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Film / Mean Girls

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"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."
Janis Ian

Mean Girls is a fairly trope-heavy 2004 teen comedy film directed by Mark Waters, written by Tina Fey (who also has a supporting role), and starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. It was loosely adapted from Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabees: How to Help Your Daughter Survive Gossip, Cliques, Boyfriends and the New Reality of Girl World. Very loosely adapted — as implied by the subtitle, it's actually a non-fiction self-help book aimed at parents. The story goes that Fey didn't even realize this and just bought the story rights from the title alone.

The plot centers around New Transfer Student Cady Heron (Lohan), who comes to a high school that is socially dominated by "The Plastics", a clique of popular-but-cruel girls led by Regina George (McAdams). Cady's Cool Loser friends Janis and Damian persuade her to infiltrate Regina's Girl Posse for the purpose of spying on her. The plan works too well; before long, Cady ends up identifying with Regina's whole value system. There's lots of bitchy backstabbing, lessons learned, and funny situations along the way. Overall, it's something of a Lighter and Softer Spiritual Successor to the black comedy Heathers, especially given that the writer of that film and the director of this one are brothers.

Has a Nintendo DS game adaptation and a direct-to-DVD sequel, Mean Girls 2 (in which only Tim Meadows reprised his role as Principal Duvall). A stage musical premiered at the National Theatre, Washington, D.C. in October 2017 and opened on Broadway in April 2018, with a book by Fey. In January 2020, it was announced that a film adaptation of the musical had entered development, set to premiere on Paramount+.

Now has a Character Sheet under construction.

These tropes are so fetch!

  • 555: The business card that mathlete captain Kevin Gnapoor hands to Cady has 555 as part of his phone number.
  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • Kevin towards Cady. Although it turns out he's not interested romantically.
    • Regina tries to convince Aaron that Cady is one to keep him away from her.
  • Absurdly Divided School: The school is aggressively split into cliques. These cliques, we are told, dictate your whole social life and capital; there is no overlap between them. In other words, the possibility that Cady would even be friends with Janis is akin to social suicide. Subverted in the ending where Gretchen joins the Cool Asians and Regina becomes a jock.
  • Accidental Misnaming: A Running Gag is the characters mispronouncing Cady's name and thinking it's "Catty". This foreshadows Cady's transformation into the Alpha Bitch.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The film is very loosely based on the non-fiction novel Queen Bees and Wannabes.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Averted with Ms. Norbury, who proves to be very understanding of what Cady and the other girls are going through.
    • Played straight with Regina's mother, who is completely under her daughter's thumb.
    • Cady's parents are borderline. They're very trusting of their daughter — which is justified since she was a well-behaved girl before starting high school. But her father still lets her go out when she's supposed to be grounded.
    • Played straight at other times — when a student throws a sneaker at Damian during the talent show, no teachers step in.
    • Principal Duvall zig zags this trope. He manages to successfully quell the riot by setting off the sprinklers, but is hopelessly out of his depth when trying to solve the root cause, as the issues are feminine ones.
  • Africa Is a Country: Cady is said to be from Africa, but no specific African countries are thus mentioned in relation to it. She's only ever nicknamed "Africa" by Kevin G. The musical clarifies that it was Kenya.
  • All Women Hate Each Other: Deconstructed. All of the girls in the school are revealed to have said cruel things about each other, and all of them have felt victimized by the same sort of comments because teenage girls are so insecure and vulnerable. The protagonist realizes in the middle of a Math contest that mocking her opponent's homely appearance won't help her win the tournament. During the scene in the gymnasium discussing the reaction to the Burn Book, Ms Norbury tells the girls that calling each other horrible names just makes it okay for guys to do the same to them.
  • Alpha Bitch: Regina and, later, Cady. The whole movie is 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. It also shows the mindset of such a character, and how the quickly fleeting affections of a student body can shape someone's life. Regina, in particular, ends up getting shunned by the very people she thought were her friends, and it weighs heavily on her.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Damian appears to be a Camp Gay, but he does go in for an Almost Kiss with Janis at the Spring Fling. So you never know. They both agree it's a bad idea though.
    • Regina claims Janis is a lesbian. Her outfits reinforce the stereotype, as does her close friendship with the openly gay Damian — they wear matching suits to the Spring Fling. However, by the end of the film, she is dating Kevin, so she's probably at most bisexual, since it's not indicated explicitly if she's also into girls.
  • An Aesop:
    • Judging and antagonizing each other doesn't really benefit anyone.
    • Just say it if you have a problem with someone rather than letting it bubble into resentment and hate.
    • "You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores."
  • Answer Cut:
    Janis: Regina George. How do I even begin to explain Regina George? (cue montage of people throughout the school describing her)
  • 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.
  • Apple of Discord: The released Burn Book. All of the gossip, half-truths, and secrets it catalogues turns every girl in school against each other, destroying friend groups in the process.
  • Arch-Enemy: Janis Ian has Regina George, the Alpha Bitch who made her an outcast.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Janis announces to the entire school that she and Cady conspired to ruin Regina's life, she recounts tricking Regina into making herself fat, convincing her boyfriend to dump her, turning her friends against her, and replacing her face creme with foot creme.
  • 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 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.
  • Artistic License – Sports: In the lacrosse scene, one of the players is shown running over every opposing player on her way to the goal. Every single contact would be a foul in girls' lacrosse. Even in boys' lacrosse, it would draw at least a couple of fouls.
  • Asian and Nerdy:
    • The Asian Nerds in the cafeteria, another clique.
    • Mathlete Tim Pak, Trang Pak's brother.
  • At Least I Admit It:
    • Janis uses this defense when Cady accuses Janis of manipulating her for revenge against Regina, saying that Cady has become just as cruel as the two of them. Though, she never actually admitted it before that point.
    • Aaron also makes this claim about Regina, saying that everyone has good and bad in them and that Regina is just "more upfront about it." Though, Regina isn't exactly above pretending to be nice to lure people in.
  • "Awkward Silence" Entrance: Happens to Cady when she walks into the gym after the Burn Book incident.
  • Backhanded Apology:
    • When choosing a fault to apologize for before falling backward 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, LEZZZBIAN 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 Midriffs Are Feminine: The cool Girl Posse of the Plastics all wear cropped tops from time to time, usually in pink or white. Cady's transformation from outsider is marked when she starts wearing more fitted, cropped shirts (which she then trades again for more hyper-feminine clothes like dresses and skirt sets). They are contrasted against the "uncool" artist Janis, who wears baggy, layered clothes.
