A teenager who grew up homeschooled in South Africa moves to the U.S., where the rules of high school and mean girls might just be as dangerous as the wild.
Mean Girls, the surprising jewel in an era emerging from a slew of successful, rocking ’90s high school movies, is now comedy gold. She doesn’t even go here, On Wednesdays we wear pink, and You can’t sit with us! were all lines I had heard without knowing they came from this movie. And it is really, really funny. Ironically, the movie also does a good job of representing a diverse high school landscape, without even trying. With stellar timing and characters that are such caricatures they loop back to being human, you should watch Mean Girls for the laughs, if nothing else. You could also watch it for the now household names, like Lindsay Lohan, who plays the surprisingly relatable, and eventually all-the-wiser Cady Heron, or the hilarious Rachel McAdams, who immortalizes a gloriously snobbish Regina George, or Tina Fey, who plays the unconventional teacher, Ms. Norbury, who is just trying to get through her divorce and teach math in peace.
But the most clever part of the film is it’s blindingly satirical. Even the title, Mean Girls, has weight. It’s a parody of the dramatic reputations and relationships that make up high school, because it is crazy out there. And although most people won’t have an experience that involves the angry pink Burn Book, where the Plastics (Regina George and her sidekicks, Karen and Gretchen) scrapbook people’s dirty secrets condemningly, by exaggerating the life of a teenager, Mean Girls hits the right spot. Dizzyingly funny montages show just how fast word gets around, the importance of face, and what it means to be one of the most “known” people at school, for better or for worse. It also does a ridiculously funny job at criticizing the catty, stupid, excessively pink world of Girl World. While it is exaggerated, it makes a statement without making a statement about the way girls are taught to fight, by gossiping and trash talking, that can be just as damaging.
And in the end, it’s just a great story. Cady is the everygirl trying to navigate a mindblowing crush who, as it turns out, Regina used to have as her boyfriend. When she steals him back, Cady plots with her friends, one whose life had been “ruined” by Regina before, to bring Regina down. But it’s easy to become what you hate, and as Cady unintentionally ascends the throne as the next plastic Queen Bee, she finds herself falling into the same toxic trap of how to treat people. One of the easily forgotten lines at the end of Mean Girls, iterated by a slightly exasperated Ms. Norbury, highlights the power of sisterhood. You all have got to stop calling each other s***s and w****s. It just makes it okay for guys to call you s***s and w****s. And it becomes hard for girls to realize their own power, when they’re bringing each other down. The mean girls gotta go.