This paper argues that consumers of popular culture engage in practices of ‘ethical cultural consumption’, whereby the consumption of cultural texts is imagined as having the potential to ‘do good’ both individually and socio-politically. The paper explores data from an online questionnaire and drawing activity with girls aged 5–10 and their parents on the experience of costume playing as Rey from the contemporary Star Wars trilogy. Imagined as a ‘girl who can do anything’, Rey represents a new kind of popular feminist hero and role model for girls, enabling a degree of critique of normative gendered role models for children. ‘Being Rey’ also represents a deterministic project through which parents aim to cultivate the ‘right’ kind of girls, seeking to instil the resilience to ‘cope’ with unknown futures. More than a purely individual project, we argue that parents invest in an individualized idea of doing ‘good’ through consumption, drawing on a notion of the consumer as a political actor with the power to affect social change. Investigating the project of participating in and consuming culture ‘ethically’ allows for an exploration of what it means to ‘be political’ and ‘do good’ as a consumer in neoliberalism.
Wood, R., Litherland, B., & Reed, E. (2020). Girls being Rey: ethical cultural consumption, families and popular feminism. Cultural Studies, 34(4), 546-566. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2019.1656759