The Origins of the Girl Hero

Shirley Temple, Child Star and Commodity

in Girlhood Studies
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Since the late 1990s, "girl power" programs featuring girl heroes have emerged as an important new trend in children's television. However, girl heroes are not as new as they seem. Producers of mass media texts created many girl heroes in the 1930s, before the adoption of television as a mainstream medium, but the scholarly literature on today's girl heroes rarely acknowledges these pre-television predecessors. To address this gap, this paper presents research on the depictions of the strong orphan girls portrayed by Shirley Temple, positioned as cultural girl heroes in the 1930s. It explores the commercial contexts in which films starring Shirley Temple were produced and offers an analytical discussion of the positive and problematic features of these stories and the product lines associated with them. By understanding the themes, commercial contexts, and controversial aspects of Shirley Temple's on-screen stories as marketplace commodities, scholars can better study the relevance and importance of the girl heroes who are so popular in today's marketplace.

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal


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