Capturing the Tooth Fairy

tf_drawingAsk a bunch of kids what the tooth fairy looks like, get a bunch of different answers.

Sure, there will be some commonalities – the character is most often human-like, female and winged – but imagination adds the detail. After all,

No one knows what the tooth fairy looks like, but almost everyone has ideas, says [children’s author Rosemary] Wells, who has her doctorate in English. “You’ve got your basic Tinkerbell-type tooth fairy with the wings, wand, a little older and whatnot…. Then you have some people who think of the tooth fairy as a man, or a bunny rabbit or a mouse.


One review of published children’s books and popular artwork found the tooth fairy to also be depicted as a child with wings, a pixie, a dragon, a blue mother-figure, a flying ballerina, two little old men, a dental hygenist, a potbellied flying man smoking a cigar, a bat, a bear and others. Unlike the well-established imagining of Santa Claus, differences in renderings of the tooth fairy are not as upsetting to children.

Note that exactly none even begin to look quite so Barbie-eqsue as this:


Yes, we can all sleep better now. The tooth fairy has evolved from a figure out of folklore to corporatized, digitized and plasticized product.

And it’s one we considered blogging about when we learned of it about a year ago. Then we looked at all the other material we had on file and thought, “You know, there are much more interesting and important things to write about.”

But this week, the allegedly “Real Tooth Fairies” came back on our radar thanks to a mailing on the matter from the Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood. According to Susan Linn’s further commentary on HuffPo, the trouble she sees is more than just the product line’s reliance on stereotypes or yet more marketing to kids who are already aggressively marketed to on all fronts.

Losing a “baby” tooth marks a milestone in a child’s life – symbolizing the transition from early to middle childhood…. By harnessing the Tooth Fairy, The Royal Council of the Real Fairyland, LLC (also known as The Real Tooth Fairies, LLC), wants to “leverage and define this rite-of-passage moment” and literally profit from each tooth a child loses. The company is already selling VIP memberships, deluxe Real Tooth Fairy Collections, and more. Participation in Real Fairyland doesn’t come cheap. “Give your girl the gift of everything Tooth Fairy,” the website exhorts. A Real Tooth Fairies Birthday Party Collection costs $379.

Aside from the sleazy sales pitch, here’s what’s wrong with branding the Tooth Fairy. It commercializes an inevitable biological milestone, the celebration of which has always been the purview of family rituals. Branding replaces children’s own creations with homogenized, corporate-constructed images, constricting both imagination and cultural diversity. The “real” Tooth Fairy no longer resides in the richness of children’s conjurings – she/he/it has been usurped by Mr. [Paul] Yanover [Fandango CEO and former senior exec at Disney] & company. [Some emphasis added]

“This is a huge, huge property,” says Yanover in a video investor pitch that must be seen to be believed (and even then, you might have your doubts), “and a huge character franchise.”

7/22/13 UPDATE: The investor video has been removed from YouTube, but CCFC has kindly provided a transcript here.

Sure, it was only a matter of time. These days, everything exists to be marketed. And everyone is a consumer to be marketed and sold to. That’s just how things work, right?

But we don’t have to buy what we’re being sold – including a worldview that puts commerce above everything else, considering it the greatest good we could possibly aspire to.

If you want to let those behind The Real Tooth Fairies know what you think of their cashing in on the tooth fairy, the CCFC has provided a letter you can customize, sign and send.

Image by Xiaphias, via Wikimedia Commons


Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

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