In honour of International Women’s Day, Lucas Oakeley notes the important lessons that we can all learn from the 2004 girl-power cult classic, Mean Girls.
Mean Girls wasn’t just a film. Mean Girls was a movement. It was, and remains to this day, a perfectly preserved time-capsule for anyone who went to high-school in the mid-2000s, and for all of us who ever wondered whether butter was a carb.
Defining the noughties generation in a similar manner to how Clueless typified the sophomore experience of ‘90s teens, Mean Girls offered a sharp, incisive, and hilarious insight into that difficult-to-classify group of individuals who were raised in an era where Tamagotchi’s were a must-have fashion accessory. Let’s face it, if you grew up during this time: it's more than likely you knew a Regina George , and it's also more than likely that you knew someone desperate to make fetch happen. It's highly probable that you didn’t like either of these people very much, but the chances are equally high that you still ingratiated yourselves towards them in search of that ever elusive grail of popularity. I once wore 7 livestrong bands all at the same time because I thought they would grant me entrance to the world of “cool” like an over-18s wristband at V Festival. Needless to say all that happened was that ending up looking like a monumental twat. We all make mistakes.
Whilst Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron wasn’t exactly your typical shrinking violet – she was immaculately good-looking, great at maths, and grew up in Africa, after all (just don’t ask why she was white) – I still think that she provided the perfect mould for anyone, especially young females, out there who have ever encountered that bewildering experience of being the new kid on the block. Despite her Hollywood good-looks and Parent Trap-manicured charm, Cady was still an outsider looking in. And I think, to some extent at least, most people can relate to that feeling of isolation. I also think that more than a few of us are guilty of having neglected the tried and trusted Janis Ians of our lives when attempting to cut into a slightly “cooler” crowd of people. I, for one, would like to take this opportunity to personally apologise to all the friends I lost over the livestrong band fiasco.
2017 is obviously a starkly different time to 2004, with the social pressures placed on girls to look and act in a certain way being arguably more prevalent in current society than they have ever been before. The Plastics didn’t have unlimited access to iPhones or Snapchat in their arsenal of social exclusion, however, the archaic cliques and clichés surrounding who’s “in” and who’s “out” remain very much the same; it’s just the formats that have changed. Facebook has become the new ‘Burn Book’, the group chat has displaced the divisions of the lunch room table, and the rebellion of not wearing pink on Wednesday has found its modern-day surrogate in a refusal to like your friend’s latest profile picture because they got with that person on your course that you’d had a crush on for way longer than they had. It appears that it’s an unfortunate case of "Same Story, Different Day" in the dangerous savannah of social survival.
With the nauseating trend of “clean eating” being all the rage nowadays (I use the term ‘nauseating’ quite literally here because cauliflower pizza crusts are a fucking abomination), I’m personally surprised that we haven’t Kalteen Bars being paraded about Instagram accompanied by the obnoxious presence of #nourishing and #detox (The undeniable Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith of the hashtag world). Just like Gretchen couldn’t help the fact that she was so popular, we equally can’t help how our reliance on social media and incessant need for online gratification from our peers has inadvertently made us a more anti-social society than that which came before. A society where we all suffer from the "fear of missing out" without ever being too sure what it is that we are missing out on. We just know we should be snapchatting about it.
Mean Girls provided a perfect and timely puncture to the relentless intimidation that young women often placed upon one another. With its Tina Fey-penned screenplay delivering laughs and painful truths in equal measure, Mean Girls puts its mockery aside at its conclusion in order to implore women to band together rather than constantly being at one another’s throats. In a patriarchal world dominated by the male gaze, what sense did it make for women to be fighting their sisters to be the focal point of this misogynistic male attention? Mean Girls, in the best way possible, told us that it made no sense at all. It told us that it was okay to be a bit of an outsider, or a mathlete, and that it was perfectly acceptable to have a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina. Mean Girls simply promoted being yourself, offering a rebellious "fuck you" to anyone who tried to tell you otherwise.
Today, more than ever, I maintain that the legacy of Mean Girls needs to be remembered. If not for its positive messages of social inclusion and wonderfully subversive feminism, then at least because it is one of those rare movies that can help to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously in this furious race of popularity that we call existence. Because, if you do: you will get pregnant. And die.