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Tween Girls and their Mediated Friends


Nancy A. Jennings

Although parents and teachers are among the numerous socializing agents through which children learn about the world, media, too, has begun to take center stage as a substantial force in children’s lives. Media characters are some of the people being integrated into the social lives of children, yet very little is known about the implications of these relationships on child development in a mediated society.
Through in-depth interviews, this book explores how tween girls relate to media characters past and present, what they value in these relationships, and how these relationships have shaped their own identity and friendships.
The characters themselves are also analyzed from a feminist perspective, revealing the shared values of community, agency, and self-determination of the media characters and the girls who call them friends.
Through examining the characters and the text in which their stories take place, the book sheds light on what is important to tween girls, about the traits they value in others, and the traits they value in themselves.
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Chapter 2. Feminist Reading of Tween Media Character Friends


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Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And pretty maids all in a row.


The media landscape is full of different characters and their stories. Some landscapes are harsh and full of thorny characters with twisted plots. Others are soothing with gently sloping plotlines and welcoming characters. Some landscapes can build hope and inspire the heart; others can crush the soul and lead to despair. What does the landscape look like for today’s girls? What does their media world look like?

This chapter focuses on the characters that girls have selected in their media environment that feel like friends. It describes the media landscape that they have chosen for themselves. Before reading the texts through Vandergrift’s model, it is important to contextualize the analysis through descriptions of the narratives and identified characters within the narratives. As such, I begin with a brief description of each narrative and each character/celebrity. Interestingly, one tween used the actresses’ name when discussing the character in the narrative and went back and forth between her stage character ← 19 | 20 → (Teddy Duncan) and her celebrity persona (Bridgit Mendler). Therefore, a short biography of both the character and the actor are provided in this case.

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