20 years ago, the original Mean Girls came out with a message about the pressure for teenage girls to conform, fit in and find the “right” place in the high school hierarchy.
For those who were teens at the time, you’ll remember the iconic one liners (“You go Glen Coco!”), and a rallying cry to ditch rivalries and backstabbing, and be better friends – especially to other girls.
Two decades on with a rebooted version hitting screens, it’s telling that Mean Girls’ message is still as relevant today as ever, and even more so with the heightened propensity to compare and attack that social media allows teens now.
Adapted from the Mean Girls musical, 2024’s Mean Girls adds singing and dancing to the story we know about student Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) who moves from being home-schooled in Kenya to an American school where she becomes part of a scheme to dethrone reigning “plastic” Regina George (Renee Rapp). Instead of pushing back on the status quo though, Cady finds herself becoming too much like the Queen Bee risking all her relationships in the process.
“…the musical dimension and the transition into a teen era of screens, filters and fluid ideas of identity make it an enlightening story of its own.”
If it were a straight remake, this year’s Mean Girls might not fare so well regurgitating an old plot and most of its jokes, but the musical dimension and the transition into a teen era of screens, filters and fluid ideas of identity make it an enlightening story of its own.
Songs like Gretchen Wiener’s (Bebe Wood’s) “What’s Wrong With Me?” and Regina’s “Someone Get’s Hurt” speak to how our self-esteem can ride on feeling like we fit in, and why “meanness” becomes a way to protect ourselves.
2024’s Mean Girls addresses hot button topics like gender fluidity and relationships, vaping and the unchanging pressure girls feel to be “sexy”. You’d think society would have progressed further past this in 20 years but while fashions shift and the definition of who can be “good looking” has evolved, the end goal of attractiveness and romantic appeal hasn’t. In fact, by Mean Girls standards there’s a lot more makeup and money involved in achieving it, and you’d better earn some “likes” for your efforts too.
The encouraging thing despite those pressures, is that Mean Girls comes back to the importance of kindness and valuing the voices of your fold of friends over the criticism of others. It might be a hard ideal to attain as a teenager, but there’s something galvanising about making it a shared aim.
Mean Girls comes back to the importance of kindness and valuing the voices of your fold of friends over the criticism of others.
Unlike the first film, the Mean Girls reboot questions why girls fight in such underhanded ways, and how it’s tied to expectations about our “gentleness” as women and a perceived aversion to hashing things out, addressing an issue and moving on. There’s a simplicity to healthy confrontation that we’re not afforded because we’re expected to mind people’s feelings and swallow grievances.
In the immaturity of our teen years, it can be vulnerable to let people know how they hurt you – for fear they’ll use it against you – but there’s something to be said for teaching young girls to speak up when they don’t like how they’re being treated. For them to learn the disciplines of apologising, forgiving and knowing how to graciously move on if a friendship ends.
Mean Girls is rated PG and is in cinemas now.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.
Feature image: Movie Stills