Disney’s Girl Next Door: Exploring the Star Image of Annette Funicello
This thesis explores the cultural significance of actress and former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and the public perception that she embodies the social values of morality and chastity. The catalyst of this study is the question of the source of Funicello’s popularity. Compared to other stars, her acting is average and her singing flat, but her looks, personality, and careful marketing positioned her as one of Walt Disney Studio’s biggest stars in the 1950s. This study contends that examining cultural connotations of Funicello’s celebrity is the key to understanding the root of Funicello’s popularity. Using Richard Dyer’s concept of the star image, this study deconstructs Funicello’s celebrity persona to uncover greater meaning in her cultural identity as a “girl next door.” An analysis of teen-oriented magazine coverage of Funicello reveals that of the three components of Dyer’s star image theory—success, ordinariness, and consumption—ordinariness is the most prominent in Funicello’s star image. Funicello’s depiction of the character Annette McCleod from the “Annette” serial stands as textual evidence of the calculated effort of Disney to commodify the girl-next-door persona. In the early 1960s Disney loaned Funicello to American International Pictures for a series of youth-oriented beach films in which Funicello played the only chaste girl on a beach of promiscuous college students. The significance of Funicello’s role in these films is analyzed through a historical lens that focuses on the influence that these more adult roles had on her star image. Finally this thesis discusses how the Disney Channel markets their modern day tween stars as the girl next door, using an extended comparison of actress Hilary Duff and Funicello. This study finds that through the employment of the girl-next-door persona, Disney has capitalized on their viewers’ yearning to imagine that they could be the stars they watch and admire. Through textual analysis of her work on the 1950’s children’s show the Mickey Mouse Club, her singing career, and her work in the beach party films of the 1960s, this study locates Funicello as the personification of a larger Disney fantasy that is marketed and commodified through most, if not all, of Disney products.
School:Bowling Green State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:annette funicello mouseketeer richard dyer star image beach party films
Date of Publication:01/01/2006