Marcus J. Breen


Joanne Morreale, Murray Forman

Date of Award


Date Accepted


Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Academic Unit

College of Arts, Media and Design. Department of Communication Studies.


communication, celebrity, femininity, neoliberalism, pageant, post-feminism, Reality TV

Subject Categories

Girls on television, Reality television programs


Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication


In American society, girls' culture has become increasingly concerned with notions of beauty and appearance, as well as the display of sexualized femininity. This thesis utilizes a cultural studies perspective to examine the controversial reality TV program Toddlers and Tiaras, which profiles young girls in their journeys through the child beauty pageant circuit. Following from Henry Giroux's theories of exploitation and indifference towards children in American society, I argue that Toddlers & Tiaras functions ideologically as a cultural object that reinforces a moral disregard for girls through its depiction of hegemonic notions of feminine girlhood and its positing of fame and celebrity as the ultimate goal for the female child. I examine how Toddlers & Tiaras functions in the same way as reality TV makeovers to promote discourses of post-feminism and neoliberalism as a means for constructing girls' identities. I also explore how these discourses contribute to the construction and positioning of girls as what Foucalt termed "docile bodies" or individuals under invisible systems of surveillance and regulation which causes them to lose power and agency. I rely on Leo Braudy's and David Marshall's work on celebrity culture to explore how Toddlers & Tiaras exemplifies the quest for fame and celebrity status within contemporary American culture. As part of a larger cultural studies project, this thesis hopes to encourage thinking about the construction and positioning of girls in American society.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Rights Holder

Corrinne N. Connolly

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