"Where you sit in the cafeteria is crucial because you got everybody there. You got your Freshmen, ROTC Guys, Preps, JV Jocks, Asian Nerds, Cool Asians, Varsity Jocks, Unfriendly Black Hotties, Girls Who Eat Their Feelings, Girls Who Don't Eat Anything, Desperate Wannabes, Burnouts, Sexually Active Band Geeks, The Greatest People You Will Ever Meet, and The Worst. Beware of The Plastics."Mean Girls
— Janis Ian
is a fairly trope-heavy
comedy movie about a teen girl named Cady Heron who goes to a school that is dominated by a popular girl
named Regina. Cady's Cool Loser
friends Janis and Damian persuade her to join
Regina's Girl Posse
for the purpose of spying on Regina. Before long, Cady ends up identifying with Regina's whole value system
. There's lots of bitchy backstabbing, lots of lessons learned
, and lots of funny situations
along the way. Overall, it's something of a Lighter and Softer Spiritual Successor
to the cult black comedy Heathers
, with a healthy cult following.
Written by Tina Fey
(who was also one of the stars) and starring Lindsay Lohan
, Rachel McAdams
, Amanda Seyfried
and Lacey Chabert
. Often considered to have been Lohan's big break and the one most critics and fans will cite as her best performance. The movie is actually adapted from a book called Queen Bees and Wannabees: How to Help Your Daughter Survive Gossip, Cliques, Boyfriends and the New Reality of Girl World
loosely based — as implied by the subtitle, it's actually a non-fiction self-help book
along the lines of what you'd expect from Dr. Phil
. The story goes that Fey didn't even realize this and just bought the story rights from the title alone — perhaps for the best
, given the resulting script and how beloved the film turned out to be.
Has a Nintendo DS
game adaptation and a direct-to-DVD
sequel. Fey is currently
trying to adapt it into a stage musical
Now has a Character Sheet
These tropes are so fetch!
- Abhorrent Admirer:
- Kevin towards Cady.
- Regina tries to convince Aaron that Cady is one to keep him away from her.
- Adults Are Useless: Averted with Ms. Norbury, who proves to be very understanding of what Cady and the other girls are going through. However, played straight with Cady's parents and especially Regina's mother.
- In all fairness to Cady's parents, they do try to discipline her and make sure she knows right from wrong. Try being the operative word, though her mother seems a bit more proactive than her father. Regina's parents, however, are plain useless - especially Mrs. George.
- Played straight at other times - when a student throws an object at Damien during the talent show, no teachers step in.
- Adult Fear: Regina's mother watches her daughter get hit by a school bus.
- All Hallows' Eve: The Halloween party.
- Alpha Bitch: Regina and, later, Cady. The whole movie is arguably a Deconstructive Parody of this trope, demonstrating how a girl can be so simultaneously loved, feared, and hated by the rest of the student body.
- Ambiguously Gay: Regina claims Janice Ian is a lesbian, though she's actually Lebanese. Her outfits reinforce the stereotype, but by the end of the film it's obviously not true.
- An Aesop: Be yourself (of course!). Also that judging and antagonizing each other doesn't really benefit anyone.
- Antagonist Title: The title refers to Regina and her lackeys; Regina is the antagonist of the film. By the end of the film, it refers to the protagonist as well.
- Artistic License: That is not how math competitions work...
- Artistic License – Geography: In one scene, the characters go to Old Orchard Mall (technically "Westfield Old Orchard"), a Chicago-area mall known for being a large, outdoor mall. Its stand-in was Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke, Ontario, a more conventional indoor mall.
- Artistic License – Medicine: There is little chance someone who was hit by a bus and injured badly enough to need a halo (meaning, basically, that she damaged part of her neck) would ever be cleared to play a sport as physical as lacrosse, let alone in a matter of a few months.
- Asian Airhead: The Cool Asians clique.
- At Least I Admit It: When Cady calls Janis out on using her to bring Regina down and being responsible for her transformation into a Plastic, Janis retorts that she (like Regina) knows she is manipulative and calls Cady out on trying to act all innocent because of her less social upbringing.
- Backhanded Apology: When choosing a fault to apologize for before falling backwards and letting others catch you, it is not a good idea to apologize for being so popular it makes everyone else jealous.
