Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Leah Anderst

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies | Music


Singer, Actress, Director, Famous, Talent, Hollywood


This thesis explores how a squeaky-clean object transformed into a girl-next-door icon and became a role model for generations to come. And in an industry built on illusions and dreams, reality wore many masks.

Still in its beginning stages and looking to sell tickets, the motion picture industry needed to reconstruct its current downscale public image by presenting a much-improved polished and upscale public image to audiences, all while silencing contradictory images and information. Appealing to a middle-class sensibility to boost this new public image gave the motion picture industry the acceptance it was seeking. By marketing to middle-class audiences, producers promoted only the cultivated images and middlebrow narratives they wanted people to see. Fan magazines contributed to these illusions by enhancing stories to satisfy the growing curiosities that audiences developed about players. And soon, the motion picture industry revolved around manufacturing and selling illusions to middle-class audiences, while simultaneously concealing contradictory private images. And in addition to selling illusions, the motion picture industry discovered that selling the American Dream to American audiences generated substantial profits.

This thesis focuses on three special female stars: Lois Weber, Doris Day, and Karen Carpenter, and their images, both public and private, and their lives, both public and private. And it examines what these stars shared in common, their assets and their liabilities, while following their career paths before and after they were stars and by taking a brief look at their biographies, which include their objectification in their separate industries controlled by men. Additionally, my thesis researches the rise of celebrity culture and the importance of star studies since its inception not only in academia but in society as well.

Weber, Day, and Carpenter, three prominent stars with wholesome, girl-next-door appeal and middle-class beginnings and values, did not need glitter or glitz to shine. Each star sparkled in her own unique way. And in studying the intricacies of these women’s lives and careers, it became clear why these stars and their exceptional gifts did not go unnoticed. Thus, when a contradictory private image escaped their purview, camouflaged charisma came to the rescue. (Inevitably, there was always a rescue.) Yet some misconceptions linger, and the true illusion persists to some extent that Weber, Day, and Carpenter were stars of everyday ordinariness, when in reality, they were stars of the utmost extraordinariness.

Keywords: Stars, Celebrities, Celebrity Culture, Doris Day, Karen Carpenter, Lois Weber, Fame, Girl Next Door, Wholesome, Star Studies