Custom Search

February 25, 2010

Why is Mean Girls such a good movie?

Inspired by today's Facebook event, "National 'Mean Girls' Status Day," I've been thinking about what makes "Mean Girls" such an accessible movie. By most standards, it shouldn't be. First off, it stars Lindsey Lohan, and she has since pigeon-holed herself as a controversial Hollywood party girl with a bad acting reputation, and a seemingly endless array of embarrassing photos and career moves. But it's the other members of the cast that really make this a great ensemble comedy, and an unlikely hit for viewers like myself, a 22-year-old male.

I'm pretty sure I first saw "Mean Girls" when I rented it with my parents. I wasn't expecting much, and really had heard anything too great about it. From the very beginning, the idea behind the main character, Cady, was more interesting than I would've thought. A girl who has been home schooled her entire life, living with her research scientist parents in Africa, is thrust into an American high school at the age of 16 - the age when high school drama is all you know.

The stereotypes laid out early in the film are exaggerated, yet very easy to relate to. My favorite are the "sexually active band geeks," described in the cafeteria scene. The Mathletes - a group of nerds who compete in math competitions - has been used before in other films, or at least variations of the idea. And of course, "The Plastics," a term I've never heard before the movie, are the beautiful ones - the popular kids. This is a concept in high school movies I never really felt was realistic. My high school had over 3,000 students, with over 700 in my graduating class alone. So there weren't three girls who everyone knew everything about, and who were the trend-setters or constant owners of the spotlight. So when this stereotype is used, I usually become slightly less interested (see the group of super cool rebellious kids in "A Walk to Remember"). Here, however, this group of popular girls is so exaggerated and emphasized that it's hilarious. These vapid, dense, one-dimensional characters get all the attention from their peers, which makes you hate them, while laughing at them, and you also get a real sense of life as a 16-year-old immersed in the high school drama.

Based on the book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes" by Rosalind Wiseman, the screenplay for this film was written by Saturday Nigh Live alum Tina Fey (now a multiple Golden Globe winner for "30 Rock," which she continues to write for as well as star in). Fey, who holds the role of Ms. Norburry, Cady's nerdy math teacher, is just one of the hilarious ensemble members of the cast. Tim Meadows, also an SNL alum, is the schools Principal, Mr. Duval, and some of his one-liners have helped make it a memorable movie. Not to mention the movie's co-star, Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook," "Sherlock Holmes") as queen-bee of the Plastics, Regina George. Her minions; Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) is a leach, and a gossip-professional, and Karen (Amanda Seyfriend, who has starred in the film adaptation of "Mamma Mia!," and is from my area back home) is a complete idiot. These two never allow a scene to go past without a laugh at their air-headed tendencies.

What's really interesting about "Mean Girls" is how much of it was originally intended for an older audience than it was received by. References to sex, though they never go too far, are very apparent with Regina's mom offering her and Shane a condom while they're making out, and herself saying about Aaron, "I was half a virgin when I met him." Other sexual references were cut from the final version of the movie, including Karen talking about how Gretchen has previously slept with Jason, and a rumor in the Burn Book that one of the girls had masturbated with a hot dog (in the movie, it said she made out with a hot dog...which doesn't make any sense). In the party scene at Cady's house, we never see what the kids are drinking, though Cady does throw up at one point, and Janis asks if they drank "awesome shooters." Still, it's never made clear that they were definitely getting drunk, but since the movie ended up targeting a younger audience (kids who were actually in high school) it probably had to make changes to avoid a higher rating.

So that's my reasoning behind why I received "Mean Girls" on dvd for Christmas from my girlfriend during my first year of college. In my mind, it's a comedy classic full of great one-liners and possibly the only really well-done comedic look at high school and all the drama it contains.

"Half the people in this room are mad at me, and the other half only like me because they think I pushed somebody in front a bus, so that's not good."


No comments:

Post a Comment