  • 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. invoked
  • Bathroom Control: One of the oddities of the American high school system is that one can't use the restroom without the restroom pass, and when Cady asks for the pass, the teacher simply responds, "Nice try."
  • Be Yourself: Aaron is obviously mad upon discovering Cady's transformation from being a humble nerd to become the next-Regina just to get his attention. Even before, he seems annoyed when looking at Cady's photo with the Plastics, instead he's more interested in taking a look at Cady's childhood photo that she puts behind. When Cady eventually turns back into her original-self in the end, he seems genuinely glad and accepts her as his new girlfriend.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. Regina is the most beautiful girl in the school and turns out to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • 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.
  • Beta Bitch: Gretchen is a sniveling lap dog who craves Regina's approval and gossips to her relentlessly. This makes her distinct from Karen.
  • Big Bad: Regina George, queen Alpha Bitch of North Shore High.
  • Big Fancy House: Regina's house. Cady is impressed by it.
    Cady: (looking at Regina's house) Wow, your house is really nice.
    Regina: I know, right?
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Damien, Cady and Janis respectively.
  • 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?
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Regina initially seemed friendly towards Cady, but things go downhill when she insults a girl's skirt recalling her comment towards Cady's bracelet in the cafeteria.
    • Cady later becomes one of these. A case of Pay Evil unto Evil, but Cady's actions (giving Regina "diet" bars that make her gain weight, turning her friends and on-and-off boyfriend against her, and attempting to publicly humiliate her) are very bitchy, especially because she does all of these under a pretense of friendship.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • This line:
      Karen: I can't go out. (pathetic fake coughing) I'm sick.
    • Most of Regina's dialogue fits this trope.
    • Gretchen promising Cady not to tell Regina about her crushing on Regina's on-again/off-again ex-boyfriend Aaron. A phone call later with Regina reveals she didn't keep her secret after all.
    • Cady assuring Regina has a lot of water weight from eating the kaltein bars and not fat.
      Regina: You know Swedish?
      Cady: Yeah. Everyone in Africa can read Swedish.
  • Black Comedy Burst: Cady's monologue after Regina got hit by the bus.
    Cady: (narrating) And that's how Regina George died. No, I'm totally kidding!
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Plastics after Cady enters, and especially after Regina leaves.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Cady's Halloween costume.
  • Boob-Based Gag:
  • 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 dognote , and the scene where Gretchen is caught kissing Jason in the bathroom was supposed to be her performing oral sex on him. In the scene where Cady was asked if her "muffin was buttered," the line was originally going to be, "Is your cherry popped?". 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 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 cast 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 in 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.
    • As well as Regina's line on the phone to Karen, "boo, you whore" being changed to "boo, you peasant".
  • Bollywood Nerd: Mathlete team captain Kevin Gnapoor fits this trope.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Karen is one of the most beautiful girls in school, but she's also one of the dumbest.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: During the bit where we see students praising everything they've heard about Regina George:
    Emma Gerber: Regina George is flawless.
    Black girl: She has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus.
    Tim Park: I hear her hair is insured for ten thousand dollars.
    Amber D'Alessio: I hear she does car commercials. In Japan.
    Kristen Hadley: Her favorite movie is Varsity Blues.
    Short Girl: One time she met John Stamos on a plane....
    Jessica Lopez:.... and he told her she was pretty.
    Bethany Byrd: One time she punched me in the face. It was awesome.
  • Break the Haughty: Regina during the first half of the movie, and Cady during the second half.
  • Bumbling Dad: Mr. Heron, who doesn't know that kids aren't allowed to go out when they're grounded.
  • But I Digress: Lampshaded in the Spring Fling scene.
    Mr. Duvall: You know, you're not really required to make a speech...
  • But Not Too Gay: The "almost too gay to function" Damien is never seen being affectionate with other boys, and is never mentioned to have had a relationship with or a crush on any particular boy. The only person he is ever seen kissing is Janis at the dance (although they both immediately agree that it's not a good idea).
  • Butt-Monkey: Regina George, the butt of all of Cady's (technically Janis') tricks and pranks. She probably deserves it, though.
  • Camp Gay: Damian is "almost too gay to function".
  • Camp Straight: Gender-Inverted Trope. Despite dressing in goth and sometimes tomboyish masculine clothing, Janis is revealed to be straight.
  • Can't Believe I Said That: Invoked by Gretchen a couple of times when insulting Regina. It's pretense, of course.
  • Cat Fight: Cady pictures how she'd settle things with Regina in "the animal world".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Chekhov's big yellow school bus, rather.
    • The Burn Book.
    • 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.
  • Clique Tour: Janis points out the high school's social groups to new girl Cady in the cafeteria.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Karen.
    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!
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: Gretchen reads a report in class about Julius Caesar, specifically about the murder scene, which is a very thinly veiled attack against Regina's tyrannous behavior and has fairly little to do with the actual plot.
    Gretchen: Why should Caesar just get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? What's so great about Caesar, huh? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar, people totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar, and when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody because that's not what Rome is about! We should totally just STAB CAESAR!
    • Though ironically, while more by accident than design and obviously filtered through the jealousies and insecurities of a teenage high-school student, she's actually nailed the motivations behind Caesar's assassination in the play fairly accurately.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Cady walks in on Janis and Damian while wearing her Halloween costume which in her own words describes an "ex-wife", but Janis and Damian were watching Friday the 13th Part 2 and Jason Voorhees crashes through a window just as Cady walks in resulting in this trope.
  • The Comedy Drop: After the big brawl, the principal organizes a "Circle of Trust" where girls fall backwards and other girls catch them before they hit the ground. When it is Beta Bitch Gretchen's turn only Brainless Beauty Karen is there to catch her and Gretchen ends up flattening her.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A sequel comic called Mean Girls: Senior Year, was written by Arianna Irwin and released by Insight Comics in 2020.
  • Conspicuous in the Crowd: After Regina releases the pages of the Burn Book, all the other girls begin viciously fighting each other over the book's contents while Regina simply stands in the crowd watching the chaos, nobody aware that she wrote it all to begin with.
