April 30, 2014 marks a very important anniversary, but this isn’t one for the history books. 10 years ago today, a film was released that changed the way many a young person would view high school, popularity, and Jingle Bell Rock. That film was Mean Girls.
I’m not going to spend too much time on plot since hopefully everyone has seen this low-brow classic, and dare I say iconic film. The movie centers on Cady Heron (“It’s pronounced like Katie!”) played by Lindsay Lohan, back in her adorable and significantly less cracked-out days. Cady spent the first 16 years of her life in Africa, raised and taught by her well-traveled parents. The beginning of the film brings us to America, where her family has just moved, and Cady is to attend a public school for the first time. After a rough first day, she befriends two unique individuals: Janice, a spunky goth-type, and Damien, the flamboyantly gay stereotype. The two teach Cady the “way of the land” by mapping out the cliques in the lunchroom and warning her of the exclusive group they’ve dubbed “The Plastics:” Karen Smith, Gretchen Wieners, and queen-bee Regina George. Regina later asks Cady to sit with them at lunch, and Janice composes a plan to undermine their popularity. While Cady infiltrates and obliges, she soon finds herself more concerned about fitting in with them than taking them down. The film progresses with Cady’s struggle between her original friends and this new social caste, her feelings for Regina’s boyfriend Aaron Samuels, and ultimately, what happens when catty drama between girls goes too far. The film ends on a happy note, with the definitive message to “be who you really are, not what makes you fit in,” which I think everyone in high school needs to hear more often.
With a message like that, this film does hold some surprising depth. Mean Girls interjects some very real content between the hilarity. Think back to your own high school experience. There were likely the same kinds of cliques, rivalries, and petty bull identified in the film, albeit maybe with a slightly subtler presence. Think of your well-known teacher who pushed you to try harder, of who sat where during your lunch period, and of that one dude who everyone seemed to love for some reason. (Four. Glen Coco got FOUR CANDYGRAMS! Screw Aaron Samuels, I wanna meet THAT guy!) My point here is that while some of the themes are exaggerated, this film is actually pretty real, and entirely relatable to anyone who went to a public high school. (And maybe even those private school kids–lookin at you, @mrbobdobolina! ;) )
As long as there are still high school hierarchies, (which can also move into your career; seriously, my office is a glorified high school sometimes!) As long as girls still fight over petty things and occasionally treat each other like crap, and as long as there are still those moments of “finding out who your real friends are,” Mean Girls will always be held in low-brow high regard. But as we’ve established it as a reflection of human nature and the social interactions of that simultaneously pivotal and petty time known as “high school” …well, maybe the brow is a little higher than one may have originally thought.
And while Regina (Rachel McAdams) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) both went on to star in other major films, the same cannot be said for Gretchen. Not much has been heard of Lacy Chabert in the last 10 years.
Because there’s none for Gretchen Wieners, BYE!