Sunday, May 2, 2010

Male Tinkerbell

Disney's popular website Pixie Hollow just welcomed a new fairy to its mystical ranks -- and surprise! It's a boy.
Pixie Hollow is an online world where kids can create their own Tinker Bell-styled fairy personas, interact with each other, and play enchanted "talent games." Up until now, kids could only don a pair of virtual wings and flit around Pixie Hollow as female fairies -- but all that's all changed now that Disney has introduced its first fairy-dude to the formerly all-girl world: A boy by the name of Slate.
Slate is a variation on Disney's famous pixie-girl character, Tinker Bell, who was first introduced in J.M. Barrie's famous novel, "Peter and Wendy" (the inspiration for the animation powerhouse's 1953 movie "Peter Pan"). Tinker Bell, of course, has since spun off into countless dolls, TV features, and even her own section of Disneyland (also named "Pixie Hollow"). She also got a starring headliner role in 2008's direct-to-video feature, "Tinker Bell."
Disney isn't exactly ready to call Slate a "fairy boy," though. "Sparrow Man" is the preferred term, but one look at Slate and it's clear that he's less Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast" and more Peter Pan: Slim, big-eyed, and androgynous. Though svelte, next to the absurdly slim waists on the girl pixies, Slate's normal build is comparatively Schwarzenegger-esque.
While news that children now have the "male or female" option when creating a new fairy avatar might fill some adults with a sense of unease, according to (which refers to the new character as "Tinker Bill"), it's nothing new to the kids. Mary Elizabeth Williams writes: "The open secret around the Hollow has long been that if you make your fairy tall with short hair and give her an ambiguous name like Jamie, she can pretty quickly establish a reputation as a he."
The addition of Slate to the fairy-world will allow girls who have been bending the gender rules a chance to play as guy fairies. It also gives boys who have been quietly flying about Pixie Hollow for the last few years an opportunity to acknowledge that males play this game, too.
A quick scan of comments on the site reveal there are plenty of people in the Pixie Hollow who have been waiting for this to happen. After Slate was introduced through a post on the Never News Blog, user response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. "I think it is great for Pixie Holow [sic] to add Sparrow Men," wrote gamer Alina Moonshine. "Now my grandson can fly a boy fairy instead of a girl. It will make him feel special."
Another (clearly younger) commenter asked "If the girl close [sic] can be for boys too," to which Slate himself -- or, more likely, a Disney employee acting on Slate's behalf -- responded with sprite-like speed. "A lot of Fairy designers follow the same trends," Slate explained. "That means that even if the clothes are in different shops and tailored to fit different Fairies, they can sometimes be alike!"



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