Study Guide

Mean Girls Introduction

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Mean Girls Introduction

Release Year: 2004

Genre: Comedy

Director: Mark Waters

Writer: Tina Fey

Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese

Mental exercise: picture your high school cafeteria. Now, pick a seat.

Where did you land? Guzzling protein shakes with your fellow jocks? Trash-talking over Settlers of Catan with the rest of the nerds? In the back, with the lunch ladies, because of the free creamed corn and helpful advice? Wedged between your fellow art freaks?

The point is, everybody has their clique.

Mean Girls is all about the trials and tribulations of high school tribalism. (Go ahead. Say that ten times fast.) When Cady Heron enrolls at North Shore High after being homeschooled in Africa by her research zoologist parents for her entire life, she quickly discovers that high school and the African savanna aren't that different from one another: it's kill or be killed, and where you sit in the cafeteria is key to your survival.

Written by Saturday Night Live star Tina Fey and directed by Mark Waters (Freaky Friday) on a production budget of $17 million, Mean Girls hit theaters on April 30th, 2004. The female-fronted high school comedy was a surprise smash hit, raking in $24.4 million in its opening weekend. It would go on to gross over $129 million worldwide and give a hearty bump to the careers of all then women involved, from Fey to stars Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan, and Amanda Seyfried (source).

Mean Girls was queen bee at the box office because teen audiences—especially the girls—saw themselves and their classmates on the big screen. Even better, they saw their high school's treacherous social hierarchy and rules for popularity get dissected and destroyed by the film's clever satire.

And Mean Girls not only gets that high school is a battlefield of cliques, with hidden rules lurking like land mines. This movie exposes those land mines, and gives us—whether we're still in the trenches of high school or still reeling from it, thirty years later—hope that things get better.

But it's not all hardened battlefield wisdom. This movie has a heart of gold lurking under its grizzled exterior. It'll make you feel warm n' fuzzy, it'll have you quoting along and—this one's a gimme, seeing as how it's written by Tina Fey—have you rolling in the aisles.

Whether you're a band geek, a theater kid, a junior varsity cheerleader or a Mathlete, no one's immune to this movie's hilarity.

What is Mean Girls About and Why Should I Care?

Four words: Mean Girls transformed entertainment.

Mean Girls showed that female-centric comedies featuring three-dimensional women who don't talk about dudes 24/7 can make money and affect pop culture—and girl, did Mean Girls affect pop culture.

What sets Mean Girls apart from most films with a female lead is that Cady's surrounded by other women instead of being a cardboard cutout, "independent woman" trying to show the guys that she belongs in their clique/workplace/sport/et cetera times infinity.

She isn't noble or determined; she's just Cady, a high school junior who wants what high school juniors want (popularity) and who messes up like high school juniors mess up (frequently).

And the female characters surrounding Cady all have depth, too…except maybe Karen.

This is the Remix

Even today, when certain things in Mean Girls are super-outdatedKelis' "Milkshake," the idea of a physical Burn Book, or those very turn-of-the-millennial fashion choices—people are still in love withthis movie. There's a Mean Girls musical, Buzzfeed regularly runs lists titled "Ways Mean Girls Would Be Different If It Were Set in [Insert Year Here]," and every anniversary of Mean Girls' premiere is marked with thinkpieces galore.

On top of being female-driven and flat-out funny, Mean Girls is also highly relatable. That's a potent combo—and the reason why Mean Girls developed one of the very first online fandoms. It's immeasurably quotable, and those lines, penned by Tina Fey, are applicable in a never-ending stream of situations.

Phrases that didn't exist before 2004—"You go, Glen Coco!" "That's why her hair is so big—it's full of secrets!" "Stop trying to make fetch happen," and "On Wednesdays, we wear pink!" to name only a few—suddenly were applicable to a variety of situations.

The movie's themes are so universal that Mean Girls quotes even appeared on images that have nothing to do with being a high-schooler in 2004—they've been slapped on everything from The Hunger Games to Kim Jong-Un.

