Update on this series: Today Lucy brought home Maya, the Harp Fairy. She’s a fairy of color as are three other fairies in this mini-series of 7 music fairies. As I wrote earlier in my post below, in all the fairy books I’ve read (in this seemingly endless series– feels like I’ve read millions, but probably just about 50) I’d only came across just one non-white fairy: Inky. She’s the Indigo fairy. After legions of magical white girls, it seems pretty sterotyping that four more fairies of color suddenly appear in the music series. Can they play sports too?
Here’s what I wrote about a month ago:
The Rainbow Magic series documents the adventures of two human girls, Rachel Walker and Kirsty Tate and their travels into the fairy world. At the start of every book, they are summoned to help their flying friends escape terrible danger.
The good points:
(1) Female friendship: Rachel and Kirsty are great friends. They are loyal, help each other, and are the stars of each book.
(2) Every book also has a girl fairy in the title and pictured on the cover. There are Rainbow Fairies, Weather Fairies; Jewel Fairies, Days of the Week Fairies, Petal Fairies, and Special Edition Fairies– 7 of each.
(3) Kirsty and Rachel are brave, smart and heroic. They have magical powers when in fairy world, and rescue the fairies every time, usually helping to restore their magic to them.
(4) Both my 6 year old and my 3 year old LOVE this series.
Not so good:
(1) The numerous faries are so sterotypically female looking, I cannot imagine a boy reading these books with covers like this, when in fact these are action/ adventure books and what boy doesn’t want to fly? If these fairies just looked less frilly and hovering, and were actually shown doing some of the cool action moves they act out in the stories, they could have more universal appeal both to boys and to that side of girls that, so often, gets repressed instead experessed.
(If you read film critic Glen Kenny’s unoriginal rebuttal to my critique of the movie, Ratatouille, he writes that it’s just a fact: girls will see movies starring boys, little boys refuse to see movies starring girls. We’re talking about 3 year olds here! Even if this were true, which it’s not, it’s just fine in this case to let your little kid refuse to do something? Aren’t parents supposed to challenge kids out of comfort zone? With movies and toys, it’s so often becomes a case of parents enthusiastically reinforcing gender sterotypes and being comforted when they see their kids fall neatly into them.)
The Rainbow Series covers always emphasize how the fairies look, not what they can do. Fairies are usually pictured just hovering, motion-stopped, wings spread against a background of sparkles, looking more like pinned butterflies then super-action fairies; long flowing hair, mini skirt flared, knee high boots; always smiling and almost always caucasian, except for one brown skinned one (out of 50!) called Inky (???) the Indigo Fairy. (I admit we don’t have all the books so let me know if there some other fairies of color in this series.)
(2) Same damn plot in every story. Wicked Jack Frost does something to the fairies– steals their jewels, their magic, maybe kidnaps one; then Kirsty and Rachel are called from the human world to win over Jack Frost, his possy of goblins, and save the fairies. Could they make Jack Frost turn good one time? Or some other villian besides him? His even more evil older brother? Or sister? Hmmm…how much do these writers get paid?
The Rainbow Magic Series gets a GG/S rating.
FYI – my son loves Enchanted and the Frog Princess and Pinkalicious (and Cars and Spiderman and Star Wars – although he’s never actually seen the Spiderman or Star Wars movies), and my daughter loves Nemo and Snow White. I think Glen Kenny is way off on that one…
Also, I think it goes beyond parents and their comfort zones. Children’s ‘stuff’ producers spend a lot of money analyzing their target market, including lots of research on the psychology of kids. The characters and stories our kids are seeing are highly engineered and tuned to target kids. It’s not just Dr. Suess writing wacky stories or Walt Disney drawing a mouse, it’s teams of really smart people who want to sell products and use child development as a tool to do so.
I agree with most of your take on these books–frilly looking girls, exact same plot in every title–but in your effort to uncover stereotyping of girls, I think you ended up stereotyping boys in this piece. My two boys–six and a half and four–also love these books. My older son often selects one as his choice on his weekly class trip to the school library. While there are valid critiques of the series–and of course I understand that my kids might be the exception–a blanket statement that you can’t imagine a boy reading one of these sort of undercuts your points.
Thanks so much for your comment. Your boys liking the fairy series and you encouraging them with your library trips where they choose their own books is great news! It is nice to know about specific exceptions to the generalizations I described. I hope to hear of more. Thank you for telling me know and for being a great mom.
It is so good to hear from you! I am going to check out your site. I am working on a novel, not in touch iwth Stephanie.
How the devil are you?! It was such a treat to see your name in the latest Sirens – congratulations on a great blog. You have such a strong voice, it’s bound to be a success.
How’s your writing going? Are you still in touch with Stephanie Lehmann? I’ve sent a couple of poeple with manuscripts her way but nothing’s worked out…and who knows what will happen with publishing now. I think Jennifer has the right idea.
Anyhow. Just wanted to say hi. I loved your photo of your kids, by the way.