For today's so-called Netflix generation, teen series are a primary source for self-identification, finding role models and educating themselves on the various aspects of teenage life. However, teen series have traditionally been inundated with stereotypical representations of female adolescence. Now, with the growing importance and visibility of postfeminist movements, teen series are increasingly adapting to this societal quest for gender equality and female empowerment. With the ongoing concerns about both these postfeminist and stereotypical manifestations in mind, a critical stance towards one of today's most popular teenage series Elite is, at the very least, highly necessary. This study answers the following question: How does the recent popular global coming-of-age teen series Elite (2018-) negotiate (non-)traditional representations of female teen identity construction? By drawing on theories of representation, gender, postfeminism, identity and Orientalism, all applied to traditional and non-traditional representations of female teenage identity in teen series, this study offers a comprehensive and in-depth examination of the contemporary teenage girl on screen. This study is conducted from a postfeminist perspective and by conducting a Multimodal Discourse Analysis. This method has proven to be appropriate and successful in exploring the compatible ways in which both text and images are used to shed light on the representation of female teenage identity construction. The analysis of Elite showed that the overarching theme within the representation of female teenagers’ identity is that of postfeminist Girl Power, whereby the girl characters are portrayed as (sexually) empowered, confident, intelligent and independent women. This study highlighted the importance of space and context in determining the empowered or submissive position of female teenagers, both within the narrative and indirectly in society. The contexts of (1) home, (2) school, (3) nightlife, (4) socioeconomic status and (5) spaces of love and intimacy were found to influence not only how female teenage identity is constructed, but also how it is expressed. Yet, before celebrating this promising future for female teenage representation, one must not ignore or underestimate the stereotypes and postfeminist pitfalls that still exist in duality with this young female empowerment in teen TV. Especially in the areas of intersectionality and race, there is still much ground to be gained if we are to achieve an empowered representation of young womanhood, beyond the white, Western manifestation of freedom and agency, and extending towards the multiple social, economic and cultural layers of post-modern societies.

, , , ,
Dr. M. Sommier
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Elke Oude Weernink. (2021, June 24). “Girls Can Do Anything”, Can’t They? A Close Study Into the Representation of Female Teenage Identity Construction in Popular Global Teen Series Elite (2018-). Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from