American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Somewhere In-between: Tween Queens and the Marketing Machine

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

Ellen Berry


This study begins at the moment in the 1990s when tweens, or 8-14 year old girls, coalesced into a recognized marketing demographic within popular discourse, and continues to trace the development of tween definitions through early 2005. Before tweens were important as a cultural group, they were important as an economic demographic. In fact, the group was created by marketers in an effort to sell more products to children. Many theorists believe that, within capitalist societies such as the United States, being recognized as a marketing demographic often translates into that group's cultural recognition. This study traces the tween's growing cultural acknowledgment. Rather than examining the actual, lived experience of tweens, this study focuses on the discourse of the tween as presented by both popular culture and marketing texts. Together, these texts attempt to define a tween "ideal." Throughout this study, I stress that an important part of this ideal is that tweens should be able to participate fully in the consumer economy. Within American culture, the tweens' first purpose is to buy things. As tweens are indoctrinated into their roles as consumers, they are also brought into the more defined gender roles required of older girls, because embodying proper girlhood requires that tweens buy the correct array of products. To examine the formation of tweens as a marketing and cultural demographic, this study uses a wide variety of popular culture texts, such as girls' magazines, television shows, films, novels and the body manuals that tell girls about puberty and sex. Different chapters examine the history and development of tween-aimed cable television programming, the ideal tween as it is expressed through tween-aimed popular culture, some of the ways tweens learn to connect menarche with their entry into consumer culture, the Lolita myth's connection to tween sexuality, and the commodification of Riot Grrrl rhetoric in the creation of Girl Power marketing schemes. Throughout, I note the ideal tween's classed and raced position. In all, this study is intended to create a foundation for further studies of the tween.