  • Cool Loser: Janis Ian. She used to be popular in middle school, but then Regina spread rumors claiming that she was a lesbian.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: As Cady becomes sucked into the cattiness and back-stabbing of 'girl world', she is corrupted to become just as bad as the Alpha Bitch herself.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Principal Duvall has a baseball bat in his office, a holdover from his South Side days. It comes in handy during the riot.
  • Creepy Gym Coach: Coach Carr is revealed to have made out with two students. He ends up fleeing school grounds when this is revealed by the Burn Book.
  • Curse Cut Short: Regina, twice.
    • When Shane tells Regina the truth about the Kalteen bars she has been eating, Regina says "Motherf\—!" in anger before spitting it out and screaming her head off.
    • And then...
      Regina: You can take that fake apology, and shove it right up your hairy —(Regina gets hit by a school bus)
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: During the time when Regina is unknowingly being manipulated into gaining weight, she can be seen cutting off the end of a loaf of French bread and biting the loaf. Tina Fey notices this for the first time during the DVD Commentary and actually remarks that Bugs Bunny used to do that.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Gretchen is forced to change her usual place in "Jingle Bell Rock". As a result, she stumbles into Regina, then into the stereo that starts skipping, and kicks the thing into her boyfriend’s face.
  • Dance of Romance: Subverted with Damian, then almost immediately played straight with Kevin.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Damian.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Janis gets a good one; "She's a life ruiner. She ruins people's lives".
  • Designated Girl Fight: In the Mathletes sudden death round, Cady vs. Kraft.
    "We pick the girl too."
  • Didn't Think This Through: One of Cady and Janis's pranks on Regina involves giving her foot cream instead of face wash. Neither of them cop that, since foot cream would be designed to make the foot smell nice, Regina would just end up with a face smelling like peppermint.
  • The Ditz: Karen's defining trait. The first thing we hear of her is her asking Damian how to spell 'orange'.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Janis used Cady for her revenge to Regina and in the end she makes Cady look bad.
    • Coach Carr is happy to sexually manipulate Trang-Pak and Sun Jin Dihn but looks like he's about to piss himself when Mr. Duvall is about to beat him upside the head with a baseball bat.
  • Down to the Last Play: The Mathletics championship comes down to a sudden-death, one-on-one Designated Girl Fight.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: An In-Universe example happens between Cady and Aaron. Cady thinks that admitting to Aaron about failing math on purpose to get him to notice her would be funny to him. This confession just gets an opposite reaction from him. Aaron condemns Cady and calls her idea of failing math to get him to notice her "stupid" and tells Cady that she is "just like a clone of Regina".
  • Dumb Blonde: Karen again. But averted with Regina, who is the evil type of blonde.
  • Dumb Is Good: Karen is the nicest Plastic because she's too dumb to be truly malicious.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Cady finally gets together with the guy she's been crushing on the whole film, and not only becomes comfortable with who she is but in general helps her school become a less judgmental environment.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Occurs with Cady twice: on her first day of school, when she hasn't made any friends, and after she's been kicked out of the Plastics and rejected by Janis and Damian.
  • Ephebophile: The coach is sleeping with several of the students.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first appearance of the Plastics, (apart from Damian's commentary) down to their clothes, nicely encapsulates their characters and positions. Karen tries to catch a ball but fails with the ball bouncing off her breasts, she happens to be the Plastic with the shortest shorts. Gretchen, while on the phone gets hit by a ball and bares her midriff while Regina is carried on the shoulders of a group of guys. Enough said.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Regina. Cady is also shown to have this kind of appeal later on as well.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When Principal Duvall questions the girls about the Burn Book, Karen says no one was supposed to read the mean stuff about them, and it was supposed to be private. Noticeably, all of the girls are horrified that the Burn Book caused a riot.
  • Evil Is Petty: Regina's whole "No one can date my exes" rule seems extremely petty, and reeks of a "dog in a manger" kind of attitude i.e if she can't be in a relationship with him, none of them can either.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Honestly, Janis is hardly any better than Regina, and is just as manipulative towards Cady.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Over the course of the film, the friendly and good-hearted Cady usurps Regina's position and becomes the mean-spirited Alpha Bitch of the school. She goes through a subsequent Heel–Face Turn when she's confronted with her actions.
  • Faint in Shock: To punish Taylor for going out with Jason (who was "supposed" to be Gretchen's), Regina makes a prank call to her mother, pretending to be a Planned Parenthood doctor who has her test results ready. Taylor's mother promptly does this.
  • Fanservice: The Halloween party, the Christmas pageant, Amanda Seyfried in a wet T-shirt, Lacey Chabert in a nightie while talking on the phone, Lindsay Lohan constantly wearing low-cut tops, Tina Fey stripping down to a bra... this movie is in love with this trope. Even the publicity shots show about ten square feet of leg.
  • Fanservice Extra: The two girls making out at the Halloween party while some male classmates watch and cheer.
  • Failed a Spot Check: For the prom Karen puts a decoration shaped like a K on her breastbone. The problem? She does so while looking in a mirror, meaning it's on backward!
  • Fallen Princess: Janis used to be popular, but her reputation was destroyed by a rumor and she now willingly embraces outsiderdom. Regina becomes this at the end, and Cady sort of as well.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Cady decides to greet a bunch of African-American students with an African greeting. They look at her like she's grown a second head.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Staying too long amongst the Plastics result in Cady forgetting her mission to take down Regina and become just as mean and jerky like her; she even steals her position as the group's leader and adapts her style of wardrobe as well.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the start of the Clique Tour, you can see a few extra cliques on the diagram not mentioned in Janis' speech, including the Cheerleaders, JV Cheer, and "Asexual Band Geeks" who sit right next to "Sexually Active Band Geeks".
  • Forced Meme: Gretchen tries to make "Fetch" happen. Repeatedly.
  • Forceful Kiss: Regina forces a kiss on Aaron during a Halloween party in order and steals him back in front of Cady who runs off heartbroken. Aaron breaks the kiss and reminds Regina that she broke up with him, but Regina firmly denies it and kisses him again.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A narrating Cady, with regards to her immediate crush on Aaron:
      Cady: But this one hit me like a big yellow school bus.
    • Another one, foreshadowing the exact same event, comes at the very beginning, when Cady is almost hit by a big yellow school bus.
    • When Janis is trying to introduce herself to Cady, a classmate walks past her desk and says, "Nice wig, Janis, what's it made of?" We later find out that Janis had shaved her head the summer before freshman year after Regina ended their friendship.
