Vidia’s actions directly led to Tinker Bell being trapped and imprisoned, it’s all Tinker Bell’s fault? This is how rape culture begins, people!

The fairies have snotty attitudes.

    At one point, when the fairies are faced with wading through mud, Rosetta, says, in the snottiest voice possible, “I don’t DO mud.” Really? Naturally, Vidia bullies Rosetta into wading into the mud, and then promptly gets stuck in it, putting all the fairies at risk. I don’t mind a fairy expressing a preference to avoid mud, but does it have to be done snottily? And why does it have to be the one Southern fairy? (Rosetta has an extreme Deep South drawl).
    When another fairy observes Vidia’s initial attack on Tinker Bell, she comments “grouchy.” Now, she is actually talking about the way the air smells, but the other fairies assume she is commenting on Vidia’s personality. So the fairies feel free to talk about their friends behind their backs? Later on, during their long walk, one fairy comments that without Tinker Bell around, it’s very quiet. Immediately they pause and another fairy starts to mock Tinker Bell.
With friends like these, who needs enemies?

If my daughter reported that her friends were treating her the way Tinker Bell’s friends do, I would tell her to dump them all immediately. I know there are other Tinker Bell movies, but I’m not going to waste my time or money on them. I’d rather my daughter watch classics and old TV, or even play iPad video games with her screen time. And from now on, I’m watching everything before I buy it!

Maybe I’m overreacting. On the other hand, with all the concerns about bullying, perhaps more people should be aware of the study I mentioned earlier about how educational media teaches kids HOW to be mean. When kids watch a show about resolving conflict, they learn not only how to resolve conflict, but also how to create it.

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