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Tweening the girl: the crystallization of the tween market 1980-1996.

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
While it was the phenomenal commercial success of the girl band, the Spice Girls, in the mid-1990s that legitimized the tween girl as a lucrative market segment; it was really during the 1980s - precisely the moment she should have been ignored - that the tween persona crystallized as a segmented marketing niche carved out of the transitory and transformational spaces between childhood and adolescence. She is an image of a transitional girlhood that is sold to both the mediated marketplace and to girls themselves. The tween as a category represents the targeting of a new consumer subjectivity, particularly the upaging of the child, the downaging of the teen, but also the reclamation of girlhood as a site of consumer autonomy and power. The tween girl is a commercial persona which exists in the marketplace as an historical site of identity work. She is the personification of a market segment that crystallizes as the segment is defined, honed and traded within the dynamic interchanges of the mediated marketplace (advertising, marketing, merchandising, retail and the media). This thesis is a historical case study of the crystallization of the tween persona in the synergistic circuitries of the mediated marketplace that uses a historical discourse analysis of industry trade publications and retrospective interviews with suburban tweens as the primary modes of analysis. This thesis uncovers how the crystallization of the tween is firmly rooted in the context of the twentieth century as the marketplace solidified the child and the teen consumers, and the 1980s which were a period of dramatic changes in the landscape of media culture and social upheaval for the middle class as more mothers joined the workforce, dramatically shifting girls’ roles in their families. Meanwhile, challenged by the presence of girls in the marketplace, feminism was forced to recalibrate its relationship to both the girl and consumer culture, opening new opportunities for plurality. This thesis adds to the field of Girls’ Studies by addressing how a category of girlhood was organized and produced by the mediated marketplace and how girls engaged with this persona in the context of 1980’s suburbia.
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