    • Regina wears an "R" necklace, and Cady starts wearing a "C" one, showing how Cady is emulating Regina and will become the new Alpha Bitch. Another sign of this is people mispronouncing Cady's name as "catty".
    • Janis suggests to Cady to steal The Burn Book from Regina so they can publish it. Regina ends up doing that.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Janis to Regina. They were best friends in middle school but Regina eventually turned on her for social status.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The Mean Girls. Regina is the cynic (ruthless Machiavellian), Karen is the optimist (Kindhearted Simpleton), Gretchen is the realist (knows somewhat that how 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: Regina is an unhealthy case of your choleric "typical selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag", Karen is a bubbly Sanguine, Gretchen is the anxious Melancholic and Cady the calm, sweet, but passive-agressive Phlegmatic. Janis is eclectic because she hates categorizing and does not want to fit into any system.
  • Frame-Up: Regina puts in her own picture in the Burn Book in order to make it seem like it belongs to Cady.
  • Freak Out: Regina does this when she finds out that Cady had tricked her into eating weight-gain Kalteen bars.
  • Friendship Moment: Played straight with Janis' 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.
    • Watch everyone else's expressions while Gretchen gives her "we should totally just STAB CAESAR!" speech. They're about as confused as you'd expect.
  • Gasshole: The unnamed student Cady is advised not to sit by because he farts a lot (and who she later has the misfortune of sitting behind).
  • Generation Xerox: By the end of the movie, the Plastics have gone their separate ways, but a new clique of younger "Junior Plastics" seem poised to fill the spot.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot:
    • Two girls are making out at the Halloween party, much to the enjoyment of the football players and other boys watching.
    • When a massive catfight breaks out between the high school girls and one pair falls and breaks down a voting table from fighting, the first thing onlooker Jason says is "Cool! Take your top off!".
  • Girl Posse: The "Plastics" (Regina, Karen, Gretchen, and later Cady) are unusually well-developed examples. There's also Trang Pak and her "Cool Asians". By the end, there's a new one in the Junior Plastics.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played straight only to be deconstructed afterward. Aaron seems to be Cady's perfect match. Regina gets with him to mess with her. Yet she is cheating on him anyway. When Aaron kisses Cady, Cady uses this a justification. However, it is also shown that Cady is becoming the Alpha Bitch. The whole Pay Evil unto Evil message throughout the film is entirely pointless as Cady is just as bad as Regina. Aaron walks away from Cady after this and doesn't give her a chance until she pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Good Parents: Cady's parents have shown to be loving and caring towards her.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Karen and Gretchen seem to have genuine affection for each other. Rather than trying to embarrass Karen for not knowing the cousin thing, Gretchen instead quietly explains it to her — and immediately lets her know when Regina calls her a slut. Karen's also the only one who catches Gretchen after her Backhanded Apology.
    • Mixed-Sexuality Life Partners: Janis and Damian. Though Janis's exact sexuality is ambiguous, she has a boyfriend by the end of the film, and Damian is openly gay. The two actually kiss at the Spring Fling, only to immediately reel back in disgust.
  • 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.
  • Helpless Kicking: Played for Laughs, non-fatal example. When Cady is walking the halls with The Plastics she stumbles into a trash can, falling in head-first and starts screaming and kicking her legs trying to get out.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A non-fatal example: When Regina claims Cady wrote the Burn Book, Cady decides to take full responsibility for it even if it means she gets in major trouble. This is likely due to her realizing she's become the very thing she was fighting against.
  • 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.
  • High School: The story takes place largely at North Shore High School, and features many of the typical student archetypes (the popular clique, goth girl, geeks, etc.)
  • High-School Dance: Spring Fling at the end.
  • Homeschooled Kids: Cady is one. The opening scene also parodies the stereotype of homeschooled kids being either ultra-nerds or religious whackos.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming:
    Janis: This is Damian. He's almost too gay to function.
    • Cady accidentally recommends this comment to be added in the Burn Book.
      Cady: (narrating) Oh no! Maybe it's only okay when Janis said it!
    • This becomes a Brick Joke when everyone finds the pages of the Burn Book.
      Damian: (outraged) "Too gay to function"!
      Janis: That's only okay when I say it!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Regina (who has gained weight) bumps into an extremely obese girl who tells her "Watch where you're going, fatass!"
    • Coach Carr telling his students how dangerous sex is just to hand them out condoms.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Parodied. Cady is baffled when the Plastics nitpick their own appearances, despite being beautiful girls; Gretchen frets about her hairline, Regina says she has "man shoulders" and Karen complains that her hips are "huge". They then look at Cady expectantly, and she can only say she sometimes has bad breath in the morning.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: At the dance, Janis and Damien almost consider this when they have no one else left to dance with and are paired with each other. They even kiss only to pull back in disgust and stay friends.
  • Important Haircut: Off-screen. After Regina spread the rumor in middle school that Janis was a lesbian, Janis dropped out of school for the rest of the year; when she returned in the fall, "all her hair was cut off, and she was totally weird".
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue:
    • Cady fantasizes about beating the crap out of Regina over a boy that they both like.
    • At the end, Cady fantasizes the Junior Plastics getting their comeuppance.
  • The Infiltration: Janis initially convinces Cady to join the Plastics to get back at Regina for everything she's done. Though Cady goes through with it at first (especially when Regina hooks back up with Aaron despite telling Cady she wouldn't), Cady eventually adopts the Plastics' mindset.
  • Informed Judaism: Gretchen mentions receiving Hanukkah gifts. Given the Plastic's extensive rules, it's possible Gretchen might have to downplay her Judaism.
  • Innocent Bigot: Karen's famous line frames her as this. In actuality, she assumes Cady was born in Africa, as opposed to being the child of Caucasian American zoologists who was just raised there.
    Karen: So if you are from Africa, why are you white?
    Gretchen: Oh my God, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white!
  • Insidious Rumor Mill:
    • What Cady and Janis do to Regina in order to dethrone her as Alpha Bitch. While Cady doesn't really lie to Regina's friends and boyfriend about her awful behavior, Cady and Janis explicitly manipulate them using similar tactics that Regina uses to wrap the entire school around her finger and effectively Backstab The Alpha Bitch. Fittingly she replaces Regina as the new Alpha Bitch.
