Performing 21st-century girlhood : girls, postfeminist discourse, and the Disney star machine
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"Performing 21st-Century Girlhood: Girls, Postfeminist Discourse, and the Disney Star Machine," explores the economic and discursive functions of contemporary girlhood within Disney Channel's talent-driven transmedia franchises. Ideological, discursive, and narrative textual analyses of Disney Channel programs and paratexts are augmented by examination of the corporate motives and dominant discourses reproduced by Disney personnel in annual reports and in popular and trade publications referencing Disney's stars and girl-driven franchises. This exploration of girls' visibility as Disney performers, media producers, and public citizens brings several disciplines into conversation with one another, addressing issues in girls' cultural studies, media industries scholarship, celebrity studies, and theories of postfeminism. I take an intersectional feminist and critical cultural studies approach to media texts and meaning-making, with particular attention to power relations and cultural contexts. The political and economic aspects of this research demand that I also work to illuminate the significance of media industry logics within the production and distribution of media for girl audiences. I argue that the Walt Disney Company has a vested interest in reproducing certain postfeminist and subjectifying discourses of girlhood, which have become integral to its success in an ever-expanding web of media and consumer markets. While Disney Channel's girl-driven franchises constitute the case studies, my analysis reaches beyond the clear focus on gender and age to theorize girls' increasing visibility in the context of contemporary consumer culture and issues of postracism, citizenship, subjectification, and agency--issues that require continued interrogation as Disney distributes and expands its franchise properties globally.