The Prima Donna

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Primadonna girl, yeah
All I ever wanted was the world
I can't help that I need it all
The primadonna life, the rise and fall
You say that I'm kinda difficult

But it's always someone else's fault.
—Marina and the Diamonds, Primadonna

The Prima Donna is the Alpha Bitch of show business. She knows how to ingratiate her audience and infuriate her producers by demanding, for instance, they give her an Unlimited Wardrobe fashioned to her personal preference. She has high-class admirers, perhaps even royal ones, and will explode with rage against people who fail to give her the respect she feels is her due. She will not tolerate seeing someone else play her leading part, especially an inexperienced youngster, never considering she might be way out of her element (perhaps because she's too old for the part) or that her meddling could be actively destroying the show. Often she'll be considerably meaner backstage than any of her famous roles.

The Prima Donna is etymologically and typically female (and stereotypically a Grande Dame), but not always. The meaning of "prima donna" has become far less specific through overuse in Real Life.

Compare Taking Advantage of Generosity.

Let's just say that this is Truth in Television for many stars. No Real Life Examples, Please.

Examples of The Prima Donna include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Bianca Castafiore from the Tintin comics.

Film[edit | hide]

"Well, Mr. Cantor, to be brutally frank, you have the reputation of taking over everything you participate in."

"Oscar! Oscar! I'm back! I'll give you one more chance, you hear me? I'll give you one more chance, you hear me, Oscar? Otherwise I'm out for good! Out, out, out! I'm not being humiliated in this place! You know I am the star and I should be treated like it absolutely all the time!"

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Carlotta from The Phantom of the Opera. In the musical, she even gets a song called "Prima Donna" as the new theatre owners suck up to her and assure her that they won't let this "Opera Ghost" dictate how she should be treated. Even after the Phantom humiliates her on stage and she's forced into a minor role in his Don Juan Triumphant, she never lets up on this attitude.
  • Eventually, Veda in Mildred Pierce.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

"Look, you crumb bum. I'm a star. Star, star, star!"

  • Rachel Berry in Glee seems to be one of these in-training.
  • Ms Piggy of The Muppet Show often acts like this.
  • Jenna and Tracy on 30 Rock. Tracy often shows up extremely late or not at all and Jenna once locked herself in her dressing room because her niece drew a picture of her that made her look fat.
  • Batman: Parodied with Dawn Robbins from The Penguin's A Jinx:

Oh, what a drag it is being a famous movie star and so rich. Why doesn't anything exciting ever happen to me?

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in Dilbert Comics, where a technology Prima Donna is shown to be rude but indispensable.

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Sheridan Whiteside from The Man Who Came to Dinner.
  • Frieda Hatzfeld from Music in the Air.
  • Gussie in the musical Merrily We Roll Along. In the original play, The Prima Donna was called Althea Royce (her stage name, of course).
  • The title character in Alban Berg's opera Lulu, a renowned dancer. She feigns a fainting spell on stage when she sees her lover, Dr. Schön, in the audience with his fiancee, and refuses to continue the performance unless Dr. Schön breaks the engagement.
  • Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music is a somewhat lesser version. There's only one Grande Dame in her family, and that's her mother.
  • Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. The Ultimate Job Security which allows her to get away with this is not her talent (as she's long past her prime), but that she's the mistress of the show's sponsor. She gets over this attitude after she breaks her ankle and is forced to leave the production.

Video Games[edit | hide]