    • In order to get back at Cady, Karen, and Gretchen, Regina inverts the trope when she places her own photo in the Burn Book and releases the entire book of rumors to the school. Not only does it act as an Apple of Discord to every social group in school, it allows Regina to play the victim and put the blame on Cady and the other Plastics, as they are the only ones not mentioned in it.
  • Intentional Mess Making: Regina, the Alpha Bitch of the cliquish Plastics, takes the pages of their "Burn Book" of snide insults, and makes photocopies. These pages then are scattered liberally around the corridors of her high school. When the students examine this mess, they read the nasty vitriol written thereon, which creates crippling animosity among the student body.
  • Inventor of the Mundane: Gretchen's father invented toaster strudel.
  • In with the In Crowd: Cady gets invited to sit with the Plastics and is accepted into their clique. Over the course of the movie, she's corrupted into a shallow Alpha Bitch like them.
  • It's a Costume Party, I Swear!: Played with (ironically given the plot of the film), although it was a misunderstanding on Cady's part. Halloween is an excuse for the teens to wear the skimpiest outfits and not be accused of degeneracy, only for Cady to show up wearing a really scary zombie costume and calling herself an 'ex-wife'.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Karen's apology to Gretchen in front of the group of girls in the gym comes off like this, as she has no idea how embarrassing it sounds.
    Karen: Gretchen, I'm sorry I laughed at you that time you got diarrhea at Barnes & Noble (crowd giggles; Gretchen and Cady cower in embarrassment) And I'm sorry for telling everyone. And I'm sorry for repeating it now.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In the scene at the end where Gretchen has become friends with the Vietnamese girls, they're actually speaking Mandarin, not Vietnamese. Also, the 'Pak' in Trang Pak's name is Korean, not Vietnamese.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Regina George seems most offended when Janis confesses to her that she used foot cream instead of acne cleanser on her face, rather than at the revelations that Cady made out with Regina's ex-boyfriend Aaron as well as turned Karen and Gretchen against her.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: Regina fawns over Aaron and can't keep her hands off him whenever Cady's around, because she knows Cady likes him and is jealous that they're dating (and in fact only got back with him in the first place to hurt her). Cady knows exactly what she's doing, but has to sit there and put up with it because of her role in Janis' Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch plan.
    Regina: [running her hands through Aaron's hair] Why do you wear your hair like that? You hair looks so sexy pushed back. Cady, will you please tell him his hair looks sexy pushed back?
    Cady: [narrating] Regina was dangling Aaron in front of me on purpose. I knew how this would be settled in the animal world.
    [Cue Imagine Spot of Cady tackling Regina and clawing at her face.]
    Cady: But this was Girl World. [out loud] ...Your hair looks sexy pushed back.
  • Jerkass: Regina George is the meanest of the girls, followed by Janis most likely.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Janis, who, despite influencing and encouraging Cady to join the Plastics specifically to damage Regina, gets zero comeuppance when she reveals it to the entire crowd of girls following the revelation of the Burn Book. In fact, she gets applauded for it! Cady, in the meantime, is treated like a bitch by everyone because of what she's done, even though Janis admitted that she was the mastermind behind all of it.
    • Coach Carr, the Creepy Gym Coach is revealed in the climax to be sleeping with several of the underage female students. However, during the school-wide riot and the principal learns of his crimes and tries to confront him about it, he flees the school, never to be seen again (and is implied to be a fugitive afterwards).
  • Kissing Cousins: At the Halloween party, Karen talks about how hot her cousin is. When confronted, she says, "Yeah, but he's my first cousin", apparently believing this to be a more distant relation than a "cousin".
  • Landline Eavesdropping: In one scene, all four of the titular mean girls are on various landline calls with each other. Cady invokes this by calling Regina and secretly having Gretchen listen in on another line to find out what Regina's been saying about her behind her back. It's nothing good. Since Regina also insulted Gretchen's best friend Karen, she calls her to let her know... and then Regina calls her, too, which leads to this trope happening again by accident.
    Karen: It's Regina. She wants to go out but she told me not to tell you.
    Gretchen: Do not hang out with her!
    Karen: Why?
    Gretchen: You don't want me to tell you.
    Karen: You can tell me! Hold on. (she tries to click the button to switch lines) Oh my God, she's so annoying.
    Gretchen: Who is?
    Karen: Who's this?
    Gretchen: Gretchen.
    Karen: ...Right, hold on. (she clicks the button again, this time successfully switching back to Regina's line) Oh my God, she's so annoying.
    Regina: I know, just get rid of her.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When at the Spring Fling, Cady says, "I know this song," referring to "Built This Way", which plays in multiple scenes throughout the movie.
  • Like Goes with Like: Parodied. Kevin G hears a rumour that Cady fancies him and says "I only date women of colour". When he hooks up with Janis, he first asks if she's Puerto Rican, but her saying she's Lebanese is good enough for him.
  • Look Both Ways:
    • Regina gets hit by a bus for not doing this. (She gets better.) Foreshadowed with Cady narrowly missing one on her first day.
    • Again at the end, in Cady's Indulgent Fantasy Segue about the Junior Plastics.
  • Love at First Sight: Cady develops a crush on Aaron upon meeting him in math class.
    Aaron: Hey, do you have a pencil I can borrow?
    Cady: (romantic music swells, narrating) I only had one other crush when I was little. His name was Nefume and we were 5. It didn't work out. But this one hit me like a big yellow school bus.
  • Love Forgives All but Lust: Aaron willingly dates Regina, who is spoiled, shallow, selfish, rude, and sometimes downright cruel, even to the people she calls her friends. He doesn't seem to mind any of this, and when asked why he likes her, he defends her by saying "everyone has good and bad in them, she's just more upfront about it than most." But when it turns out she's cheating on him, that apparently is too far, and he immediately breaks up with her.
  • Love Martyr: Gretchen spends some parts of the movie pining for Jason who treats her like crap and cheats on her with numerous girls.
  • Make-Out Kids: Four words: Sexually Active Band Geeks.
  • Make Way for the Princess: Parodied. Cady stumbles into a trash can while doing this.
  • The Mall: Janis works here. Cady also compares the kids hanging out here to the wild animals she grew up in Africa.
  • Market-Based Title: Released in Germany as Girls Club.
  • Meaningful Echo: Regina compliments a girl's skirt by saying 'I love your skirt, where did you get it?' before turning to Cady and saying 'that's the ugliest effing skirt I've ever seen' when she walks off. This makes Cady remember her compliment of Cady's bracelet with the same words in their first meeting and she realizes it was probably more of a Stealth Insult.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The name "Regina" is Latin for "queen". (Her last name is "George," bringing to mind a certain President, or a certain king.)
