Disney's Girl Next Door: Exploring the Star Image of Annette Funicello

This is a master's thesis from 2006. The basic concept of the thesis is that Annette represented the ideal 1950's female, being chaste, modest and beautiful, all at the same time. It's a very well-done thesis. This is the second thesis that I have seen that I feel should have been turned into a book; the other was one on Maude Adams.

In a number of places the author criticizes Annette's singing and acting, saying it wasn't very good. Still, the roles she was given didn't really demand a whole lot of acting ability. The serials she did, in my opinion, were more of a demand on her than the movies she did.

The author spends a bit of time noting that one main trait of Annette was her 'ordinariness.' In other words, she was a typical teenager that any girl could imaging being and any boy could imagine dating. (Remember-this was the 50's and 60's, and toleration of homosexuality or lesbianism was much less than it is now, and it's still not tolerated a lot now.)

Annette never really bought into the ritzy life of a star. She also didn't wear very revealing outfits or have any scandals attached to her name. If you have ever seen her in the beach movies, you will notice that, despite the temperature on the beach, she always has more clothes on than any of the other girls. She also supports the morality of the time in demanding that her boyfriend get a ring on her finger and marry her before she will do anything sexual with him.

Annette was basically the girl-next-door with perfect manners and behavior. She was interested in fashions and had normal teenage-girl-type crushes. She had a wonderful, supportive family and never really seemed to misbehave in any way at all. By today's standards, she would probably be judged a prude. Her clothes were also pretty much normal for the time; she didn't spend massive amounts of money on them or on any form of glamorous apparel.

'In her youth Annette stood as the ultimate reflection of 1950's standards of morality, beauty, and standardized fun.'

The Mickey Mouse Club was planned not to feature any one 'star,' but things were changed when the amount of fan mail Annette got was more than anyone else got. The Disney group realized that a lot of money could be made through Annette, and so she was turned into a singer with a number of record albums to her credit. A lot of Annette-related merchandise was out there for sale, and she was featured often in the various magazines of the time.

The movies she was in also stressed her 'ordinary' status. She rode horses; she helped a geek from school; she went to a girl's ranch for the summer; she went to the beach. Granted, that takes more money to do than most people had in those days (or these days, for that matter), but still none of the things she did were in any way strange or unusual.

She never seemed to develop the 'big head' that many young stars get. She was still someone you could probably just plain talk to and enjoy being around.

The author also goes into how the Disney organization worked on having a certain image for Annette and for similar stars that came along later.

A very interesting thesis indeed.

Main Index

Main Annette Index