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Mean Girls is Fetch Again!

Tina Fey’s newest iteration of Mean Girls is on pitch, if not perfect
Bebe Wood, Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, and Avantika Vandanapu in a promotional shoot for Mean Girls. (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Tina Fey’s 2004 movie Mean Girls has managed to remain relevant for twenty years, embedding itself into the day to day life of a typical American teenager. Schools across the country schedule their “pink for breast cancer” spirit days on Wednesdays; pop singers like Ariana Grande include homages to the classic film in their music videos; audio clips from early aughts classic still go viral on TikTok every couple of months. Mean Girls has proven that it’s here to stay.

 In November of 2023, Mean Girls was once again front and center in everyone’s minds when a Walmart commercial premiered featuring Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried and Lindsey Lohan reprising their roles for the first time. Just a week later, the long awaited trailer for the Mean Girls musical movie came out. The adaptation was slated to come to theaters on the 12th of January, and as a devoted, self proclaimed, Mean Girls superfan, I purchased tickets when the trailer came out. 

In the trailer, we notice that Regina (this time around portrayed by pop upstart Renée Rapp) and the Plastics (Bebe Wood as Gretchen, Avantika as Karen, and Angourie Rice in Lohan’s starring role) as a whole are sporting vastly different looks than the original. But this is not an innately bad thing (though some internetff commenters have noted that their “new and improved” outfits looked cheap and disappointing). TikTok user @Vivrelle griped, “in the original version the [P]lastics are so much more slay [… In the original movie] these fits would not do.” But the new film is not a remake of the original, it’s an adaptation set in 2024, a time where high schoolers feel less tied to convention than in the past. The Plastics are not dressed as uniformly as in the original as fashion as a whole is not as uniform as it was twenty years ago!

There has been quite a bit of outcry online that the new film has not been marketed as a musical. I cannot help but wonder how people didn’t know this crucial fact. The trailer had characters dancing in campy ensembles, and a musical note appears in the letter A of the ‘MEAN GIRLS’ title typeface. If you were to Google the film, as one does, it pops up categorized as a ‘Comedy/Musical’. Multiple trailers had snippets of songs from the film. So I have to speculate as to why it was such a large issue for so many that the trailer did not explicitly mention that the film was a musical. Context clues, everyone!

The film is an adaptation of the Broadway musical version of the original Mean Girls movie, all written by the same person, Tina Fey. In 2014, Fey revealed to the New York Times that Mean Girls was inspired and partly based on a 2002 parenting book, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, which focused on helping parents understand the cliques their children navigate in high school.  

The cast is star-studded, with singer Rapp reprising her role of Regina George from the musical on Broadway, the voice of Disney’s Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, playing Janis, The Summer I Turned Pretty’s Christopher Briney playing Aaron, and of course, Tina Fey and Tim Meadows reprising their roles as Ms. Norbury and Mr. Duvall. (Fun fact: Meadows is the only actor to play the same character in all three Mean Girls movies! Yes, there was a Mean Girls sequel and no, you never saw it!)

The original movie depicted situations described in the book which most teen girls found relatable at the time: cliquish behavior, peer pressure, conformity as a pathway to popularity; but as time has moved on, teenage girls today no longer view Mean Girls through the same lens. Social media and cyberbullying have shifted the way teenagers interact, and so the film itself had to reflect the social changes of the intervening 20 years. The 2024 adaptation of Mean Girls manages to encapsulate the modern teenage experience in a way that does not seem forced or over the top like other films which include social media as a touchstone. 

The original Mean Girls is not known for being the most woke—and neither is the 2024 adaptation. If you try to make a completely non-problematic Mean Girls, you would have little more than the title screen and credits, although the adaptation fixed some outdated ideas found in the original. For example, Coach Carr no longer hooks up with students, Janis is an actual lesbian and not “just Lebanese,” and Cady moves to Illinois from Kenya, rather than the continent of Africa. The 2024 film is also scrubbed clean of dated language and dated jokes. None of these fixes felt forced or cringey, in fact, they fit right in with the modernized storyline.

The initial scene of the movie sets the tone— a vertical frame of Janis and Damian being filmed on a smartphone. This tells audiences two things, the story is narrated by Janis and Damion this time around—not Cady—and that the film will be utilizing modern technology and social media to tell the story. The ladder is evident in the way that Regina goes viral, gets a TikTok filter after the viral moment, and has legions of followers looking up to her beyond North Shore High. Social media is not glamorized in the film though; Regina’s downfall also goes viral on TikTok, and the Burn Book gets posted on social media rather than printed out. In the early 2000s, it took a few periods of the school day for students to learn that Amber D’Alessio made out with a hotdog. In 2024, the Burn Book bombshells are instantaneously available, showcasing the reality of being a teenager in the modern day. 

The musical aspect of the film adds some comedy lacking from the original with updated references. When Damion sings a sad French song for the talent show, Mr. Duvall thanks him for singing the ICarly theme song in French, referencing a show that aired after the first film was released. At another point, Tina Fey opens her mouth to sing–the inside joke that she’s not a singer is played off when she makes a choking noise, knowingly toying with the audience.

The film accomplished what it needed to while staying true to the heart of the original. Obviously, the 2024 version was not as fetch as the original (how can you improve on a classic?), but the jokes were funny, the songs were catchy, the cast was perfect, the necessary homages were present. I adequately enjoyed the adaptation of the classic I’ve long been a fan of. 

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