    • And in the same vein, it's surely no accident that on many different occasions, a character will mispronounce Cady's name, thinking it's pronounced "catty".
    • Janis Ian shares her name with the singer of "At Seventeen," a song about discovering that the "pretty girls" get the love. The real Janis Ian is a lesbian and was the musical guest on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, the show screenwriter Tina Fey first became famous for.
    • Janus is the name of a Roman god with two faces.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: During Cady's party, Aaron sees a picture of little Cady back in Africa riding an elephant. An Asian elephant.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Deconstructed with the demise of Janis and Regina's friendship.
  • Must Make Amends: This is what the third act of the movie is about.
  • My Card: Kevin Gnapoor: Math Enthusiast/Badass MC
  • My Nayme Is: It's spelled "Cady," not "Katie".
    "...Yeah, I'm gonna call you 'Caddy.'"
  • N-Word Privileges: Janis calls Damian "too gay to function" and they all have a good laugh. When she reads it in the Burn Book later, they are both irate as "it's only funny when I say it!"
  • Naïve Newcomer: Cady, having been homeschooled up to high school, and thus having very little in the way of social skills or knowledge of high school politics.
  • 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.
  • New Kid Stigma: Cady struggles on her first day in an American high school, since she doesn't know a lot of proper high school etiquette and the students other than outcasts Janis and Ian shun her. She is forced to eat lunch in the bathroom alone when no one lets her sit with them. Later subverted when the Plastics take an interest in her because of her natural beauty.
  • Never Say That Again: Regina gets tired of Gretchen using "fetch" and snaps at her: "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen! It's not going to 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 Damian's descriptions of Gretchen and Regina.
  • Nice Girl: Surprisingly, despite the film name there are a few examples:
    • Cady starts out like this. She eventually becomes little different than the person she's working against, though her original kindly nature still shines through at times (namely the scene where she comforts Karen) She gets better by the end of the movie.
    • Karen, who isn't really mean at all despite being one of the plastics, just really dumb.
    • Mrs. Norbury She manages to break up the huge fight at the school and get the girls to stop fighting and is remarkably forgiving towards Cady after she apologizes for spreading a mean rumor that gets her in trouble.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Among the Burn Book's false allegations is a true one about Coach Carr's sexual predation on underage students. Regina's vengeful publicizing of the Burn Book causes this behavior to be exposed and Carr to flee the school.
  • Nice Mean And In Between:
    • The Plastics — there's the sweet, if Innocently Insensitive Karen (nice), Regina the catty and manipulative Alpha Bitch (mean), and gossiping yet sympathetically insecure Gretchen (in-between).
    • There's also Damien as the Only Sane Man in the other trio (nice), Janis as the one who uses Cady for her revenge (mean), and Cady herself who becomes corrupted by the politics of girl world and ultimately has a Heel Realization (in-between).
  • No Bisexuals:
    • Janis dating Kevin could be an example of this. As a preteen, Janis was victim to homophobic bullying from Regina who spread rumors that Janis was a lesbian. Janis is believed to be a lesbian due to her close friendships with girls (as well as her best gay friend Damien), his disliking of guys hitting on her, and her dressing in emo androgynous fashion. However, in the end, she starts dating Kevin. Not once is the word "bisexual" uttered in-universe nor considered a thing.
    • Also Damien who is Camp Gay but almost considered kissing his straight friend Janis to see if they should be paired together at the dance as a test. However, they both pull away in disgust after the kiss.
  • No Dress Code: The Plastics get away with performing in a school pageant wearing sexy Santa outfits that are closer to lingerie than costumes. It also applies when Regina accidentally starts the trend of wearing shirts with holes cut over the breasts. Given that the principal himself raises his hand when asked "How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?", this may be an example of how just strong Regina's influence could be.
  • No Social Skills: Up until she came to the school, Cady lived in Africa and was homeschooled, 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.
    Dad: Are they not allowed out when they're grounded?
  • "Not So Different" Remark: 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. Regina admits it too, although she probably didn't notice before she got hit by the bus. She accused Cady of being a "less hot version" of Regina herself.
  • Novelization: Micol Ostow novelized it in 2017.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Despite being very good at math, Cady pretends it's hard so that she can spend time studying with Aaron.
    • Karen is clearly no genius, but it is apparent she plays up her cluelessness to seem cute. She actually comprehends social stuff very well.
  • Oh, Crap!: Regina's mother has a shocked reaction when her daughter gets hit by a school bus.
  • Offending the Fool: Karen, the Token Idiot of the Plastics, is clearly pissed after Regina calls her a "whore" over the phone.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: "Made out with a hotdog?! Oh my god, that was one time!"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Karen's reaction to Regina calling her a slut is definitely this.
  • Pædo Hunt: During the massive girl fight at school Principal Duvall looks ready to pummel Coach Carr upon seeing him try to act like a hero between Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh (two girls he made out with)
    Principal Duvall: (wielding a baseball bat) Coach Carr, step away from the underage girls!
  • 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.
    • Principal Duvall gets to share a dance with his crush, Ms. Norbury.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time:
    Mrs. George: You kids need anything? Snack? Condom? Ah, God love ya!
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Regina has her moments, such as when she gives Cady a makeover and compliments her on her eyebrows. Also in a twisted way, she gets revenge on Jason for dating Taylor instead of Gretchen.
    • Cady comforting Karen after Regina calls her a stupid and a slut. Even considering Regina is completely right, Karen is still really hurt. This leads to a cute scene where Karen says she has some power where her breasts can somehow tell if it's raining.
  • Pink Means Feminine: The Plastics' wardrobes have a lot of pinks, and one of the rules of the clique is that on Wednesdays they have to wear pink.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Regina started a rumor that Janis was a lesbian and bullies her for it. This is very much a case of Values Dissonance as nowadays bullying someone for such a reason would probably be considered hate speech and definitely against the rules. Also, most high school students in modern times would react to the knowledge that a girl was a lesbian with a "Yeah, so?"
  • Popular Is Dumb: Karen obviously, and arguably Gretchen and Regina who seem somewhat not as astute. 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.
    Regina: Is butter a carb?
