CRCC member Anna Zsubori publishes book ‘Disney Princesses and Tween Identity: The Franchise in Illiberal Hungary’

Since the creation of the franchise in 2000, Disney Princesses have become a ‘phenomenon’ receiving international attention, admiration as well as criticism from both consumers and scholars. Although audience research has seen growing recognition recently, the investigation of audiences in Central and Eastern Europe and those of Disney animated features is greatly neglected by academics. Within the framework of audience research and by employing Disney Princess animations as the object of study, Anna Zsubori’s book examines the verbal and visual identity constructions of tweens in illiberal Hungary.

Through Hungarian tweens’ ambivalent and sometimes even contradictory ideas of identity, this research reveals the heterogeneity of both the ‘Princess Phenomenon’, by highlighting that its local negotiation is profoundly impacted by cultural and societal characteristics, and of the diverse audiences, who are multifarious in their understandings that often incorporate antithetical and dynamic discourses. Combining textual, thematic and semiotic, analyses of the conversations, tweens’ drawings and building blocks, and broader contextual examinations of the sessions with Hungarian children, this book offers original contributions on both theoretical and methodological levels.

The book has already been well-received by notable academics in the field.

“In this absorbing and thought-provoking text, Zsubori deftly explores the complex position that Disney Princesses inhabit within the lives of Central and Eastern European tweens. Exploring the in-betweenness of age, geography, and culture, this book offers a nuanced reading of Hungarian tweens as intelligent and critical viewers of Disney media, drawing on rich empirical data to give voice to this under-researched group. Through its interdisciplinary approach, Zsubori contributes to our understanding of the limits of Western theories in non-Western contexts, and what it means to do gender-specific fieldwork in an anti-gender environment.”

— Victoria Cann, University of East Anglia

“What unfolds when a Princess from the West claims her throne in Eastern and Central Europe? Is she a colonial ruler or a feminist icon? Anna Zsubori’s insightful book explores the interpretation of Disney Princesses by Hungarian tweens, examining reception of their gender roles and racial identities within the context of Hungary’s increasingly patriarchal, racially intolerant, and illiberal society. This exploration delves into the “in-betweenness” of Hungarian tweens, a concept that captures not just their transitional age but also Hungary’s delicate balance between East and West.”

— Irena Reifová, Charles University

“The Walt Disney Company is one of the oldest and most complex global entertainment empires today, engaging with and influencing our lives in various ways regardless of age, race, gender, or geographical location. This book provides a powerful lens inviting the reader to look at Disney not only at the global, macro level but also at the micro-level: in our daily lives, around the family dinner table, in the classroom setting and elsewhere. While the focus is on the Disney Princess phenomenon, and tweens negotiating self-representation and identity in the small Central European nation of Hungary, the insights and conclusions are, in many ways, rather universal, often surprising and paradoxical. The reader will see not only the Disney Princess franchise but also the Disney Company from a more nuanced and informed perspective after reading this influential and well-researched book.”

— Katalin Lustyik, Ithaca College

The book is now available to purchase from Lexington Books.


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