That’s Still Fetch – Mean Girls Turns 10

As we here at GWW reflected on the Red Sox fantastic 2013 campaign, we realized that October 2014 will mark ten years since our beloved BoSox broke the Curse in the fateful fall of 2004. As a result, we felt old. In an attempt to feel even older, we will from time to time remember other favorites celebrating their tin anniversary in 2014. Remember, the next ten years could be even better, but don’t get your hopes up.


This is a special one.  Mean Girls came out April 30th, 2004.  Wow.

I have a particular, peculiar fond memory of Mean Girls, so please allow me this brief interlude.  I was a young man, hormone-addled, of negligible income and not of legal age to be driving.  A delightful, awkward, confusing time called ‘the early teen years.’  Many will relate to those days of yester-year, being dropped off by parents at a movie theater some evening, convinced to some puberty-madness conclusion that this action was similar to ‘goin’ out’ on a Friday night.  I have seen Mean Girls more times than I am willing to count, but my first time seeing the movie was one such night out on the town.  Armed with popcorn & Icee money, my two friends and I set out to see a movie.  I do not recall going opening weekend, and the movies out at the time (the underrated Man on FireKill Bill Volume 2, or the entertaining Tom Jane-starring The Punisher) lend me to believe we wandered in thinking we had several movies to consider.  How we ended up seeing Mean Girls, I can honestly no longer say.  To venture a guess, it had something to do with us being adolescent boys and the movie starring some very attractive young women.  We can add to that the SNL pedigree of Lorne Michaels & Tina Fey, or the premise of a wild high school romp tickling our teeny imaginations, if you so choose.  However, this was early-2000’s Lindsay Lohan, so you must remember that was an impressive draw back before she started looking like a doll from Sid’s backyard in Toy Story.  No matter what, we had no assumptions for what was to follow.  

We sauntered into the theater somewhat early and, as experienced movie-goers, picked seats in the upper level, not quite all the way back, near center, surrounded at that point by a handful of other eager viewers.  What followed has cemented itself in my memory as some surreal (scout’s honor, only slightly) hyperbolic absurdity.  Woman after woman, girl after girl began to stream in.  Mothers and daughters, besties, frenemies, college girls, middle schoolers, females of all ages trickled in.  As the pre-previews for crappy cars and soon-to-be cancelled TV shows wrapped up, we began to look around and realized:  We were the only males in the theater, and the theater was PACKED.  When I say only, and I say this with all sincerity, save for a handful of friend-zoners, confused boyfriends and significant others, the theater was 98% female.  And those around us noticed.  What the hell were 3 teenage boys doing smack-dab in the middle of this theater?  The lights dimmed, and the previews began.  Whispering, we wondered, wide-eyed, what have we done?  Are we in the wrong theater?  We had come to get AWAY from our mothers and sisters.  We thought Lindsay was… er… charming?  How could we, of such refined comedic tastes, be settling down to watch the same movie as a room full of women (we were 12 or whatever, cut me some slack on the adolescent sexism)?  This could not end well.  These feelings of unease quickly disappeared.  What followed, as many of a certain age bracket all know to some degree, was one of the most iconic, most quotable, frighteningly-accurate (to many parents), internet-fueling, rewatchable, enjoyable movies of my lifetime.

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With a few horrified mothers’ exceptions, the theater was uproarious.  Equally terrifying and enlightening me to some extent on the minefield and mindset the fairer sex navigates in high school, Mean Girls was and forever will be one of my favorite movies.  This silly preamble means to convey to you, dear reader, the fullest of contexts for the following thoughts.  In every decade, every town, every city, for all genders, in all walks of life and in different ways, high school can be ruthless – that’s part of the enduring legacy of this movie.  It just so happens the movie came at a time when this was especially relevant to me as I ascended into that teenage jungle.

 

Mean Girls is an important movie in many ways.  While the general concept – new kid in high school – serves as nothing new, the sharply-written movie was an ingenious update for many of the time.  The characters feel like real people in high school (granted somewhat caricaturized).  Maybe everyone’s not so “Hollywood pretty,” but the dialogue smacks of reality.  The relationships feel genuine, the problems and conflicts, while sometimes comically overblown to serve as gags, relatable.  The movie spoke with the snarky, sardonic voice of a rising internet generation.  And good lord is it funny.

The high schoolers portrayed are the main draw, but only scratch the surface of a wonderfully written social satire for all who have passed through schools.  The jokes also continue to hit home with an amusing adult (sometimes-skewering) cast.  Amy Poehler’s disturbingly spot-on ‘cool mom’ stands out in many ways, but Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer and The Janitor Neil Flynn round out an equally amusing adult cast in supporting roles, filling out an all-around well constructed movie.
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For not only does Mean Girls elicit guffaws, I see the movie as a great story, in a storytelling sense.  Every time I watch the whole thing through, there’s a nice sense to it, like when you finish reading a really good book with a good ending.  Or have a perfectly filling dessert after a tasty meal.  Maybe I’m reaching, but I credit Tina Fey (who wrote the screenplay) and Rosalind Wiseman (who wrote the book the film is based on) with writing a satisfying narrative.  We all know that is not always the case with any movie, let alone one adapted from the page.

 

I could stop there, but Mean Girls sticks out for further, more complex reasons off the silver screen as well.  The timing of the film coincided with a blossoming internet culture for the target demographic, and one need only to peruse Tumblr or StumbleUpon to see proof of the film’s infinite online legacy.  Even out of context, quotes from Mean Girls are highly amusing (a favorite example).  The legacy and timing of the internet’s rapid and wild social expansion also serves as an alarming heads up for the rise in, well, meanness for the following years among youth.  So while this post is meant to serve as fond remembrance, I also point to the film as ahead of its time in a sense.  I know many parents who were shocked by what they assumed was utterly ridiculous awfulness of high school kids.  Sadly, Mean Girls was only the tip of the iceberg for adolescent bullying and mistreatment, as high school in the increasingly online world only expanded with another forum for meanness.  So while funny because it is true, the movie is frightening for the same reason.

 

Alarming, hilarious, poignant and surprisingly accurate, the movie will no doubt withstand the test of time on the film’s merit alone.  While the typical high school experience likely falls somewhere in between High School Musical and HeathersMean Girls has a place firmly on any list I’d make of ‘movies to see’ – for reasons both cinematic and cultural.  Some of you still probably have a lot of feelings.  I think we all thought ‘fetch‘ would eventually happen.  We all know someone as smooth as Kevin GMathlete/Badass MC. And you still go, Glen Coco*.

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*Please take a moment and take a gander at this letter from Mean Girls actor Daniel Franzese, who played Damian.  The movie will live on for many special reasons, none the least of which is Damian.  A proud gay character ahead of his time, Franzese (who also was hysterical in his part in a Party Down episode) writes a note to Damian for his own coming out.  It’s well written and cool and sorta meta and only serves to cement the impact of the movie in a broader cultural sense for many.  You go, Dan Franzese.  (Letter highlighted by an EW interview)

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About Author: Will McMahon

Will has eclectic movie, television and music tastes. He likes Batman, horror movies and Mark Ruffalo. Has seen every episode of 'The O.C.' at least twice, so take him with a large grain of salt. Accomplished beard grower. Bad movie enthusiast. Lyrical genius. Some have said he is a real-life version of Nick Miller from 'New Girl.' No word on whether or not this is a compliment.

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