The movie Mean Girls was released in April of 2004. It follows the life of Cady Heron, a girl who was homeschooled for the first sixteen years of her life, but is now being thrown into the world of high school. She does not know anyone when she starts school, nor does she understand any of the rules about high school, like asking the teacher for a pass to go to the bathroom. Luckily she meets two people, Janis Ian and Damian, who befriend her and offer to teach her the ways of the school, like where her classes are and where not to sit in the cafeteria. Janis and Damian tell Cady about the “worst people she will ever meet: the Plastics.” The Plastics consist of Regina (the Queen Bee), Gretchen, and Karen and they are the most popular girls in school who get anything that they want. Janis hates Regina in particular because Regina spread horrible rumors about her in junior high. On the second day of school, The Plastics invite Cady to eat lunch with them because she’s “really pretty for someone who was homeschooled.” The Plastics make an extension to their invitation, asking Cady to sit with them for the entire week and start dressing according to their standards, like wearing jeans only once a week. Cady is reluctant, but Janis and Damian encourage her to befriend them so they can learn all about Regina’s secret ways and then sabotage her.
Janis, Damian, and Cady start plotting ways to sabotage Regina. They try to steal Regina’s boyfriend from her, ruin her good physique by feeding her Kalteen bars, and by turning her two sidekicks against her. Through these plans, Cady begins to hang out with the Plastics a lot, quickly taking on their identity. She begins to become obsessed with her looks, constantly looking in the mirror and wearing all the designer fashions like the other Plastics. She constantly talks about Regina, the Queen Bee, and begins to emulate her by wearing the same “initial” necklace. Quickly Cady becomes a Plastic and is no longer just a spy for Janis and Damian. Eventually all three plans against Regina work, and she is no longer the Queen Bee, Cady is. Cady throws a huge party for all the popular people to come to, but forgets to invite her original and real friends, Damian and Janis. When Janis finds out, she clues Cady in on the reality that she is “cold, shiny, hard Plastic.” Later, Cady is nominated for Queen of the Spring Fling Dance. She attends the dance and actually wins the crown, but she doesn’t accept the title. She actually breaks the crown in half calling it “just plastic” and giving out little pieces to everyone at the dance, making everyone feel like royalty. She explains to everyone that life isn’t about a crown and popularity, it’s more about loving yourself and cherishing your true friendships. In the end, everyone becomes friends, the Plastics are eliminated, and the issues of popularity are no more.
During the majority of Mean Girls the girls are represented as catty, backstabbing, vicious, and slutty. They are shown constantly obsessing over clothing and make-up and they are shown constantly talking about everyone else, even going so far as writing about people in a “Burn Book.” The girls are shown more as puppets on a string then as real human beings. They do not follow any of their own ambitions for fear of what the Queen Bee, Regina, will say and they are not shown thinking about anything else but popularity. The movie follows Cady, who starts out as an average teenage girl, but quickly becomes obsessed with her looks like the rest of the Plastics and obsessed with what other people might say about her. She doesn’t even join the Mathletes, a math club, because it would sabotage her popularity. Throughout most of this film the issue of gender is clear: females are to look and act like Barbie dolls. Intelligence is not encouraged, looks are. Overall, at first the film seems to give a negative representation of females, as purely puppets and not living and thinking human beings, but by the end of the movie it gives a positive and empowering message. It teaches girls to realize that popularity means nothing. It doesn’t get you anywhere, but in trouble. Talking about people and writing about them in “Burn Books” doesn’t make you, the gossiper, and pretty, smarter, or better than anyone else. It also tells girls that winning a stupid “plastic” crown at a dance doesn’t make you any better than anyone else either. That crown should be given to everyone because everyone can be a queen. Loving yourself comes from the inside, not what people think about you on the outside.
I do consider this a feminist film by the end of it, but at the beginning I would have to say it is anti-feminist. This film features all the common stereotypes about teenage girls: they’re sluts, all they care about is their looks, like are obsessed with popularity, and that you have to be skinny and gorgeous to be popular. The Plastics walk around in midriff-bearing tops, short shorts, and have flawless skin. We all know that these are not realities. In my high school, shorts and skirts had to be below the finger-tips, no midriff exposure was allowed, and we couldn’t even wear tank-tops. At the beginning, this film was buying into every stereotype and telling girls that they needed to change who they really were in order to have friends and be popular. It was also showcasing teenager girls backstabbing each other in the name of men and popularity. Although the beginning of the film seems anti-feminist, by the end I really think it gives a great feminist message. Cady learns that life is not about popularity after she realizes all the people she has hurt. Her last speech at the Spring Fling dance is the most moving. She even breaks the crown marking her Queen, and gives pieces to everyone, saying that everyone looks like royalty. At the very end of the film, the Plastics break up and popularity ceases to exist. Even Regina lets go of her “Barbie doll” life and becomes a Rugby player. By the end of the film, girls should feel empowered to love themselves for who they are and realize that popularity is not all it is cracked up to be, which is a solid feminist message.
I personally love this film. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it is funny and it very well-written and performed. I’ve seen this movie a million times and I still laugh-out-loud. I don’t think that this is a film that is meant to be taken too seriously. It is a comedy and it should be viewed as such. I think all of the actors had a lot of fun with it and made sure to take it lightly. The movie is definitely a far-cry from real high school. Like I said earlier, most high schools have strict dress codes and students would definitely not be allowed to wear some of the outfits that the Plastics are shown wearing. The film doesn’t relate too much to my own high school experience because it is such a far-cry from real life, but I guess some of the aspects of popularity are the same. My graduating class did not have people who were too much more popular than others because we went to a small school and everyone pretty much knew everyone else, but the girls that were the “most” popular I guess you could say, were like the Plastics in some ways. All of the boys in the class wanted to date them, they always had parties, and they really didn’t hang out with anyone but each other. They sometimes “accepted” new people into their group, but eventually someone was always thrown out. Overall, I think Mean Girls is a great film and everyone should go and see it!
Check out the following resources to learn more about Mean Girls:
1. Mean Girls. Dir. Mike Waters. Perf. Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 2004.
2. "Mean Girls: the Official Site." (http://www.meangirls.com/indexflash.html).
3. "Mean Girls Trailer." Yahoo! Movies. (http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808529211/video/2980783/20040226/151/2980783-100-wmv-s.5791063-125603,2980783-300-rnv-s.5791064-125603,2980783-300-wmv-s.5791186-125603,2980783-56-rnv-s.5791058-125603,2980783-100-rnv-s.5791061-125603,2980783-56-wmv-s.5791062-125603).
4. "Mean Girls." Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Girls).
5. Wiseman, Rosalind. Queen Bees and Wannabes. 1st ed. Crown, 2002. 1-352.
By: Katie Hartigan