- Janis also does this with Regina when she "apologizes" for helping Cady in sabotaging her and says she did it because "I guess I've got a BIG, LESBIAN CRUSH ON YOU!"
- The two unnamed girls who apologize first also fall under this - "it's not your fault you're so gap-toothed," and "I don't hate you because you're fat. You're fat because I hate you".
- Badass Teacher: Principal Duvall. Doesn't do anything typically badass during the film, but sometimes sheer presence is enough: looking at the man, especially when he's giving a stern lecture whilst wielding a baseball bat, just tell me you wouldn't a) hang on to his every word or b) not want to take him on in a fight.
- Bait and Switch: When Regina realizes Cady tricked her into eating weight-gain bars for months, she heads home, cuts a picture of them in half, writes into the Burn Book "This girl is the nastiest skank bitch I've ever met. Do not trust her! She is a fugly slut!", and pastes in her own half of the picture.
- Bare Your Midriff: Most of Gretchen's outfits.
- Based on an Advice Book: Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, written as a guide for parents with teenage daughters to help them understand the social structures and viciousness of high school life.
- All of the Plastics' rules about how they dress, act, etc. come almost word-for-word from one girl's actual testimonial about her clique in the book. Think about that for a second.
- Becoming the Mask: Cady's transformation into the Alpha Bitch.
Cady: [narrating] I know it might look like I'd become a bitch, but that's only because I was acting like a bitch.
- Big Fancy House: Regina's house. Cady is impressed by it.
Cady: [looking at Regina's house] Your house is really nice.
Regina: I know, right?
- Bilingual Bonus: Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh's dialogue becomes a lot funnier if you speak Vietnamese. Also, at the end of the movie, when Gretchen is talking to the Cool Asians in Vietnamese-sounding gibberish, one of them says (in confused and unsubtitled Vietnamese), "What?"
- Another one of sorts: "Regina" is the Latin word for "Queen". Makes sense, no?
- Billing Displacement: When a Mean Girls game came out for the Nintendo DS in 2010, Lindsay Lohan, the film's star, wasn't on the cover. The tabloids had a field day with this.
- Blatant Lies:
Karen: "I can't go out. [fake coughing] I'm sick."
- Most of Regina's behavior fits this trope.
- Blondes Are Evil: Regina. Subverted with Karen, who is actually pretty nice.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Plastics after Cady enters, and especially after Regina leaves.
- Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Cady's Halloween costume.
- Bowdlerization: Tina Fey's original script was a raunchy, R-rated sex comedy in the vein of Porky's and American Pie (she later described it as involving "wall-to-wall titties"). It featured much stronger sexual references — one of the characters admits to masturbating with a hot dog note , and the scene where Gretchen is caught kissing a boy in the bathroom was supposed to be her performing oral sex on him. Regina and Karen were to have topless scenes, and their Halloween costumes were also supposed to be skimpier than what was shown in the final film, amounting to pretty much what Cady describes: lingerie plus animal ears. There was also a subplot involving an ecstasy-popping Club Kid named Barry. These were changed when Lindsay Lohan was hired to play the lead, as she was trying to keep a squeaky-clean image at the time. This trope is taken even further whenever the movie is aired on a "family" channel such as ABC Family. Any remotely objectionable content is censored int various strange clumsy ways.
- Special mention to cutting out the part where Regina's mom offers her a condom. "Oh hey my daughter is about to have unprotected sex, better get her a snack" sure is a family friendly message.
- Break the Haughty: Regina during the first half of the movie, and Cady during the second half.
- But I Digress: Lampshaded in the Spring Fling scene.
Mr. Duvall: "You know, you're not really required to make a speech..."
- Butt Monkey: Regina George, the butt of all of Cady's (technically Janis's) tricks and pranks. She probably deserves it, though.
- California Doubling: As Roger Ebert put it, "She enrolls in Evanston Township High School — which, like all American high schools in the movies, is physically located in Toronto"
- Camp Gay: Damien is "almost too gay to function."
- Can't Believe I Said That: Invoked by Gretchen a couple times when insulting Regina. It's pretense, of course.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Chekhov's big yellow school bus, rather.
