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Daddy's Girl
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About the Author

Valerie Walkerdine is Foundation Professor of Critical Psychology, University of Western Sydney Nepean.

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Walkerdine (psychology of communication, Goldsmith Coll., Univ. of London) analyzes our perception of young girls vis-à-vis their portrayal in the mass media. As examples, she chooses Annie, from the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie"; Shirley Temple movies; some British television shows; and music videos. She concludes that while the middle-class girl is portrayed as innocent and virtuous, the working-class girl is seen as seductress and corrupter. Orphan Annie and the characters Shirley Temple portrayed represent the self-sufficient, virtuous working-class girl who, by pluck, spunk, and charm, gained entry into the middle class. When the author turns her attention to more contemporary representations, she discovers that the way these images are received depends largely on the socioeconomic class of the viewer. This is a work for those well versed in psychology. Recommended for academic libraries.‘Roseanne Castellino, LucasVarity, Inc., Buffalo, N.Y.

The title here is misleadingly broad. Walkerdine, a professor of the psychology of communication at the University of London focuses mainly on British working-class girls. Still, Daddy's Girl should act as a springboard for much-needed discussions about the way popular culture influences and reflects both how we view little girls and how they form their own identities‘if you can make your way through dense jargon. Ironically, Walkerdine points out, even as child sexual abuse is at the forefront of public discourse (witness America's preoccupation with JonBenet Ramsey) and we try to isolate the problem by pointing the finger at a few "bad" men, popular images of little girls as "eroticized child-women" are ubiquitous, and can be found in "respectable" newspapers and magazines as well as on television. "This is not about a few perverts," argues Walkerdine, "but about the complex construction of the highly contradictory gaze at little girls, one which places them as at once threatening and sustaining rationality, little virgins that might be whores, to be protected, yet... constantly alluring." Too frequently, middle-class, white, blonde-haired girls represent innocence while working-class girls are portrayed as little Lolitas. Combining her personal narrative of growing up working-class with studies of icons such as Little Orphan Annie and Shirley Temple and accounts of visits to the homes of working-class families, Walkerdine exposes deep-seated hypocrisies. Photos. (Sept.)

Walkderdine's...challenge to certain feminist conceptions of today's problems is both refreshingly iconoclastic and worth considering. She provides a provocative historical analysis of the portrayal of girls in Annie, Lolita, the Shirley Temple movies, My Fair Lady, and Gigi. She also offers her view of the implications of British television programs like Minipops, where young girls, primarily working-class girls, dress up like adult woman rock stars and gyrate provocatively while they sing pop songs full of sexual innuendoes. -- Kathleen Malley-Morrison * Boston Globe *
Well before the Ramsey murder blew [the world of children's beauty contests] open, British psychologist Valerie Walkerdine was researching the effects of popular culture on preteen working-class girls. She presents the results of her research in Daddy's Girl...Obviously, this is timely stuff, but there are other reasons for bringing it to a general audience. Preteen girls have traditionally been overlooked in the world of cultural studies, while teenagers have received a fair amount of attention...Yet if the child-pageant world is anything to go by, interplay between girls and popular culture begins far earlier than adolescence. Looking at girls ages 6 to 10, examining their absorption of popular culture, should then yield important data about our cultural production of femininity. It does...Walkerdine's...research is still probably the deepest, least sensationalist work currently being done in this arena. -- Sarah Coleman * San Francisco Bay Guardian *
Daddy's Girl should act as a springboard for much-needed discussions about the way popular culture influences and reflects both how we view little girls and how they form their own identities...Combining her personal narrative of growing up working-class with studies of icons such as Little Orphan Annie and Shirley Temple and accounts of visits to the homes of working-class families, Walkerdine exposes deep-seated hypocrisies. * Publishers Weekly *

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