Visual Cultures Workshop: Designing the Junior Miss: Some Short Stories about the Origins of Teen-Girl Entertainment


Location: Zoom

Image - Mary Kearney Visual Cultures Workshop, Designing the Junior Miss

The teenage girl has been a feature of U.S. entertainment for almost 100 years. Yet little is known about the origins of such media. This presentation by Mary Celeste Kearney offers an overview of a forthcoming book about the first wave of U.S. teen-girl entertainment, with a special focus on seven short story composites that collectively launched a transindustrial girl-centered production trend that lasted over thirty years and continues to influence the representation of teenage girls globally.

Inspired by feminist politics and New Woman literature, the narrative design of these stories demonstrates a radical turn from Victorian tales about female adolescence while also suggesting their authors’ attempts to explore the progressive possibilities for girlhood in a post-suffrage society. Nevertheless, these texts ultimately constructed teenage girlhood as a privileged identity that in reality only a small group of girls could perform, thereby also facilitating a cultural formation with significant social implications.

Mary Celeste Kearney is Director of the Gender Studies Program, as well as Associate Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre and Concurrent Faculty in American Studies.