The Primadonna is the Alpha Bitch
of show business. Her talent and beauty are matched only by her ego, and she is prone to making infuriating demands of her producers (like demanding an Unlimited Wardrobe
), and God help the poor sap in a position of servitude to her. As a performer, 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
. Expect her to put on a sweet face for interviews and publicity appearances, but rumours of her real personality will always abound.
The Primadonna is etymologically and stereotypically female, but men are not exempt but being called one. This is because the word's meaning has become less specific through overuse
in Real Life
. It's Italian for "first lady" and originally simply meant the leading female singer in an opera company. Evidently enough of them embodied the traits in the preceding paragraph that it came to be used to refer to any individual who's talented in their field but insufferably egotistical. "Diva" has gained a similarly negative connotation over time, to the point that the two terms have become synonymous, though "diva" refers primarily to singers ("divalike" covering men and non-singing performers), while "primadonna" has grown to be more inclusive.
A Sister Trope
to It's All About Me
Compare Taking Advantage of Generosity
. See also Prima Donna Director
, who acts much the same.
- Bianca Castafiore from the Tintin comics, though much nicer than most examples.
- Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain.
- Sharpay Evans from the High School Musical movies, but she more of a Lovable Alpha Bitch.
- When Sharpay got to be the hero of her own film, she was promptly and utterly blown out of the water by Amber Lee Adams, the film's villain. Sharpay's an emotional teenager who could conceivably grow out of it; Amber Lee, by contrast, is a professional prima donna. Just one example: when she gets the lead role in a Broadway musical about a dog, she spends the film growing increasingly paranoid that the audience will be coming for the dog, not her, and ultimately, on the day of the very last dress rehearsal, orders the entire script rewritten to remove the dog.
- Samantha James in Just Friends
- Margo Channing in All About Eve.
- Eve herself, by the end of the show.
- Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard is a White-Dwarf Starlet who clearly used to be this. Due to her sheltered life, she still believes millions of fans are desperately eager to see her next picture.
- The plot of Thank Your Lucky Stars, such as it is, involves getting Glamorous Wartime Singer Dinah Shore into a benefit revue while keeping her manager Eddie Cantor away from it by any necessary means.
"Well, Mr. Cantor, to be brutally frank, you have the reputation of taking over everything you participate in."
- Parodied with Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway.
- Lena Marelli in Bugsy Malone.
"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!"
- 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.
- Parodied in Dilbert, where a technology Prima Donna is shown to be rude but indispensible.
- 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.
- Applause, being a musical version of All About Eve, has Margo and eventually Eve as this.
- Eden Starling in Barbie in A Christmas Carol is a Nice Character, Mean Actor, throwing tantrums when the curtain is closed.
- South Park features one in the Helen Keller episode - in the form of a Broadway turkey named Alinicia. She enjoys being the center of attention and refuses to work with other turkeys, especially Gobbles.
- Dee in Producing Parker wants her wardrobe unlimited, drinks cold, and male assistants beefy.