n Gender Questions - The evolution of a feminine stereotype : what Tinker Bell teaches children about gender roles

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2309-9704



Research has shown that some children's stories may contain subversive cultural messages and that, by consuming them, children are unconsciously socialised and unwittingly influenced to accept cultural norms relating to, among other things, gender roles, race relations, power structures and class distinctions. This process of socialisation is especially effective through the medium of children's literature, especially those stories that make use of generic elements such as the archetypes found in fairy tales, and the fairy tales re-imagined and produced as films by the Walt Disney Company. A literature review confirms that gendered messages are present in the entertainment provided to children and highlights the most universal preconceptions of feminine roles in Western society. To determine if these gender stereotypes have evolved in recent years, the depiction of a beloved children's character, the fairy Tinker Bell, first imagined by author J.M. Barrie and later refashioned by Disney to become part of our collective imagination, is explored. A close analysis reviews the depiction of Tinker Bell in three different texts: Barrie's 1911 novel, , Disney's 1953 animated classic of the same name, and the first instalment of Disney's more recent series of movies in the franchise, (2008). The results indicate that the original Tinker Bell is a non-traditional female portrayed as a negative stereotype, but that the latest version of Tinker Bell is a non-traditional female portrayed in a positive manner. This shift in emphasis may indicate that gender stereotypes in the 21st century are consciously being reviewed.

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