I am not sure if this will become a series, but I am really loving the opportunity to talk about my favourite movies or TV shows, and the lessons we can learn from them. (Spoiler alert: This post will contain some spoilers, but I did try to hold back somewhat.)
It’s October 3rd, so today we are talking about Mean Girls. I personally consider this movie the anthem film of my generation. It captures the high school experience in a funny and witty way, and really breaks down female interpersonal relationships. I could talk about this film from many different angles, but today I would like to discuss my top four girls in the story.
“Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George.”
If you have watched the film, Regina needs no introduction. She’s the top dog, not only within her group, known as “The Plastics,” but the entire school. (The Plastics are featured in the picture above, from left to right, with Gretchen Weiners, Regina George, Cady Heron and Karen Smith.) She has dirt on everyone in her burn book. Her sidekick, Gretchen, has hair full of secrets. Her boyfriend is the envy of all the girls around, and looks really sexy with his hair pushed back. (I’m going to throw in movie references where I can. Bear with me.)
I personally thought that Regina George was like a more seasoned lioness. She had fought her way to the top, and was now enjoying the fruits of her labour. Regina had to be the centre of attention. She would use fear and intimidation to keep her subordinates in line. When Cady came to her school, everyone was fascinated with the new girl. When she understood that Cady could be a threat to her current standing, she decided to befriend the new girl, keeping her friends close and her enemies closer. However, I think if she had chosen to build positive relationships and extend favours to people, they may have been more endeared to her. I also think she greatly underestimated the power of a grudge and secondhand offence.
Lesson from Regina: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
“We gotta crack Gretchen Weiners. We crack Gretchen, and then we crack the lock on Regina’s whole dirty history.”
Janis was literally the dark horse of this movie. I personally think her character is so underrated. Ever since she and Regina stopped being friends in middle school, and Regina spread a rumour about her, Janis’ social standing was all but obliterated. She bounced back and lived through high school on her own terms.
Somehow, when she (Janis) and Damian saw Cady, they saw a chance for comradery and revenge. They quickly befriended the lonely Cady and welcomed her into their group and helped her to find her way in school, all the while pumping her full of information on how to take down The Plastics. I feel like Janis was a rather defeated character in the movie. She is so street-smart, full of life, wit and charisma, but she preferred to isolate herself, judging her classmates from afar. She allowed the pain of rejection to become an armour of sorts. I think the movie is perfect, but it would have been really cool to see Janis form her own crew and work to take down The Plastics herself. I have to give it to Janis though. She gets mad points for subtlety and strategy.
Lessons from Janis: build allies and leverage the power of your network.
“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic.”
Cady was a white girl who lived in Africa all of her life with her missionary parents, and is coming back to America to attend high school. She’s immediately enamoured by Regina and The Plastics, but starts to see how they treat her and others. At the same time, the opportunity to join The Plastics doesn’t come to just anyone. After meeting Janice and Damian, they start to show her how to infiltrate the group and wreak havoc from the inside. Some of their plans include hidden three-way phone conversations, protein bars for weigh gain, and dating a frenemy’s ex-boyfriend.
While everyone crédits Cady for taking down The Plastics, in reflection, I think of Cady as being a beautiful girl in the right place and at the right time. She seemed very easily swayed by Regina and Janice, and really acted as more of a pawn than anything else. That said, she managed to convince everyone around her that she was very friendly, innocent and sweet, when she could really be just has nasty and conniving as everyone else.
Lessons from Cady: Learn from the people around you. Have a friendly, outgoing persona. Strategize like nobody’s business.
“You can’t sit here!”
Ah, Gretchen Weiners: her hair is full of secrets, and her father invented Toaster Strudel. She was the key to taking down The Plastic Empire. When she was validated, and felt valued in the group, she helped to keep all of their high school subjects in line. However, with Regina, Karen, and now Cady, Gretchen started feeling like she was losing her coveted second place. Cady and Janice fed on that fear with their games, and Regina put gas on the fire with her thoughtless cruel words. You could start to see her breaking down during a reading of Julius Caesar (how beautifully ironic, given the plot):
“Why should Caesar 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? Hmm? Brutus is just as good as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar. People totally like Brutus as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about. We should totally just stab Caesar!”
– Gretchen Weiners
Once she reached her breaking point, every hidden secret came to light, faster than you could, say, “That’s so fetch.” To add insult to injury, Regina imposed rules that they all had to follow. At one point, when Janice and Cady tricked Regina into eating too many candy bars, she broke one of her own rules and wore sweatpants to their table. Gretchen was such a stickler for the rules that she famous banished Regina George from her own table.
At the end, with the defeat of The Plastics, each girl is off doing her own thing. Regina joins sports, Karen announces the weather, and Cady is back chilling with Janice and Damien. Not Gretchen though. Gretchen manages to join the cool Asian group, and snags another spot as the second-in-command. They each view Cady with an air of respect.
Personally, Gretchen was always my favourite character. While she was still a Plastic, you could see the good in her. She held the secrets and bided her time. Even after everything fell apart, she found a valuable new network elsewhere.
Lessons from Gretchen: Know your power. Build allies. Always have a backup plan. Keep your hair full of secrets. Move strategically. Don’t let other people get in your head.
Bonus lesson: On Wednesdays, we wear pink.
Have you seen this movie? Who was your favourite character? What did you think of the movie? Are there any other strategies we can learn from the movie? I would love to hear your thoughts.