Mean Girls

A y2K must watch

Mean Girls was the first PG13 movie that I watched. Well, technically it was Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, but that didn’t have any swearing or sex in it, which everyone knows are the hallmarks of PG-13 movies. The first time I watched Mean Girls was monumental. Like getting my period, it gave me this false sense of womanhood, of what it meant to be a teenage girl, wear makeup, date boys, and own a pink razor– the cellphone, not the thing for shaving, obviously.

In 2004 I was nine years old. I had yet to be introduced to the comedy of Tina Fey and along with most of the world, I didn’t know about the existence of Rachael McAdams or Amanda Seyfried. But, I grew up on Lindsay Lohan. Freaky Friday, The Parentrap, and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen were all movies I lived by. In fact, for my cousin’s Sweet 16, she made a mix CD that was used as her party favor. It consisted of songs picked by each of her guests and the song I chose to put on the CD was “Drama Queen (That Girl)”.

I don’t remember Mean Girls coming out in theaters. I just remember everyone talking about it like it was the gospel of girlhood and that my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to see it. Eventually, my parents either caved because I complained about not being able to watch it or I watched it behind their back. Knowing me, I probably wore them down to saying “yes”.

I remember the skirt Lindsay Lohan wore on the back of the cover which features the scene where Cady Heron lands head first into a trash can. It was pastel and frilly. I wanted that skirt. As a young, wanna-be fashionista, I wanted all the clothes in that movie. I wanted to be just like those girls. In a way, that movie reaffirmed some of the toxic ideas of what it meant to be a girl in the 2000s. To be a successful teenager I needed to have a boyfriend, be skinny, and wear short skirts. I guess my raging hormones clouded my judgment from understanding the point of the movie.

The movie also introduced me to language that I had never heard before on screen. It was the first time I heard someone talk about their period or STDs. For better or worse, it was the first time I saw a gay character and the first time I heard the word “lesbian” spoken in dialogue. It was the first time I heard of limits as a mathematical term, though I still have no idea what it means.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Mean Girls. Ten… twenty… maybe more? I can tell you that the dialogue of Mean Girls became like a secret code of sisterhood. I could quote the movie to almost any girl in my grade and she’d know exactly what I was talking about. In college, it was a guaranteed conversation starter that I could use with strangers. That and quoting anything from Spongebob (but we’ll save that for another day). I still use Mean Girls speak to this day.

Mean Girls is by no standards perfect. It lacks diversity and nuance. If the movie were to come out today I don’t think it would make a lot of noise in the world of teenage sitcoms, but in 2004, it was one of a kind. I heard someone once say that Heathers introduced the teen mean girl trope and Mean Girls perfected it. Since then we’ve moved on, probably for the best.

While the movie might not have painted the perfected example of what it means to be a teenager, it did give our generation a sense of connectedness. At a point in my life when I felt so out of place, Mean Girls gave me a small sense of belonging, it brought humor to the trials and tribulations of growing up, and gave me the words I didn’t have before to talk about teenage ‘girl stuff.’ It’s a movie I will always treasure and a staple of early 2000s culture.