  • Popular Is Evil: The whole point of the movie. Regina George is said to be “evil in human form”, with Gretchen and Karen as her minions helping her in her dirty work. They spread lies about other girls, seduce crushes, and smear reputations all to maintain their spots at the top of the social hierarchy. Funnily enough, the film also subverts it by having the Cool Loser Janis be just as mean as Regina.
  • 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.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Cady starts out as a plucky newcomer out to bring down the Alpha Bitch Regina, but in the course of doing so, she becomes Regina's replacement. Fortunately, she eventually realizes this.
  • Race Fetish:
    • As Kevin Gnapoor tells Cady at a party after hearing one of Gretchen's lies. Later, he dates Janis who's Lebanese.
      Kevin: Not to hurt your feelings, but I only date women of color.
      Cady: I have to pee.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Tim Meadows suffered an injury to his hand and required a cast. This was explained as Mr. Duvall getting carpal tunnel.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Parodied and Played for Laughs in the climax; when two Vietnamese girls both learn that they're each having an affair with Coach Carr, they begin yelling at each other in initially subtitled English that eventually transforms into untranslated Vietnamese symbols.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Janis gives Cady one at her party, though Cady does fire back.
      Janis: See? That's the thing with you Plastics. You think everybody is in love with you when actually, everybody HATES you! Like, Aaron Samuels, for example, he broke up with Regina and guess what? He still doesn't want you! So why are you still messing with Regina, Cady? I'll tell you why, because you are a mean girl! You're a bitch! Here. You can have this. It won a prize.
    • Janis delivers an good one to Regina in the school's gymnasium.
      Janis: (to the entire female student body and to Regina) Okay, yeah. I've got an apology. So, I have this friend who is a new student this year. And I convinced her that it would be fun to mess up Regina George's life. So I had her pretend to be friends with Regina, and then she would come to my house after and we would just laugh about all the dumb stuff Regina said. And we gave these candy bar things that would make her gain weight, and then we turned her best friends against her. And then... Oh yeah, Cady - you know my friend Cady? She made out with her boyfriend, and we convinced him to break up with her. Oh, God, and we gave her foot cream instead of face wash. God! I am so sorry Regina. Really, I don't know why I did this. I guess it's probably because I've got a big “lesbian” crush on you! Suck on that! AY-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!
    • Regina in turn delivers one to Cady after running out of the gym. Right before getting hit by a big school bus.
      Cady: Regina, please! Just listen—!
      Regina: NO! Do you know what everyone says about you behind your back? Hmm? They say that you're a homeschooled jungle freak, that's a less hot version of me! Yeah, so don't try to act so innocent! You can take that fake apology, and shove it right up your hairy c...! (gets hit by a passing yellow school bus)
  • 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.
  • Second Love: Despite it is unclear whether Regina is Aaron's very first love or not, but given how Aaron was affected upon discovering that she's cheating on him (again), it's obvious that Cady becomes his second love after he manages to get over Regina.
  • Sex Miseducation Class: The health/sex ed class shown consists of the gym teacher yelling at the girls to not have sex at all lest they get knocked up.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Regina tries to use this reason when the other plastics wouldn't let her sit with them in the cafeteria for wearing sweatpants on a Monday. It doesn't work.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When Regina finds out Cady had tricked her into gaining weight and starts screaming her head off, Shane quietly exits the scene with a look that says "Nope".
  • Sequel Hook: Averted. The sequel has no recurring characters aside from Principal Duvall. It might appear that the "Junior Plastics" seen at the end is 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.
  • Ship Tease: A brief one showing Kevin checking out Janis at the high school Christmas Pageant.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shadow Archetype: Regina and Janis for each other. Regina is manipulative, two-faced, and cunning, but maintains an outwardly friendly and affable demeanor. Janis, on the other hand, is apparently less attractive than Regina and claims not to care about any of that and poses as being above all Regina's petty high school business. However, Regina's high school manipulations and plotting is also reflected in Janis's plot for revenge. Regina, like Janis, has a lot of anger that she refuses to acknowledge, while Janis is relatively comfortable with her own anger and bitterness.
  • Slow-Motion Pass-By: The introductions of the Plastics present and future.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The two Mathlete teams we see each have a single female member, presumably because of the double-funding incentive Kevin mentions.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: At times, the Plastics complain about how difficult it is to be as pretty as they are. This doesn't stop them from bragging about it at every opportunity.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: When the Plastics are scheming.
  • Stepford Smiler: Gretchen (the "one small step from a complete nervous breakdown" version, rather than the "empty inside" version).
  • Stripperiffic: Lampshaded at the Halloween party, where Cady comments on how in Girl World, Halloween is the one night of the year a girl can dress like a total slut and no one can say anything. Gretchen wears a cat costume made of skintight leather, Karen wears a skimpy, cleavage-revealing teddy (only the ears give it away as a costume — "I'm a mouse. Duh."), while Regina wears a "rabbit" costume that's nothing more than a Playboy Bunny suit. Cady, not knowing this and thinking that Halloween costumes are meant to be scary, wears pale makeup, novelty rubber teeth, and a Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress ("an ex-wife").
  • Suddenly Sober: Cady, after vomiting from drinking shots at her house party.
  • Suck Out the Poison: In a voiceover, Cady claims this is the correct response to being bitten by a snake. It's a metaphor, but she should still know better, with zoologists as parents.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Since Cady was homeschooled her whole life, she makes simple mistakes regarding socializing with people during her first few days of school. It takes her quite a while to figure out how to even interact with such mass of people.
    • At her party, Cady drinks too much because she’s stressed that she can’t find Aaron (who she specifically wanted to be there), meaning she’s quite drunk when she finally finds him, and when it all goes badly wrong, Cady ends up throwing up. Drinking too much can do that to you, especially if you’re stressed.
    • Regina gives a Psychotic Smirk when she starts the riot. It's at first played for comedy, as several boys egg on the catfights and the secretary runs before she's decked in the face. Then Principal Duvall steps in, turns on the fire sprinklers to stop the fight, and orders the girls to the gym. He reveals that their fighting is suspension-worthy, and they'll be lucky if he doesn't cancel Spring Fling. Regina is among those giving a Big "NO!", realizing belatedly that she Didn't Think This Through that she would have to face consequences as well even if she weren't caught as the perpetrator.
      • On that note, Principal Duvall backpedals on his threat to cancel the Spring Fling as the school has already paid for the DJ and cancelling the event now would just be impractical. He similarly retracts his threat to keep the students in school all night as they can only hold the students until 4:00.
