One way that children explore concepts of gender is through make-believe and performative play. One of the most prevalent presentations of gender that is packaged for children's play is the Disney Princess brand. In 2007 the Walt Disney Princess campaign profited over four billion dollars and expanded to include over 25,000 items for sale. Princess paraphernalia reflects a change in the way that young girls (ages 3-5) engage in imaginary play by creating a whole new paradigm of thought. As these girls project themselves into the role of a certain Princess, typical play transforms into a consumer based theatrical experience. Girls not only identify with the ideas of playing princess, but of being a Princess as well. Judith Butler examines gender as consisting of performative “acts” that are stylized, repeated, and public. Gender identity usually includes aligning one's self with socially accepted definitions of male or female. Using Butler's idea's about gender performance, this thesis looks closely at the Disney Princess brand and how it contributes to the idea of a gender identity through films, live performances at Disneyland, and merchandise designed for enhancing play. As media and consumerism plays an increasingly large role in children's lives, careful attention must be made to the influence of such brands, especially as the Princesses become defining models of the word female.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Theatre and Media Arts



Date Submitted


Document Type





Disney princess, gender identity, performative play, Judith Butler, consumerism, girl