- Before the talent show scene, Janis tells Cady that "everybody in the English speaking world" knows the words to the song "Jingle Bell Rock". Cady presumably used this information to save the act.
- Cool Loser: Janis Ian. She used to be popular, but during middle school, Regina spread rumors claiming that she was a lesbian.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Karen.
"My breasts can always tell when it's going to rain. Well, they can always tell when it's raining."
(later) [standing in the rain, feeling her breasts] "There's a... 30% chance it's already raining!"
- Four Philosophy Ensemble: The Mean Girls. Regina is the cynic, Karen is the optimist, Gretchen is the realist (knows some things in the way the plastics behave is wrong, but chooses to overlook them in order to retain her popularity and friendship with Regina) and Cady, a textbook conflicted.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Again, the four Mean girls. Regina is an unhelathy case of your typical choleric selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag, Karen is a bubbly Sanguine, Gretchen is the painfully loyal phlegmatic and Cady is the introspective melancholic.
- Frameup: Regina puts in her own picture in the Burn Book in order to make it seem like it belongs to Cady.
- Friendship Moment: Played straight with Janis's art, and played for laughs (though also rather sweetly) with Karen catching Gretchen in the circle of trust.
- Full-Circle Revolution: Janis frames their smearing of Regina as "bringing down a dictator", and sure enough all they do is replace one Queen Bee with another one.
- Funny Background Event: During Cady's phone call with Regina, you can see Regina's little sister watching Girls Gone Wild and lifting up her shirt while cheering.
- The two girls making out at the Halloween party. Tina Fey points this out in the commentary, and says she has no idea how they got away with it.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When she first learns about the Burn Book, Janis calls Regina an "axe wound" - a slang term for a four-letter-word...
- Girl Posse: The "Plastics" (Regina, Karen, Gretchen, and later Cady) are unusually well-developed examples. There's also Trang Pak and her "Cool Asians."
- Good Parents: Cady's parents have shown to be loving and caring towards her.
- He Who Fights Monsters
Cady: You know I couldn't invite you! I had to pretend to be plastic!
Janis: [laughs] Buddy, you're not pretending anymore! You're plastic! Cold, shiny, hard plastic!
- Heel-Face Turn: Cady at Spring Fling, and all the Plastics at the end.
- Arguably before that, when Cady takes the blame for the Burn Book.
- Heel Realization:
- Cady's response when Janis points out that she's become just as bad as the Plastics is to cry.
- Happens a second time when she squares off against the remarkably unstylish girl in the rival math club. Cady realizes that making fun of her appearance and horrendous fashion sense would not win the competition, that calling someone else ugly won't make you more beautiful, etc.
- Henpecked Husband: Regina's father only appears once. He looks very unhappy to see his daughter in a slinky Playboy Bunny outfit on Halloween. It's obvious though that he'd never dare say anything to his wife who is desperate to be the "cool mom" and will let Regina get away with anything to achieve that goal.
- Hidden Depths: Gretchen confesses to Cady that she's secretly miserable as Regina's friend and has to pretend to like and not like certain things to get Regina's approval.
- Nerdcore: Kevin's rap.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Miss Norbury, Kevin, and Cady. Part of Cady's conflict is that she dumbs herself down to get a cute boy to tutor her.
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe - "Made out with a hotdog?! Oh my god, that was one time!"
- Never Say That Again: "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen!"
- Never Trust a Trailer: Averted for the most part, the trailer generally gives an accurate description of the movie, but it notably switches Janis and Damien's descriptions of Gretchen and Regina.
- No Dress Code: The plastics get away with performing in a school pageant wearing sexy Santa outfits that are closer to lingerie than costumes. Also applies when Regina accidentally starts the trend of wearing shirts with holes cut over the breasts.
- No Social Skills: Up until she came to the school, Cady lived in Africa and was home schooled, thus winding up with absolutely no clue about how things worked in "Girl World." Her parents appear to be clueless every time they appear:
Mom: Where's Cady?
Dad: She went out.
Mom: She's grounded.
- Not So Different: Though Janis wants revenge on Regina, she's as spiteful and manipulative as she is when it comes to Cady. Janis even admits it, stating that she knows she's as mean as Regina, while Cady pretends that she isn't.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Despite being very good at math, Cady pretends it's hard so that she can spend time studying with Aaron.
