Somehow I missed out on Mean Girls (2004) until my sister suggested it to me recently on social media. I can probably guess why. When I was in my early twenties, I was watching movies like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) because I am a huge nerd. As it turns out, that little bit of self-deprecation is quite appropriate for a film like Mean Girls, but more about that in a moment. Poor Lindsay Lohan, though. One of these days I will review her version of The Parent Trap (1998), the movie that launched Lohan’s career and made into her America’s sweetheart for a brief time, until the trappings of fame and fortune caught up to her. Her life took a dive of Biblical proportions, and she should be prayed for if you can remember to do so. In the meantime, enjoy this review of Mean Girls.
Cady (pronounced like “Katie,” a running joke in the film) Heron (Lindsay Lohan) has just moved to the suburbs of Chicago after living with her scientist mom (Ana Gasteyer) and dad (Neil Flynn) in the African Bush for most of her life. She is now sixteen and entering a regular school for the first time after being home schooled while abroad. The world she steps into is a carefully segregated arrangement of social cliques laid out for her by the first person she befriends, the artsy Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan). The first people that Janis points out are the social queens of the school, known collectively as the “Plastics” and led by Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Walking by the Plastics table one day at lunch, Regina invites Cady to sit with them, and this gives Janis the idea to get back at Regina for personal slights done both to Janis and the rest of the school at the hands of Regina and her cohorts. At first, Cady innocently goes along with it until Regina steals away Aarson Samuels, the guy on which Cady had been developing a crush. After this, Cady commits fully to the plan of ruining Regina and her friends. However, the deeper “undercover” she goes with the Plastics for the purposes of the revenge plot, the more Cady finds herself falling under the spell of Regina’s passive aggressive tactics that has everyone under her thumb. This involves her losing sight of her innocence, her intelligence, the friends that she made when she first arrived like Janis, and, in short, the person her parents had raised. She had become Plastic, and the backstabbing did not stop. As part of the ongoing secret war against Regina, Cady had been giving her “friend” Swedish weight gain bars that and telling her that they burned carbohydrates. When Regina finds out, she . . . how should I put this? Goes for the nuclear option. What does that mean? Well, the Plastics possess a book they refer to as the “Burn Book,” which is a collection of pictures of people they despise with all sorts of terrible things written about them. In a slightly masochistic move, Regina pastes a picture of herself into the book and scribbles mean things under it. She then hands the book over to the school principal, Mr. Duvall (Tim Meadows), telling him that she had found it, and then goes about the school tossing around copies of various pages in the halls. This incites a riot and when the dust settles, Cady takes the blame for the book. Still, everyone really knows that it was Regina behind it all, and when it comes to the Spring Fling, Cady is voted its queen. She does not accept the award, though, and instead hands out pieces to the crowd gathered at the dance. It is a classy move, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Unexpectedly, I started laughing uproariously five minutes into Mean Girls. I needed it. I was remarkably impressed with the film on a variety of levels, not just because it surprised me with its humor. I identified with Cady. Okay, so I never attained her levels of popularity, or ran with a clique like the Plastics in high school. Unlike her, I was never given a chance. Despite her perhaps drifting a little too far out of line from her true self, she nonetheless displays a strength of character that I find admirable. At first, she is bewildered by the well defined social groups, and feels ostracized. I was moved when I saw her eating lunch alone in a bathroom stall. While not in the lavatory, I ate lunch by myself for most of my elementary school days. And had I been given more attention, who knows? Maybe I would be a very different person today? I think about these things sometimes, but it is nice to see a character who is willing to own up to her mistakes and make amends. In this sense, Cady is almost Christ-like. As the world around her begins to unravel, she at first denies any involvement with the Burn Book, and attempts to avoid punishment by not admitting to any wrong-doing before the school. But when Regina is hit by a bus, Cady sees finally the wages of revenge, an idea that is best left to higher powers. Not only does she take the blame for the book, but there are some in the school that believe she pushed Regina in front of the bus. Thus she must go to school knowing that everyone there will be looking at her as an outcast, and she handles it with grace. It is truly a grace from God that we are at all able to handle such moments.
As I mentioned, I was surprised by how funny I found Mean Girls, but I definitely would not recommend it to younger audiences. Particularly difficult to deal with is Mrs. George (Amy Poehler). She offers her daughter alcohol and condoms, and seems oblivious to the inappropriate things Regina’s sister is watching on television. I get that this is played for laughs, but it is really just sad in my book. There is also the shocking physical education teacher, Coach Carr (Dwayne Hill), who it is suggested is doing inappropriate things with a couple female students. I doubt audiences would laugh as much at that if it were released today. What I did find funny were the jokes mades about Cady being from Africa, culminating when fellow “Mathlete” Kevin Gnapoor (Rajiv Surendra) informs her that he does not date women of color. Anyway, it is a good movie to watch some weekend because apparently there are a bunch of memes that come from it (of which I am mostly unaware still), and this way you will be less in the dark.