Mean Girls is still relevant, and here’s why

If you have spent any time on the internet, you have most likely encountered a post, video, or comment referencing the teen comedy Mean Girls. A recent example is the trending music video for Ariana Grande’s song “thank you, next” which has a narrative and choreography heavily based on the movie, and even features some of its actors. If you have never seen Mean Girls, then you might be confused as to why a movie released 14 years ago is still so beloved and cherished by millions. 

This can be narrowed down to just one reason—Mean Girls captures the American high school experience better than any other teen movie because it is raw and unapologetic. We discover every character’s insecurities and struggles, no matter how hard they try to act like their life is perfect. In high school, we have all encountered people pretending to be someone they’re not so that they can impress their peers, and we have all wished that they would stop the act and just be straight up with everyone. This movie allows us to see this wish come true. 

The film’s main plot centers on Cady Heron, a pretty, but clueless, homeschooler from Africa who has a passion for math. Her parents finally decide to put her in public school for her junior year, and after an awkward first few days, she finds some friends—Janice, an edgy “art freak,” and Damain, who is “too gay to function.” They express their true personalities, and don’t really care what others think of them, so they aren’t very popular. However, Cady will soon ditch Janice and Damain for friends higher on the social ladder— “The Plastics.”

One day the fake, pretty, and popular “plastic” girls notice Cady, for the sole reason she is pretty, and invite her to sit with them at lunch. The leader of this group is Regina George, a manipulative “hottie” who uses everyone as a pawn in her game of popularity. The entire school is enthralled by Regina, and fiercely competes for her attention. Despite outward appearances, on the inside Regina is deeply insecure about her precarious position at the top of the social ladder. She knows that no one really likes her, but instead fears her. 

These fears are not unfounded, because while Cady pretends to be Regina’s friend, she secretly sabotages her life by slipping weight gain bars into her diet and steals her boyfriend. Soon Regina becomes overweight and single, and Cady replaces her as the queen bee, meaning Regina’s worst fear has been realized. 

Mean Girls captures the American high school experience

When Cady suddenly turns into the most popular girl in the school, she becomes unrecognizable. At the beginning, she was kind and caring, but now she is not below ruining someone’s life to get what she wants. She pretends to be bad at math, something that was once very important to her, so that no one thinks she is a “nerd” or “loser.” 

This coup d’etat leads to a huge confrontation between Regina and Cady that the entire school witnesses, and Cady realizes that she has become the thing she once hated. She finally accepts that popularity isn’t worth giving up everything that she is, and she reunites with Janice and Damain—her true friends—and joins the mathletes. Regina realizes that she has intense anger problems, and instead channels it into sports instead of making everyone in the school fear her. 

Despite being a teen comedy, Mean Girls manages to be something more. It is a critique on human nature—everyone is fighting a battle, even if we can’t see, so we shouldn’t try too much to impress others because we might lose ourselves.