Remediating Tinker Bell: Exploring Childhood and Commodification through a Century-Long Transmedia Narrative
The one-hundred-year trajectory of the mischievous Tinker Bell, from J. M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up to the present-day Disney Fairies franchise, is a metanarrative of adaptation and remediation through which media and “childhood” can be seen to interrelate as mutually constitutive forces. With a focus on contemporary children’s narratives and media, this paper examines incarnations of this media franchise at fifty-year intervals. Our close reading yields insights into the reflexive relationship between the social constructions of childhood, the evolution of narrative in children’s literature, and the development of media for child audiences since the Edwardian era. Using Tinker Bell as an exemplar for a phenomenon, we find that as children’s narratives and media evolve in ways that increase the potential for childhood agency, commercial formulations shape this agency strategically by structuring access and participation.