Publication Date

June 2015


In Shakespeare's celebrated tragic masterpiece, Hamlet, one of the most controversial and seminal characters, Ophelia, continues to have a heavy influence on contemporary culture today in some unexpected ways. Her prevalence in mainstream media––including film, literature, drama, and music homages––validates not only her importance now but also reimagines and reinforces her parallel importance at the time of her debut in 1603. Her association with global teenage culture, suicide, and mental illness, puts her in the unique position of being heralded, generation after generation, as an icon of depression in female youth. This can be both positive and negative, as those young girls can either be inspired by Ophelia's struggles and identify with them toward a journey to recovery, or the moguls in mass media can commercialize that identification to rope in that teenage demographic. Either way, Ophelia's presence in global culture is fundamentally both fascinating and problematic, and it is the attempt of this research to explore and elucidate that spectrum, as articulated by the feminine construct of the 21st Century.