This is a special one. Mean Girls came out April 30th, 2004. Wow.
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.
Mean Girlsis 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.
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 Heathers, Mean 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 G, Mathlete/Badass MC. And you still go, Glen Coco*.
*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)