    • Janis reveals her Evil Plan about all the things Cady did to Regina in front of all the girls who were victimized by Regina George. Rather than anyone condemning Janis for this, the other girls cheer for Janis, due to them being victimized for Regina (and it being In-Universe Take That, Scrappy! moment).
    • After Regina realizes what was done to her, she ends up feeling hurt when she realizes that nobody really likes her. It goes to show that just because someone is a complete jerk to people, doesn't mean that he or she will be completely happy with being disliked (whether they deserve it or not).
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Oh, Gretchen.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Cady on being named the Spring Fling Queen.
    Cady: Why is everybody stressing over this thing? I mean, it's just plastic. Could really just... Share it.
  • Teachers Out of School: Cady, Janis, and Damian run into Ms. Norbury in the mall.
    Janis: I love seeing teachers outside of school. It's like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.
  • Test Kiss: After seeing everyone around them is paired up during the prom dance, Janis and Damien are dancing together and decide to kiss to see if anything's there. However, they are both grossed out by the kiss and Damien leaves while Kevin steps in to dance with Janis.
  • Title Drop: During Janis' "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Cady, she says "You are a mean girl! You're a bitch!"
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: When Janis convinces Cady to partake in her revenge plan, she tells Cady:
    Janis: There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it.
  • Toilet Humor:
    Karen: Gretchen, I'm sorry for laughing at you that time you got diarrhea at Barnes and Noble. And I'm sorry for telling everyone about it.And I'm sorry for repeating it now.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Ponytails are usually used in the film to signify a character being less concerned with their appearance. Cady arrives at school sporting a ponytail but starts wearing her hair down as she falls in with the Plastics, and then goes back to the occasional ponytail after her Heel Realization. The Plastics actually say that they have a rule about only using a ponytail once a week. Janis, an outcast, always wears her hair back. All the Plastics wear their hair down throughout the film, but Regina starts sporting a ponytail as she gains weight and is forced to wear less glamorous clothing. She is also wearing a ponytail at the end of the film, where she is an athlete and has a more down-to-earth wardrobe.
  • 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!"
      Principal Duvall: Yeah, I can't do this. Miss Norbury?
    • Karen's apology to Gretchen for what happened at Barnes & Noble.
  • Tough Love: Janis' speech to Cady about her Becoming the Mask is arguably this. While it was pretty harsh for Janis to call Cady a bitch, Janis telling Cady about herself is what helped Cady see the errors of her ways and revert back to her old self.
  • Town Girls:
    • The Plastics as a whole (Femme), edgy Deadpan Snarker Janice (Butch), and (initially) wholesome Naïve Everygirl Cady (Neither). Cady drifting towards the Femme end of the spectrum becomes one of the major plot points.
    • The Plastics are all Alpha Bitches who love hair, make-up, shopping, etc. — but even they fit this trope. There's dominant, aggressive, snarky Regina as the Butch (who uses her aggressiveness to become a Passionate Sports Girl at the end), utterly sweet-natured and submissive Karen as the Femme, and in-between Gretchen as the Neither.
  • Trust-Building Blunder: Miss Norbury's trust-fall exercise, involving a girl in a wheelchair wheeling herself backward 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.
  • Unconventional Food Usage: Overheard from a background character: "'Made out with a hot dog'? Oh my God, that was one time!"
  • Unbuilt Trope: The movie predates the 'elite high school girls' subgenre of teen fiction — such as The Clique, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl — all of which were clearly inspired by it. But the movie deconstructs the Girl Posse by showing the bitchy backstabbing as shallow, pointless, and dealing psychological damage to everybody involved, and how the characters, even the Alpha Bitch, would all be better off without it — in such a fashion that it almost looks like a response to those works.
  • 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.
  • The Unfair Sex: Female variety. Regina punishes Taylor for dating Jason — who is supposed to be Gretchen's 'property' — instead of Jason for moving from Gretchen to Karen.
  • 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 the production. Cady had 59 total outfits (to reflect her change from "Fish out of Water" to full-blown Plastic to a more happy medium)!
  • 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.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Cady comes to this conclusion after realizing that ruining Regina's life didn't solve anything for her or make her happy in any way.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Cady’s “word vomit” becomes actual vomit at her party after she drinks too much, vomiting at Aaron’s feet when Regina walks in on them.
  • Vox Pops: Used twice in the movie as students of North Shore High School are given testimonies of a certain character. Used the first time when Regina is introduced and then later when Cady is immersed within the Plastics clique.
  • 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 Damien rig her cafeteria table so that it tips and spills food into her lap when she sits down. However, Karen 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. It's subtle since Rachel McAdams is so skinny naturally, but the crew actually stuffed her sweat pants and hoodie with padding to make her look Hollywood Pudgy.
  • Wham Shot: After Regina learns that Cady made her gain weight, she takes her Burn Book, cuts a picture of them in two, and writes "This girl is the nastiest skank bitch I've ever met. Do not trust her. She is a fugly slut". It looks like she's going to add Cady in her book in rage... but she pastes in the Regina half of the photo, making herself look like another target to frame Cady, Gretchen, and Karen.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: This turns out to be the case in the film, as even the worst of the mean girls ultimately turns out to be more of an Anti-Villain than an outright bad person. However, the film does have one unambiguously evil minor character in Coach Carr, who sexually preys on underage female students.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: While the film's setting and depiction of high school society are based on a non-fiction self-help book, the narrative elements added by the writers can be interpreted as an inversion of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew told from the female perspective.
  • Wild Teen Party: Cady gets invited to a Halloween costume party by Aaron, then (semi-accidentally) throws a wild party herself 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). However, as a subversion for the trope, her parents never find out.
  • With Friends Like These...: Regina to Karen, Cady, and (especially) Gretchen. "Frenemies" indeed!
  • Women's Mysteries: Principal Duvall attempts to get the girls talking 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".
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Regina's plan towards the end. She sticks her picture into the Burn Book to make it look like she'd gotten slandered along with dozens of other girls by Cady.
  • You Are the New Trend: 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.
  • You Are What You Hate: Janis is just as manipulative (especially when it comes to Cady) as her nemesis Regina.


Video Example(s):


Jingle Bell Rock

Before it went off the rails, the Plastics' performance was supposed to be a sexy dance set to "Jingle Bell Rock" in Santa-esque outfits.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SexySantaDress

Media sources: