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The “Mean Girls” paradox | The Revival House

A few weeks ago, a few friends and I decided to venture to Coolidge Corner Theatre to see the 2000s classic “Mean Girls. The movie, as always, was incredibly witty, funny, sweet and yet heartbreaking, all the things one could possibly want in a great 2000s-era teen movie. 

After the movie ended, a few students from BU interviewed me and my friends about our experience watching the movie. As my friends and I talked and laughed and enjoyed that moment while we spoke to the students, a thought occurred to me about the irony of “Mean Girls.”

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The fact that it’s a movie about girls being horrible to each other at every turn — bullying, stealing boyfriends, being catty, calling each other unspeakable names in the “Burn Book” and, in general, betraying each other — that has brought countless girls together since it came out. 

I spent so much time pondering over how a movie about mean girls could actually bring so many girls together. Was it just simply a movie, like all others, that people enjoyed together, therefore bringing them together in the process, or was it more than that? And why don’t so many other movies about mean girls have the same effect? 

The crowd at this movie was electric, the theater packed with girls and women of all ages. Several weeks before I saw this movie, I went to a Fathom Events showing of a movie quite like it, “Heathers,” which explores the same friendship and mean girl dynamics as “Mean Girls.” 

However, at this movie, there was barely anyone in the theater. The audience at “Mean Girls,” by my guess, was at least five times as big as the audience at “Heathers.” Yet, the movies have a similar subject. So what is it about “Mean Girls”? 

After pondering this question for quite a bit of time, it suddenly occurred to me that there are multiple factors to “Mean Girls popularity, and the fact that this movie brings so many people together. 

One being the popularity of certain cast members, such as Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Tina Fey, who up to the point of the release of “Mean Girls,” had been in a wide variety of films, drawing in multiple different types of audiences. 

Another one is the style of humor used in the movie, being very sharp and snarky but not too dark, therefore again, appealing to a wide range of audiences.

Both of these factors have brought people from all different backgrounds together to enjoy one film, but there is one that supersedes them both: the wide variety of relatability. 

Now, this relatability is not just from the plot of the movie, although the plot of “Mean Girls” is extremely relatable for so many different people. The relatability of “Mean Girls” also comes from the various characters and their backgrounds.

Let’s take the main character, Cady Heron, to start. She may just seem like a regular teenage girl on the outside, but this is a girl who has never gone to school before. She has lived abroad in Africa for most of her life and her parents homeschooled her, so her first experience in a school is in public high school. 

This is just the start of the character diversity. Ms. Norbury, the school math teacher, is a woman in STEM, which, although getting more common every day, has never been the most common of attributes for women in teen movies. Cady is also a woman in STEM. Ms. Norbury is also divorced and is working multiple jobs. 

Cady’s friend Janis Ian is an artist, another character attribute not commonly seen in teen movies. Janis’ best friend Damian Leigh is an open member of the LGBTQ+ community. The point here is that the characters in this movie are not just your typical teen movie characters, but they come from a variety of backgrounds and have a lot more depth to them, appealing to a vast audience of people that may have not come together otherwise. 

This movie has the power through its character diversity to bring different types of people together and bond them through a relatable subject matter for any high school student, especially a female high school student. That is no small feat “Mean Girls was able to achieve.

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