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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.

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Part II: Culture

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Part II Culture CHAPTER 6 “Let it go, let it go”—Hegemony and Counter-Hegemony in Disney’s Frozen Janelle Applequist Fairytales have become staples for countless cultures, serving as frames of reference for morality, providing children with avenues for imaginative es- cape, and even shaping bedtime rituals for families around the world. One of the most popular forms of the fairytale involves a prince and princess, often centered on romance and royalty. If you were to rank these characters in terms of sheer popularity, you would be hard-pressed to find any with more cultural reach than the Walt Disney princesses. Not only has Disney created princesses who are known on a first-name basis by children (and adults) eve- rywhere, but the international corporation has also formed a brand: the Dis- ney Princess, which extends beyond animated films into theme parks, Broadway stages, and merchandising (Do Rozario, 2004). Thus, Disney’s long line of animated films has become a fairytale staple. Each film provides a romanticized portrayal of royalty and adventure for young audiences, while serving as a significant source of nostalgia for older viewers. Given that Disney Princesses like Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, and Belle have amassed such cultural authority, it can be argued that these films are part of larger hegemonic processes that have been perpetuated by the Walt Disney Company. Hegemony explains how a powerful group of people can impose dominant beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and morals on others. Hegemony is seen in, and supported by, society and its cultural arti-...

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