New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture
2 All-American Girl? Annette Funicello and Suburban Ethnicity Sarah Nilsen 35
two All-American Girl?: Annette Funicello and Suburban Ethnicity Sarah Nilsen Every afternoon in the mid-1950s, millions of suburban American children came home from school and turned on their television sets to watch Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. Immensely popular with both children and adult audiences alike, The Mickey Mouse Club made its debut on Monday, October 3, 1955, ran for four seasons, and aired its final segment in September 1959, before going into syndication as a half-hour program from 1962 to 1965. In 1956, The Mickey Mouse Club reached more total viewers than any other daytime program. It reached more children than any other program, day or night, except for Walt Disney’s Disneyland series. It was seen four or five times a week by 42 percent of its weekly audience, and in its first year came in second in the Nielsen ratings to only the World Series. The Mickey Mouse Club proved hugely popular during its first release. As Steven Watts argues in his cultural history of Walt Disney and his studio, “This television show, beamed out to a national audience on a daily basis, was the studio’s most noteworthy contribution to the raising of America’s children during the Cold War” (Watts 335). The cast members of The Mickey Mouse Club, the Mouseketeers, served as the main conduit for creating audience identifica- tion with the show. The original Mouseketeers were all from California, the state with the most significant suburban growth during the 1950s. Moreover, virtu- ally all came from...
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