Mean Girls is actually really awful. Here are the receipts
UnFRieNdLy bLaCk HoTtiEs?
Mean Girls has, for a very long time, been a safe space. It is wiser than most teen movies, its whole plot is rooted in exposing sexism, internalised misogyny and female competition. It was also the funniest shit 14-year-old me had ever seen and inside that teenager is as I write this. Mean Girls is problematic as fuck. It has aged terribly. I don’t know when you last rewatched, but some scenes are borderline uncomfortable to watch now.
If you’re doubting me, recall in your mind the cafeteria scene. Think of the groups. Unfriendly black hotties, Asian nerds, cool Asians, girls who eat their feelings and… girls who don’t eat anything. In the context of the movie, these are iconic groupings and the sequence of introducing them is so ingrained into our brain it’s hard to see it as an issue. But rereading them then felt weird, right? Because it is!
People are finally starting to look at Mean Girls with a raised eyebrow now, after a debate started on Twitter over who the true villain of the movie is. (Spoiler: it’s not Regina or Janice, it’s *pulls off the mask like a Scooby Doo villain, the audience gasps* Sexism!!!) Since then, rewatching has been a bit more… unsettling. The race jokes don’t land (they never should have but I guess we’re all just less racist now than in 2004 thank God), there are some pretty dodgy sexuality crutches that the movie leans on for humour and then there’s the fact that Carr is sexually involved with two minors but its just played off for laughs because we can’t understand the Asian characters! Ha ha ha!
Here’s everything the dusty old 2004 icon got very, very wrong:
The cafeteria scene is horrible to watch now
The writers of Mean Girls managed to insult and debase pretty much every minority group in one fell swoop during this scene. Literally everyone. It also relies heavily on some lazy, overdone and outright harmful stereotypes. Unfriendly black hotties plays on the “aggressive” trope used against black people, Asian characters being described as nerds or highly intelligent is an incredibly common occurrence in pop culture – as if Asian people are nothing but intelligence, but almost alien in their levels of intelligence (also acts like all Asian people can just be described as “Asian”? That’s a CONTINENT. There’s more than one type of “Asian” ffs).
The girls who eat their feelings and girls who don’t eat anything tables are a mockery of eating disorders and overweight women for being nothing more than that. And MAY I ADD that two of the “desperate wannabees” are disabled. Literally the only table in the cafeteria to feature disabled characters and it’s the “desperate wannabees” table. Yikes. Plus, ableism features more than once…
Regina says the word r*tarded
At one point Regina literally calls Cady “r*tarded”. If you didn’t know this yet – the R word is actually a slur, it’s ableist and shouldn’t be used. This is true now, and it was true in 2004. Sorry but time doesn’t excuse this at all.
Regina’s weight gain is used to knock her off her pedestal
Because weight gain is SO undesirable, right? Granted – some of the conversation around weight in Mean Girls was “of its time”, because model skinny used to be the ideal back then – but not now. If a girl told me I had a fat ass now I’d probably shed a tear out of pure joy. So we have to understand that was the universe Mean Girls moved in, but also it doesn’t excuse it. Even if we take in account body ideals at that time, it doesn’t make enforcing them okay. No one should be shamed for how they look. They also shouldn’t be poisoned with Kälteen bars in an attempt to make them less attractive and, ergo, less popular. That’s fucked up!
Despite the fact it’s rooted in feminism, it makes out like sexism is women’s fault
One line that never sat well with me, even when I used to watch the movie as a wee youngun, was: “You have to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” No! It doesn’t make it okay! Men calling women sluts and whores is never okay, and it isn’t women’s responsibility to change their behaviour first so dumb men know how to follow suit. That not only veers on victim blaming, but it ignores the fact that men are independent, free thinking beings capable of learning that calling a woman a slut or a whore isn’t okay just ‘cos some bitch called Gretchen says it. Be better, Mean Girls!
The animal scenes are just fucking weak plays on female competition
The movie is supposed to be calling out female competition, but it relies on it for a majority of jokes in the movie – this is alright, I’m not saying people can’t be mean to each other in movies, I’m not a child. BUT. Those animal scenes also SUCKED hard, and they’re an immature way of getting laughs out of women competing over a man – because that’s all women care about, and they care about it so much they’re like literal animals! Ha ha! Ha! Ha!!! It’s gross, I skip them every time. Moving on.
The Asian characters being Asian is played for laughs
Trang Pak and Sun Ji Dinh (I’m honestly surprised they were even named at this point, half expected them to be Asian Girl One and Asian Girl Two on the cast list) are pretty much only featured in the movie to a) be the punchline of the Coach Carr storyline, because no white American girl who’s in her right mind would get with their teacher, right?! Am I right ladies!?! Haha yeah. Racism. And b) to speak a language which can be mocked on screen. That’s literally it.
Sexuality is also a big joke
Honestly the biggest crime of this movie was that Janice Ian wasn’t actually a lesbian and I’m still mad about it. The characters continuously brand Janice as a “d*ke” (also a slur) and Damian being an effeminate gay man is used as a crux. Oh my god he has a pink shirt that’s sooOooooOOooOo funny. I used to love this movie but once you unpick the stereotypes it so heavily relies on you realise it’s actually just lazy.
Basically, Mean Girls is every bit as 2004 as it looks – even if it has a nice feminist message lying beneath it. But ultimately, that was feminism in 2004. And arguably it was just… white feminism in 2004. It isn’t feminism now, we’ve moved on and I’d like to think any movie with a so called “feminist” agenda these days would veer away from calling the only group of black people in a school “unfriendly black hotties”. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy it, just be aware of the bits that shouldn’t be quoted, celebrated or replicated. We move.