The Passion of the Tinker Bell

When you get right down to it, Tinker Bell isn’t really the lovable impish fairy that Disney has made her out to be. Of course, since Tink has risen to become the unofficial spokesperson (so to speak) for Disney’s theme parks, that should come as no surprise. The relatively recent live action Peter Pan featured the most memorable Tinker Bell in cinematic history; in fact, she and Captain Hook are really the only good reasons to spend time with this movie. As written and wonderfully portrayed by French actress Ludivine Sagnier, the full petulance and jealousy of Tinker Bell at last was revealed. Compare Ms. Sagnier’s performance to that Julia Robert’s in Hook to see how talent can make a great character come alive and how lack of talent can leave even the most fascinating of characters dead in the water. The Tinker Bell of Sagnier is in keeping with J.M. Barrie’s original conception. Something that cannot come through in any stage version where Tink is merely a spotlight is the quite palpable sexual desire and the feelings of proprietary ownership that she feels for Peter.

To suggest that Tinker Bell’s jealousy of Wendy upon the arrival of the young British girl is beyond the ken is to state the obvious. Tink’s impolitic attitude toward this romantic rival for Peter’s affections is quite clearly delineated in a conversation between Pan and Wendy: “She says you are a great ugly girl, and that she is my fairy” It doesn’t take long to realize that in Tinker Bell’s mind there is a place for only one girl in Peter’s life, even if that girl is a fairy. Fairy Tink may be but one cannot help but feel that were she in the real world she might one day wind up on Jerry Springer. Tinker Bell expresses her feelings toward Peter through violence inflicted upon Wendy. The most infamous of these assaults takes place, not coincidentally, when Peter and Wendy share a kiss in the Darling nursery. Wendy tells Peter that she felt as if someone were tugging at her hair and Peter replies, tellingly, that he’s never known Tink to be so naughty in the past. Of course not; in the past Tinker Bell never had a rival. It would be enough if Tink merely stopped at harmless things like pulling Wendy’s hair, but our dear fairy is nothing at all like the impish little sprite as portrayed in those Disney commercials.

If you’ve never read J.M. Barrie’s original novel you might be shocked to learn that Tinker Bell actually calls upon one of the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy directly in her heart, and then arrange for it to appear as though the order was handed down by Peter Pan himself. As these kinds of Lifetime Movies plot twists often do, things backfired for Tinker Bell as Peter’s love for Wendy grows stronger in the face of almost losing her. As for Tink, this episode only served to deepen her hatred for Wendy. The depth of jealousy is described in a way that gives an element of humanity to the fairy. One element obviously missing is size. Tinker Bell knows she could well compete-and with that figure quite easily-with the girlish Wendy. Tinker Bell is never assumed to be anything other than a mature fairy, as is made evident from the palpable sexual tension existing between her and Peter. Also consider Barrie’s description of Tinker Bell as given to embonpoint, which is simply a fancy French term to describe a woman who is voluptuous. Barrie even gives one description of Tinker Bell in which he outlines what she is wearing making sure to add that “her figure could be seen to the advantage.” At another point Peter admonishes “Tink, if you don’t get up and dress at once I will open the curtain, and then we shall all see you in your negligee.” If that isn’t a sign that the relationship between Pan and Tink is intended to be a bit more ambiguous than usually portrayed, I don’t know what is. And then of course there is Tinker Bell’s decision to down the poison that was supposed to be ingested by Captain Hook.

As usual in these situations, Peter Pan is oblivious to the depth of feeling that Tinker Bell has for him. Tinker Bell chooses to drink the poison as an act of romantic passion and Peter is not mature enough to understand. He mistakenly believes that Tink merely drank the poison to save him. Tinkerbell’s reply is to call Pan a silly ass. Silly he is, unable to fully meander through the complexity of his relationship with the fairy. The decision by Tinker Bell to drink the poison also works as a way to tell Peter that she understands that he loves another and that she realizes her passion will forever remain unrequited. The bizarre love triangle that is at the center of Peter Pan elevates this children’s novel to a sphere in which it very subtly touches upon sexual awakening and romantic maturity. In many ways Peter Pan is a far more mature novel about sexuality than many other more

adult novels because the relationship between Peter-Tink-Wendy is fraught with passion and jealousy and the violence that is usually missing from novels directed to younger readers. Tinker Bell acts as the voice of unchained passion capable of going to the most extreme lengths to deal with her rival. Peter and Wendy are ultimately still children in the early stages of maturation and sexual awakening, whereas Tink is a fully eroticized character. Naturally, in order to make this palatable, not to mention to downplay the creepiness quotient, Barrie chose to make Tinker Bell a fairy, which not only removed her from humanity but made her too small to really be a threat to Wendy by herself.

Next time you see Tinker Bell whizzing around on one of those commercials for Disney World, you just might have a little more respect for her. You’d better respect her at least. Or you may find yourself the target of a Lost Boy arrow aimed at your heart.