Gunn: So she's like a TV star.
Wesley: No, nothing that bad.
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 make sure everyone knows it is her show and she rules the stage with an iron fist. She never considers that she may be past her prime, or that her nasty attitude could be bringing down the morale of those around her. 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 not Always Female. This is because the word's meaning has become less specific through overuse in Real Life. It's Italian for "first lady" and originally referred to the leading female singer in an opera company. Evidently enough of them embodied the traits in the preceding paragraph that it came to refer to any individual—male or female—who's talented in their field but insufferably egotistical and a pain to work with. The term "diva," which is Italian for "goddess" and originally referred to a seasoned and respected female singer, has gained negative connotations for all the same reasons, to the point that the two are synonymous. However, "diva" is still limited to the entertainment industry, though not necessarily women or singers.
Compare Taking Advantage of Generosity. See also Prima Donna Director, who acts much the same. Also see Bridezilla for when it's a bride—performer or not—who behaves like this during her Big Day (but can be a lovely person most other times). Contrast The Diva, who may have the personality but demonstrates the skill to back it up.
- Bianca Castafiore from the Tintin comics, though much nicer than most examples. Still, if you don't serve her pasta "al dente", she'll upends them on the poor sap doing so, even if he's a prison guard.
- Rio thinks Jem from Jem and the Holograms is one of these but she's anything but. Jerrica is just bad at hiding her alter ego so she acts unintentionally unsympathetic.
- Parodied in Dilbert, where a technology Prima Donna is shown to be rude but indispensible.
- Sharpay Evans from the High School Musical movies, but she is 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.
- 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!"
- Edward Norton in Birdman played a borderline self parody of one.
- Winona Ryder plays a stuck-up, prima-donna actress in S1m0ne in a role that reeks of Adam Westing. Her agent eventually grows tired of her demands and replaces her with a virtual actress that he created himself. This seems to have created some humility when she returns later in awe of Simone's success.
- Eventually, Veda in Mildred Pierce.
- Pornstar 'Trixie Vixen' (she had it legally changed) from The Dresden Files. A brainless Grade-A bitch who absolutely believes that everyone that isn't her is worthless - the very last person who should have any kind of access to reality-warping magical powers.
- "Face" Loran in the X-Wing Series makes a few cryptic references to having run into one particularly bad prima donna in his career as a child actor. It's not explained what exactly he did, but put it this way: the man ends up being Face's character reference for notoriously ego-ridden Imperial Captain Darillian.
- Vanilla Hoare in the "Scott of the
AntarcticSahara" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus."Look, you crumb bum. I'm a star. Star, star, star!"
- Rachel Berry in Glee seems to be one of these in-training.
- Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show often acts like this.
- Bill McNeil in NewsRadio.
- 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?
- The singer in Mitch Benn's "I Want", which is a list of increasingly ridiculous demands interspersed with wondering why everyone else isn't as easy-going and patient as him.
I want thirty-seven different kinds of bottled fizzy water,
I want the venue manager to offer me his daughter,
Nobody can use a word like "insecurity",
And everyone must rush around for me, me, me, me, me, me...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 "Helen Keller: The Musical" - 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.