- Pair the Spares: Mocked. Janis and Damian kiss at the dance for a second, then quickly separate from each other in disgust.
- But then played straight when she hooks up with Kevin at the end.
- Parents Walk In at the Worst Time:
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: At first Cady is in it for a laugh and to help Janis get revenge. But as she gets deeper into the Plastics clique, she finds herself caring what Regina thinks of her and desperate for her approval and friendship.
- Playing Gertrude: 32-year-old Amy Poehler playing the mom of Regina, despite being just five years older than Rachel McAdams. Tina Fey even mentions this in one of the featurettes. Justified, in that a) she's Regina's stepmother, and was probably picked up as a young trophy wife, and b) it's implied that she has had excessive plastic surgery, her "hard-as-rocks" boob job being just the tip of the iceberg.
- Popular Is Dumb: Karen obviously, and arguably Gretchen and Regina who seem somewhat unastute. Regina, despite being able to manipulate most of the female half of the school into becoming her pawns, frequently shows herself to be rather Book Dumb.
"Is butter a carb?"
- The Pratfall: Gretchen in the "circle of trust".
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Gretchen. At the end of the film, Gretchen joins the Cool Asians now that the Plastics have broken up, and attaches herself to Trang Pak the way she did Regina. Her last scene has her brown-nosing—or at least trying to, seeing as she can't actually speak Vietnamese—in gibberish, with her hair straightened to look more like her Asian friends.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Janis gives Cady one at her party, though Cady does fire back.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense:
- Regina in a specific example. She could rattle off several mostly-illegal weight loss drugs (most of which either were expensive before being banned or would be expensive to ship from countries where they're still legal). Yet, she didn't know enough about health and nutrition to know whether or not butter is a carb.
- Possibly just a commentary on how American teenage girls obsess over getting thin the fast and unhealthy way rather than via actual healthy living.
- Running Gag:
- Satellite Love Interest: Aaron. All we know about him is that he's cute, sucks at math, used to date Regina, and "all he cares about is school and his mom and his friends". He gets fleshed out a little more in the original screenplay, which has a scene with him and Cady where he does the laundry, and explains that he helps out because it's just him and his mom.
- Sequel Hook: Averted. The sequel has no recurring characters aside from Principal Duvall. It might appear that the "Junior Plastics" seen at the end are this, but the sequel focuses on a completely different cast of characters.
- Sexy Santa Dress: The skimpy dresses that the girls wear for a Christmas pageant.
- Sexy Soaked Shirt: How Karen "predicts" when it's going to rain.
- Shout-Out: As noted above, Janis Ian is named after the singer of the same name, who was a musical guest on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey's former show. Ian's hit song "At Seventeen" even plays in a scene.
- The Smurfette Principle: The two Mathlete teams we see each have a single female member, presumably because of the double-funding incentive Kevin mentions.
- Too Much Information: "Somebody wrote in that book that I'm lying about being a virgin, 'cuz I use super-jumbo tampons, but I can't help if I've got a heavy flow and a wide set vagina!"
- Trust-Building Blunder: Miss Norbury's trust-fall exercise, involving a girl in a wheelchair wheeling herself backwards off the podium, and Gretchen pratfalling after everyone is disgusted by her Backhanded Apology.
- Truth-Telling Session: Regina escalates the battle to such an extreme level that it can best be described as "going nuclear."
- Twisting the Words: Regina uses this to undermine people's confidence: "So you agree? You think you're really pretty?"
- Uncanny Valley: In-Universe. Cady finds Mrs. George to fall deep into the Valley, thanks to her plastic surgery. The sight of her fake breasts approaching Cady is met with Psycho Strings, and Cady is clearly unnerved by her lack of reaction to her little chihuahua gnawing on her tit.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: The Plastics never wear the same outfit twice. Or even one same article of clothing. According to the costume designer of Mean Girls, each Plastic had over 30 costume changes over the course of production, and Lohan had 59(!).
- Unintentional Period Piece: The showcasing of Regina's materialistic life points itself to pre-2008 recession, when flaunting immense wealth was in style. Though this helps emphasize how empty and hollow her life truly is.