The movie doesn't just have a sweeping online fandom; it gave birth to the double fandom, too, which is what happens when you stick a Mean Girls quote on a still from Harry Potter. In other words, Mean Girls is the mother of remix culture.


Amanda Seyfried was almost cast as Regina. Fortunately, director Mark Water's "fifth sense" kicked in and he realized she'd be better as Karen. (Source)

Amy Poehler (Mrs. George) taught Rajiv Surendra (Kevin Gnapoor) how to rap and even taught him some smooth (?) dance moves. (Source)

Rachel McAdams (Regina) is only seven years younger than her onscreen mom, Amy Poehler. Maybe that's why Mrs. George is so desperate to be Plastic.

Yeah, probably not. (Source)

Mean Girls Resources


The Official Mean Girls Twitter
The best social media to celebrate Mean Girls day.

Mean Girls at the Internet Movie Database
If you've been dying to know who played Sun Jin Dinh or how many stuntmen and women it takes to make a high school comedy, IMDb is one-stop shopping.

The Official Mean Girls Website
Predictably, there's not much to the movie's website, but we feel like the inventor of toaster strudel wouldn't be too pleased if we ignored it.

Book or TV Adaptations

Mean Girls: A Novel
Micol Ostow's book is touted as a retelling of the film, with loads of bonus content. We're just going to assume that means aliens. Maybe a dance battle or two.

Mean Girls 2
This stand-alone sequel is every bit as good as you'd expect from a made-for-TV movie that stars exactly one of the original film's stars.

Articles and Interviews

"EW's Mean Girls Reunion: The Cast Looks Back on the 2004 Hit"
The movie's major players collaborate on an oral history of the movie, including what they think the characters would be up to now.

"Why Mean Girls Still Matters, 10 Years Later"
We're going hard on the ten year-anniversary tip here, but that's just because anniversaries have a way of making people all introspective and stuff.

Totally Hollywood video interview with the cast
Mean Girls' stars show off their plot synopsizing skills and reminisce about their own experience with mean girls.

Lindsay Lohan on Ellen
Find out if the Lohans' pronounce it "LO-han" or "Lo-in." Spoiler alert: They don't all agree.

"Mean Girls' Director Mark Waters Spills 10 Juicy Stories, 10 Years Later"
Waters dispels rumors and dishes on how Amanda Seyfried (Karen) was almost Regina.

"Why Mean Girls is a Classic"
Spoiler alert: A lot of it is Lindsay Lohan.

Lindsay Lohan on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Lohan takes a break from Saturday Night Live rehearsals to promote Mean Girls.


The Trailer
Paramount Pictures wants you to go back to school.

Meeting the Plastics
If this whole high school thing doesn't pan out, Regina could always make it as a police interrogator.

Cady Goes Primal
When Regina dangles Aaron in front of Cady, Cady goes animal-style—and we're not talking about In-N-Out burgers.

Sweatpants on Monday
Turns out, when Regina breaks the rules, the rules aren't real.

Girls Gone Wild
The Burn Book sends the junior girls into WWE caliber brawl.

Mean Girls Blooper Reel
Make your prediction for who breaks the most before you hit "Play."

Deleted Scene – School Dance Bathroom
Regina makes peace with Cady. Because she's on a lot of painkillers.


The Mean Girls Score
Which composer does Rolfe Kent's score remind you of, and why is it Danny Elfman?

"Built This Way" by Samantha Ronson
Mean Girls' official theme song.


Movie Poster
Is it just us, or do The Plastics have hip issues?

Dude's a Real Class Clown
Director Mark Waters and Lindsay Lohan on set.

Have a Grool Halloween!
Amanda Seyfried, Jonathan Bennett, and Lacey Chabert between takes.

"…And that's how nuclear fission works."
Daniel Franzese, Lizzy Caplan, and Jonathan Bennet relax behind the scenes.

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