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Winx' Transformations Evoke Artistic Figurations of Saints' Ecstasies and the Virgin's Ascension

by Nicoletta Marini-Maio

This side-by-side montage is related to the article titled "The ‘Angelification’ of Girls: Winx Club as a Neoliberal-Catholic Project" by Nicoletta Marini-Maio and Ellen Nerenberg. The article, currently under review for publication, explores the transmedial, transnational text which we refer to as “the Winx Project.” The Winx Project targets female tweens and teens and consists of 182 episodes (and still counting) of an animated television series for children and tweens, Winx Club, which premiered in Italy in 2004 and is broadcast globally in 150 countries; several feature films; a spin-off commissioned by Netflix US, WOW--World of Winx, as well as tie-in merchandise. We contend that the Winx Girl that the project targets, and attempts to shape, works within a global values system which she alternately transforms, conforms to, and maintains, something she achieves by actualizing her consumer agency. Girl’s power to transform the world is principally directed toward self-modification and the transformation of herself, her clothes, body, and physical attributes to comply with the existing models (social, aesthetic, physical, etc.) that she encounters.

The Winx series, created by Iginio Straffi, author and CEO of Rainbow (Loreto, Italy), predicates on transformation. At the center of each episode of the Winx lies a spectacular, indeed, mystical transformation that, besides its genealogical linkage to the "magical girls" of Japanese anime (particularly Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon), speaks directly to the Catholic environment from which the project derives. Transformation is the indisputable focus and visual anchor of each episode as the individual fairies transform into angelic superheroes, each endowed with super powers.

Regarding semiotic representation within the series’ diegesis, the fairies do not simply orbit between appearing as angelic beings and precociously eroticized consumers. Rather, the Winx are literally in orbit. As angels whose “winx”—an Italianized version of the English word “wings”—lend the entire, multi-million dollar enterprise its very name, the fairies circulate in a semiotic field in which sacred and profane representations of women are as familiar as the history of Western art and advertising. Structural similarities proliferate between the religious ecstasy of the saints, the assumption of the virgin, and the transformation of Straffi’s Winx.

The content in which the Winx Project operates supports the semiotic interpretation. Don Lamberto Pigini, a Catholic priest and entrepreneur who created an empire of 11 media and entertainment companies in Italy, provided start up funds to Rainbow and is its honorary president. In our article, we aim to examine a series of loops, or orbits, that the Winx Project allows for and encourages. These include looping between feminism and postfeminism, between the individually empowered “girl who can” and the collective, between angelic being and eroticized consumer, and between consumerism and Catholicism. To simplify our presentation of these issues, we shine a bright line between the looping as it is enacted within the diegesis of the animated series and outside of that diegesis, or, extra-diegetically.

Winx' Transformations and Saints' Ecstasies

A side-by-side montage of the Winx fairies' transformation compared to saints' mystic experiences of ecstasy as they have been represented in art.

from Winx Club - Bloom All Transformation (Up to Onyrix) - Google Images of artworks (2017)
Creator: Iginio Straffi
Distributor: Winx Club (Rainbow S.P.A.) in YouTube
Posted by Nicoletta Marini-Maio