Directed by: Mark Waters
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams
I think it’s probably fair to say that it’s an unwritten ‘rule of feminism’ for every girl to be able to recite the Mean Girls script from memory. The 2004 smash-hit, directed by Mark Waters, offers more than just another unrealistic and cheesy storyline about how teenagers have such a hard time growing up. Instead, Mean Girls mercilessly laughs in the face of the pretentiousness of social rules and the utter ridiculousness of cliques and stereotypes, but at the same time manages to portray the craziness that adolescence can be.
If, for some strange reason, you’re not yet acquainted with the story of Mean Girls, I’ll fill in the gaps for you. 16-year-old Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) moves back to the States after having lived in Africa for most of her life, where her parents worked as research Zoologists. Cady’s parents have to give up their research and move back to America, and Cady has to completely adjust her way of life to adapt to the strict social rules of American teenagers. Cady, unsurprisingly, finds herself a complete outcast in this jungle of teenage madness.
Not fitting in with any of the cliques (the jocks, nerds, and, of course, the popular girls), two students who rebel against Regina George’s tyranny take Cady under their wings – the cripplingly sarcastic and cynical Jannis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her delightfully dainty friend, Damien (Daniel Franzese). They teach Cady the rules of survival; however, it’s not long before Cady is reined in by the terrifying Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her cronies, Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), a.k.a. the ‘Plastics’.
Before she knows it, Cady is persuaded into befriending the Plastics so that Jannis can get her revenge on her Regina, who formerly bullied Jannis. By spying on the Plastics, Cady is given an insight into their shallow lives, and learns that they have a “Burn Book”, in which they write cruel things about the other girls in the school.
After learning what the Plastics truly think about the other girls, Jannis manipulates Cady into sabotaging Regina George, by destroying her relationship, turning her friends against her, and worst of all: tampering with Regina’s diet.
Predictably, Cady unwittingly becomes one of the Plastics, and by the time we reach the middle of the film, it’s all a massively complex web of bitchy, petty, catty lies.
After learning that Cady has been conspiring against her, Regina forms a plot of her own to get revenge (yes, there’s a lot of revenge). Regina photocopies the Burn Book and spreads it around the school. Needless to say, the girls descend into total anarchy and the school is in a state of warfare until an accident causes the girls to begin to find peace with one another.
The film is brilliantly dramatic and exaggerates stereotypes to draw attention to the silliness of social groups which are ever so important to us as adolescents. Tina Fey, who wrote the screenplay and also plays Miss Norbury in the film, has weaved her dry, ironic sense of humour into every line of the script, which allows us to reflect on how farcical stereotypes are.
Unlike most other teen comedies, Mean Girls is not trying to be a cringey chick-flick where the geeky girl gets to go to the prom with the best looking guy in the school. It attacks stereotypes rather than upholding them, and the result is endlessly entertaining.