The construction of tween identity through the Disney Tween phenomenon
This thesis explores the construction of tween identity through a case study of consumption, of what can be called the Disney tween phenomenon. Disney Channel has produced a number of popular live action television shows and films in the last 5-6 years catering to the tween audience, achieving high revenues and many viewers. Disney Channel has become undeniably present in western children’s lives, and especially in Norway where it figures in the basic cable package, thus the majority of Norwegian tweens are highly exposed to the Disney tween franchises. In addition to the media texts a Disney also produces a plethora of merchandise. The phenomenon is thus present in the lived lives of tweens and highly present in stores selling media and other merchandise. The term tweens has emerged from the marketers and usually indicates children between 8 and 12 years old. An age group thought of as being in between children and teenagers. Since tweens, as a group, have been defined as an audience and a consumer group for Disney, the research question is: How are tweens constructed by the Disney product, i.e. through the media texts, constructed by Disney as a corporation, and how do children inhabiting this age group of tweens themselves construct this space between childhood and teenagers? The phenomenon is investigated by implementing a circuit of culture approach taking into account the producers, the audience, and the text. I have interviews with the General Manager of Disney Channel Scandinavia, and the director of the Toys Division at Disney Consumer Products Nordic in order to examine how the producers construct tweens. A text analysis of the sitcom Hannah Montana and of the trilogy High School Musical is undertaken in order to examine how the text constructs its audience. The focus on the audience/users is based on focus group- and qualitative interviews. In the data collected concerning the audience/users segment focus was on their meaning making of the Disney texts (films, television shows, and online, and inter- and intra-personal activities), and merchandise, as well as a focus on how young people placed in the category of tweens understand and construct meaning in this space between childhood and teenagers. I have also interviewed some of the children’s parents to see how watching and buying Disney is negotiated in a relational aspect.