Nostalgia, Representation and Transgression in Disney Princess Culture


by Emily Chandler


This podcast is of a seminar presented by Emily Chandler at UNSW Australia for SSSN on 5th April 2017. Emily’s paper is followed by a question and answer session facilitated by Meg Russell and involving the audience present on the day.

Emily Chandler is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. She works in the interdisciplinary fields of media studies and girlhood studies. She blogs at

Between 1937 and 2016, Walt Disney Animation Studios released 56 animated theatrical films for children. Since 2000, the teenage and young adult female protagonists from 12 of these films have been retroactively grouped into a media franchise called the Disney Princesses. Academic study around the Disney Princesses mostly relates to the representation of female characters in Disney films and merchandise, and the franchise’s appropriateness for children. However, children are not the only demographic with an investment in this franchise. Adults online produce fan works, listicles, discussion, campaigns and humour featuring adoring, critical and satirical interpretations of the Disney Princesses. This paper examines current and ongoing shifts in media consumption patterns by providing a rationale for adults’ participation in a fandom for films aimed at children. Studying the interaction of 2010s Internet fan culture with the Disney animated output, I argue that the fan works, social justice campaigns and satire which have coalesced around this franchise can be attributed to a combination of their appeal to nostalgia, their use within identity politics, and their transgressive potential through satire.

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