- Verbal Backspace: Principal Duvall, repeatedly.
Principal Duvall: I don't care how long it takes. I will keep you here all night.
Joan the Secretary: We can't keep them past four
Principal Duvall: I will you keep here until four.
- Wardrobe Wound:
- Janis cuts holes in the chest of Regina's tank-top while she's in gym class. It backfires when Regina puts it on over her bright purple bra, looks at the damage, shrugs and goes on her way. The next day, half the girls in school are wearing their shirts the same way.
- In a Deleted Scene, Cady tries to give Regina one by having a friend rig her cafeteria table so that it tips and spills food into her lap when she sits down. However, a member of Regina's Girl Posse sits where Regina was supposed to, thus becoming the prank's victim.
- Weight Woe: Regina's "killer bod" is one of the items that comes under attack in Janis' plot. The means? Protein-heavy granola bars that are supposed to help athletes and malnourished children gain weight, passed to Regina as if they're diet bars. Despite Regina's weight gain being a significant plot point, the actress' size doesn't change in the slightest.
- With Friends Like These...: Regina to Karen, Cady, and (especially) Gretchen. "Frenemies" indeed!
- Women's Mysteries: The principal attempts to get the girls talking about about any "ladies' problems" they might have (referring to disagreements with each other. When the first one he singles out predictably starts going into Too Much Information territory he swiftly subs in Miss Norbury, saying "OK, I can't do this."
- You Are the New Trend: Regina. One scene has Janis cutting nipple holes in Regina's shirt in the locker room to try and sabotage her wardrobe. Regina wears the top anyway and the next day, every girl has the exact same nipple holes in her shirt.
The sequel provides examples of the following tropes:
- Always Someone Better: The reason why Mandi constantly bullies Abby, from Abby's family being wealthier than Mandi's, Abby having bigger breasts, Abby parking her car in the best parking spot (the handicapped parking) due to getting injured by Mandi's bullying, to Abby getting a Prada bag that Mandi's been waiting for so long to get.
- Anything That Moves: Chastity.
- Ask a Stupid Question...:
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The sole reason this film was not aired on Disney Channel as an original movie is because of the amount of tacked-on profanity.
- They aired it on ABC Family instead.
- And later on E! under their "Movies We Love" banner. . .
- Broken Aesop: The moral of the story seems to be "don't be a follower," but in the end, Abby decides to attend Carnegie-Melon instead of her original goal of NYU just to stick with Jo, who in turn based her college decision solely on it being the school her dead mother went to.
- Chekhov's Gun: The paranoid neighbor. Specifically his security cameras.
- Enemy Mine: In the climax, Jo's former friends decide they hate Mandi more than they hate her and agree to help her.
- Face-Heel Turn: Jo becomes Not So Different from Mandi over the course of the film. However, she does make a Heel-Face Turn in the end.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Tyler points out in one scene that Jo is acting a lot like Mandi.
- Irony: That a girl named Chastity will sleep with Anything That Moves.
- Until she learns what her name means that is.
- Lame Pun Reaction: The "Anti-Plastics". Noted as such by Jo in voice-over.
- Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Mandi and Tyler (see next trope). Only those two however; Mandi's horrible to everyone else.
- Step Sibling Rivalry: Mandi and Tyler, though oddly the dislike comes entirely from his side and Mandi, despite being a bitch to everyone else seems to have some sisterly feeling for him, even declaring him off limits to Chastity and calling his father (her stepfather) "our Dad". He's also the only character she's never directly mean to.
- Shout-Out: Why does it feel like the football game between the Plastics and the Anti-Plastics is an homage to The Longest Yard (of all things)?
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Abby finds out that Jo accepted money to be her friend, she takes it about as well as one would expect.
- Wild Teen Party: The Halloween party and the party Cady throws later in the year. Her social evolution between these two parties is evident. At the first party, she's awkward, uncomfortable and sticks out like a sore thumb. At the second party, she's the queen bee, sexy, center of attention and (mostly) in control of everything going on (that is, until it all blows up in her face).
- You Keep Using That Word: Badass is frequently used to describe Jo but the only really badass thing she does is drive her vespa into the school.