Communism in Pixie Hollow
or How Disney Glorified the Soviet Empire (a whimsical take on Tinkerbell)
When my daughter was growing up, I was subjected to many hours of reading (and watching) Tinkerbell. I learned everything there was to know about fairies and about how Pixie Hollow functioned. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tink. Some part of me appreciated that such a clever, beautiful, and activist character could also be an engineer by trade and at heart.
As I read and watched more and more of Pixie Hollow stories, I could draw distinct parallels between life in the former Soviet Union and what the fairies go through on a daily basis. In some twisted way, the society of Pixie Hollow is loosely based on the idea of Communism.
At the beginning of the story sequence, Tink is born of a baby’s laughter and brought into the world as a wisp, which is transformed by a hefty dose of pixie dust. She must then choose, publicly, which talent will be hers for the rest of her fairy life. Or, rather, the talent must choose her. There are many accounts of jobs being assigned upon graduation by the Soviet government. As you can imagine, most people were not happy with the government’s decisions, just as Tink is unhappy with her fate as a tinker fairy. We see her trying to learn other talents, to no avail, about a quarter into the movie. She finally accepts the idea of being a tinker fairy, just as many Soviet citizens accepted their assigned fate.
Later movies harp on the concept that some fairies have rather exciting jobs, while others do not (e.g., the dust keepers, working a 9–5 shift at the pixie dust factory), who must seek excitement elsewhere. Everyone gets paid the same [amount of pixie dust], regardless of their contribution to society. Individuality and activism are discouraged, as Zarina discovers, just as they were in the USSR. Even her closest friend and accomplice Tink is taken aback and begins to doubt her, when she shows off the true power of alchemy. It wouldn’t be long before someone collects compromising evidence and reports her to Fairy Gary (the KGB, although, arguably, he fills a lot more shoes than policing the dust keeper fairies), but she has no trouble in letting the information leak by being overzealous.
Fed up with the system, Zarina “defects” to a seemingly capitalist regime (James Hook’s pirate ship), where individuality is praised, there are tangible and immediate rewards, and yet (in the long run) everyone works for their own personal gain. Without knowing the full story, her friends judge her as a “traitor” and attempt to rescue her from the evil she is supposedly trapped in. After being “shown the truth” by James, she joins her communist fairy pals and they avenge the motherland in what I can only imagine is Putin’s most amazing daydream. At the end of the day, Communism prevails and the fairies return to Pixie Hollow with a lot of pizazz.. kind of like Vitaly Yurchenko, who was awarded the Order of the Red Star after his re-defection in 1985.
Secret of the Wings was reminiscent of one my undergraduate classmates — her mother defected to the United States before the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing only her and leaving two of her siblings behind with her father. The sibling reunion 14 years later was similar to Tinkerbell meeting Periwinkle for the first time. Through Tinkerbell’s undying activism, the “Berlin Wall” between the seasons is broken: fairies can now visit each other in both seasons (albeit, with handicaps). The “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” campaigns are wildly successful in Pixie Hollow and, at the start of the next movie, there is a visa-free regime for all fairies with no immigration checks at the border.
Is this the hidden message in Disney movies? Probably not. But it’s a fun parallel that lets me enjoy kids stories and experience the same exhilaration as I would during spy thrillers.