MEAN GIRLS. (2004) DIRECTED BY MARK WATERS. PRODUCED BY LORNE MICHAELS. BASED ON THE 2002 SELF-HELP BOOK, QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES BY ROSALIND. SCREENPLAY BY TINA FEY.
STARRING LINDSEY LOHAN, TINA FEY, RACHEL MCADAMS, LACEY CHABERT, AMANDA SEYFRIED, LIZZY CAPLAN, DANIEL FRANZESE, JONATHAN BENNETT, RAJIV SURENDRA, TIM MEADOWS AND AMY POEHLER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!’
I actually bought the non-fiction self-help book on which this cult film is based for my own daughter when she was in secondary school, which is what we Irish call high school.
QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES is a great book about the cliques amongst girls in high school, the bitching and bullying they can engender and the terrible damage they can do to the fragile psyches of young girls.
It’s an American book dealing specifically with American teenage girls and American schools, so not everything in it applied to us Irish, but it was still an interesting read. Girls are girls the world over, right?
The film became a cult phenomenon so big words can’t really do it justice. It’s like THE CRAFT without the Ouija boards. It’s Mariah Carey’s favourite film. It’s been the subject of tweets from the Whitehouse. People quote from it all the time.
Even I was quoting from it without realising it, talking about ‘making fetch happen’ while being unaware that this brilliantly lame-o expression came from this massively well-known, super-funny and wickedly bitchy teen comedy.
Here’s the 411, y’all. The naturally beautiful Lindsay Lohan plays Cady Heron, a teenage girl going to school for the very first time in her life. Prior to now, she’s been living in Africa with her botanist parents and being home-schooled, so attending an American high school for the first time ever is a massive culture shock for poor Cady.
She initially befriends weird goth girl Janis Ian and the ‘almost too gay to function’ Damien Leigh, a flamboyant, music-loving Gay Best Friend type. Cady is glad to have some nice friendly people to talk to.
They explain the baffling hierarchy of school cliques to her, and warn her to steer clear of ‘the Plastics,’ a select trio of pretty and popular girls to whom appearances are everything and ‘loyalty’ is a thing presumably only ever mentioned in tandem with the word ‘card…’ Good one, huh? That’s my own, lol, it’s not a movie quote, don’t steal it now!
The Plastics give the word ‘shallow’ a whole new meaning. They think of nothing but their looks and live their lives by a Bible of ridiculous rules, like you must wear pink on Wednesdays and you can only put your hair in a ponytail once a week, or you can’t sit with them to eat lunch in the school canteen.
When school Queen Bee and leader of the Plastics, Regina George, takes a surprising interest in Cady, however, Janis, who’s clearly been bullied by Regina before, urges Cady to reciprocate.
If they have someone ‘on the inside,’ Janis reckons, they can take down the Plastics and revenge themselves on Regina, Gretchen and Karen for previous slights. But they’ve reckoned without the old adage, ‘oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’
Firstly, the kids don’t reckon on Cady falling head-over-heels in love with the uber-bitchy Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels. (Regina mightn’t want him, but you can bet your bottom dollar she won’t want Cady to have him either. Shut up!)
Neither do they reckon on Cady coming to like Regina and wanting to properly be her friend, or on Cady practically re-making herself in Regina’s image and becoming as shiny and hard as any darned Plastic. And they certainly don’t reckon on the infamous ‘Burn Book’ and the trouble and hurt it can cause to their fellow students. And teachers…
Tina Fey is terrific as Miss Norbury, the teacher who tries to explain to the girls that by constantly dissing each other and calling each other sluts and whores, they’re only making it easier for men to do the same. She’s so right.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love men, but if women came together in a tight-knit community and formed a united front against men’s nonsense- you know the kind of nonsense I mean; sexual harassment, sexual violence, grooming of minors, sex trafficking, etc.- then maybe men wouldn’t get away with as much stuff. They might even think twice before they attempt the stuff, which would be bloody wonderful.
Excuse me if I’m being unusually feminist. I’ve spent the Bank Holiday weekend watching SURVIVING R. KELLY and JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH on Netflix, and I’m still queasy in my stomach at the thought of what rich and powerful men are allowed to get away with just because of that money and power. They’re able to buy a whole network of enablers and facilitators who can help them to keep the whole circus going and all the juggling balls in the air, among other things.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Miss Norbury. She’s good for a few drugs too, if that’s your fancy, lol. I really like Tim Meadows as Principal Ron Duvall, who fancies Miss Norbury (that’s grool, right?) but feels all at sea when it comes to dealing with the nitty-gritty of the teenage female psyche. ‘I can’t help it if I have a heavy flow…!’
The Asian mathlete rapper dude, Kevin Gnapoor, is a freaking legend, and I love Amy Poehler (does she remind anyone else of Beverly D’Angelo?) as Regina’s wildly delusional mom, who tries waaaay too hard to be ‘down with the kids.’ ‘Can I get you kids anything? A drink? A condom? Let me know…!’
You may recognise Cady’s father as the actor Neil Flynn, by the way. He played the Janitor in SCRUBS and the dad in comedy series THE MIDDLE, which was kind of a less funny version of MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.
Anyway, MEAN GIRLS is a film that should probably be shown anywhere teenage girls (and boys?) are being educated together. It’s witty, smart, funny and full of iconic, much-memed moments, but there’s a bit of a bite under all the froth. Watch out for it.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: