Mean Girls was released in June of 2004 but still to this day, almost 17 years on, the film remains a sleepover staple and is still adored by girls and guys all over the world. It has proven so popular that it is now considered a cult classic and one that I am sure parents will be watching with their children for years to come.
The female-led film was released at a time when the comedy scene was very male dominated. The early 2000’s saw the release of some major comedies such as Zoolander, Anchorman and Wedding Crashers, so there was a major gap in the market for some empowering, female movies. And Mean Girls definitely delivered!
But, how did a cheesy teenage drama about highschool girls become such a classic film? What made it stand the test of time against all other Hollywood movies?
The sharp, witty humor that is carried the whole way throughout the film and the punchy one liners definitely contributed to our obsession. We have all carried these lines with us through our lives, applied them to all and every situation, and they are always guaranteed to be met with a smirk and a laugh. Even after all this time, we are still trying to make fetch happen! However, the undeniable hilarity of the film can’t be the entire reason we have been hooked for so many years.
Mean Girls tackles some very real highschool scenarios that almost everyone can relate to, but illustrates them in a comical way that makes us all laugh and, by doing so, helps young girls see how trivial and insignificant these highschool dramas really are – even though they feel like the most important thing in the world at the time. Teenagers spend their youngest years craving approval, wanting to be considered ‘cool’, and Mean Girls proves to young people how meaningless this is as by the time you’ve left highschool, no one cares how you dress or do your makeup – so it really doesn’t matter if you are popular at all.
We all have our own version of ‘The Plastics’, I’m sure you might even have someone who you consider to be your Regina George; social hierarchies are almost inevitable when we are young and the film makes a mockery of this. When Cady, a social outcast, is invited to sit with the most popular group in highschool, the movie highlights how little purpose social status really has in the grand scheme of this. This is comforting for any highschooler struggling with the unfamiliarity of social standing. Whether you are a Janis, a Cady or even considered a ‘Plastic’, you can find solace in the novel way these struggles are presented throughout the film.
Another reason for the ongoing success of the movie is that it recognises that none of the characters are villains, that they are all just as confused as each other trying to navigate their way through the social agenda. It shows an understanding of the social pressure in highschool and how it can push young, naive people to do things that they aren’t particularly proud of, like Regina. Or, how these pressures can completely change personalities, and how a desire to be liked can make teens forget themselves, like Cady. Even Janis and Damian, who at the beginning aren’t interested in the social system, get sucked in eventually and become obsessed with trying to overthrow the hierarchy. At the end of the film, all the girls admit that they have once talked about each other behind their backs and they are all put on a level playing field. By doing this, the film highlights the similarities between all the girls and shows that it’s a normal part of growing up, and we all learn these mistakes that we make through high school. By the end of the film, it is clear that none of the girls are the villains – the real villain of the film are the trivial hierarchies and overwhelming pressures that rule the girls lives throughout high school.
Furthermore, one of the best things about Mean Girls, is that it doesn’t adhere to the happy ending stereotype. The film doesn’t pretend that one assembly fixed high school bullying for good, it doesn’t pretend that one conversation abolished years and years of social hierarchies in schools. They still exist at the end of the movie, the characters are just less interested in them and they don’t let them rule their lives like it had throughout the film. This sends a powerful message to it’s young audience and teaches them not to obsess over what other people think or where you stand in your school’s hierarchy.
Overall, the film has remained a cult classic through it’s relatability, wit and humour. It’s well known quotes will be used for years to come as future generations will still find comfort in the issues faced by the main characters throughout.
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