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(Yes, I sadly missed Day 23, but I didn’t want to skip another day. For Day 24 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was to describe an animal but replace its name with something else, which I thought worked well with this movie.)

The teenage girl in her habitat
Is not unlike any other big cat.
Observe how some convene to brood
While others prize their solitude.
Observe how weaker species cringe
And keep their distance at the fringe.

Observe how, at their queen’s behest,
Girls choose a target from the rest
And so proceed to bite and claw,
Exploiting every errant flaw.
They show no mercy to their prey
And, satisfied, sashay away.

MPA rating:  PG

Perhaps because I thought I would not enjoy a movie about, well, mean girls, I never watched Mean Girls when I was actually in high school, and being home-schooled, perhaps I wouldn’t have related to it much back then. But with every mention of “Fetch” and the Plastics in the years since, I began to feel that there was a hole in my pop culture knowledge that had to be rectified. Furthermore, I began listening to the soundtrack of Mean Girls the Broadway musical, confirming that I had to see the original movie, which is pretty much exactly what happened with Heathers too.

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Written by and co-starring Tina Fey, the story follows Cady Heron (teenage Lindsay Lohan) as her zoologist parents move her from Africa back to the U.S., where she must contend with the new reality of high school cliques. The most powerful group is the Plastics, made up of dumb Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), gossipy Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), and ruthless Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and the trio takes a liking to Cady. After bringing her into the fold, Cady’s misfit friends (Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese) urge her to bring George down from within, and the transfer student struggles with who she wants to be.

As I watched Mean Girls, I chuckled at the jokes and nodded at the many lines borrowed by the musical, but I sort of held it at arm’s length. I don’t exactly enjoy watching girls acting mean to each other, so I wasn’t sure where the film would end up in my appraisal. Yet by the end, as empathy is extolled and everyone gets their resolution and Orbital’s soothing “Halcyon + On + On” plays over the credits, I had to admit that I liked it. The more I listened to the musical and explored how popular and quotable the film has become, I liked it even more, until it finally ended up on my end-of-2020 Top Twelve list. My VC was not as positive, feeling the high school cruelty hit a bit too close to home in her memories, so perhaps my being home-schooled helped me enjoy it more than I would have otherwise.

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Despite its outstanding script, the plot of Mean Girls feels derivative, with its trio of wannabe Heathers and the theme of high school cliques that has been used from Grease to High School Musical, yet there’s something fun and definitive about it, embracing the clichés to the point of epitomizing them. It also has had its own influence, like how Dora and the Lost City of Gold basically has the exact same plot set-up, and Lost imitated a certain bus scene just a couple years later. Regardless of why it has had such staying power, it was great fun seeing early roles for actresses that have gone on to much bigger success, as well as several SNL alumni, and I couldn’t help but notice the absence of now-ubiquitous smartphones, marking the film as a distinct product of the early 2000s. With the news that a film adaptation of the musical is in the works, I’m actually excited for more Mean Girls, surprisingly enough. It’s downright fetch.

Best line: (Cady, having an epiphany) “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”

Rank:  List-Worthy

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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