Study Guide

Mean Girls Quotes

  • Society and Class

    CADY: Hi, I don't know if anyone told you about me. I'm a new student here. My name is Cady Heron.

    KRISTEN: Talk to me again and I'll kick your ass.

    Welcome back to America, Cady. This is literally first interaction with another North Shore student that we see, and it's a doozy that sets the social tone.

    CADY: Where's the back building?

    JANIS: It burned down in 1987.

    CADY: Won't we get in some sort of trouble for this?

    JANIS: Why would we get you into trouble? We're your friends.

    CADY (V-O): I know it's wrong to skip class, but Janis said we were friends, and I was in no position to pass up friends. I guess I'll never know what I missed on that first day of health class.

    We can't blame Cady for wanting to avoid eating lunch in a bathroom stall for the next four years straight. High school is a hot mess of tribalism, and when Janis and Damian invite Cady to join theirs, she can't pass it up.

    CADY: Who are The Plastics?

    DAMIAN: They're teen royalty. If North Shore was US Weekly, they would always be on the cover.

    […]

    JANIS: And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don't be fooled, because she may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing, slut-faced ho-bag, but in reality, she is so much more than that.

    DAMIAN: She's the queen bee, the star. Those other two are just her little workers.

    Janis and Damian do a good job here of explaining The Plastics' place at the top of North Shore's class system to Cady. Regina rules all, and Gretchen and Karen are her loyal henchwomen.

    EMMA: Regina George is flawless.

    LEA: She has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus.

    TIM: I hear her hair's insured for $10,000.

    AMBER: I hear she does car commercials in Japan.

    KRISTEN: Her favorite movie is Varsity Blues.

    GISELLE: One time, she met John Stamos on a plane.

    JESSICA: And he told her she was pretty.

    BETHANY: One time, she punched me in the face. It was awesome.

    We told you Regina was the queen. Not only is she admired—and, okay, feared—by her classmates, that admiration is fueled almost entirely by rumors and speculation. Damian's US Weekly analogy earlier in the film was spot-on: Because Regina's at the top of social order, she's treated like a celebrity.

    JANIS: Here. This map is gonna be your guide to North Shore. Now, where you sit is crucial because you got everybody there. You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, JV jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don't eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you'll ever meet, and the worst. Beware of The Plastics.

    If you want to know how the cliques shake out at just about any high school in the developed world, all you need to do is take a stroll through the cafeteria. Like Janis says, everybody's there, making the cafeteria so much more than a palace of free pickles and cheese fries; it's the place to see and be seen.

    CADY: I think I'm joining the Mathletes.

    REGINA: No!

    GRETCHEN: No, no.

    REGINA: No, no. You cannot do that. That's social suicide. Damn, you are so lucky you have us to guide you.

    North Shore societal norms are dictated by public opinion, even if the public doesn't always make the best choices and lacks the experience to differentiate between what's really valuable and what isn't. In other words, they're teenagers. They think wearing the right cargo pants is more important than being awesome at math.

    CADY (V-O): Being at Old Orchard Mall kind of reminded me of being in Africa, by the watering hole, when the animals are in heat.
    Cady's parents may be research zoologists, but as the new kid at North Shore—and at high school, in general—Cady's forced into the role of anthropologist. The North Shore culture has its own mating rituals and customs, like hanging out at Old Orchard, for starters.

    Cady's parents may be research zoologists, but as the new kid at North Shore—and at high school, in general—Cady's forced into the role of anthropologist. The North Shore culture has its own mating rituals and customs, like hanging out at Old Orchard, for starters.

    CADY (V-O): The weird thing about hanging out with Regina was that I could hate her and, at the same time, I still wanted her to like me. Same with Gretchen. The meaner Regina was to her, the more Gretchen tried to win Regina back. She knew it was better to be in The Plastics, hating life, than to not be in at all. Because being with The Plastics was like being famous. People looked at you all the time, and everybody just knew stuff about you.

    All of this is a long way of saying that, in high school, it's way easier to be in the "in" crowd. You can rest easy behind a layer of social protection. Nobody picks on you. You always have a prom date, and you never have to eat lunch in the bathroom.

    GRETCHEN: Maybe we're not in that book because everybody likes us, and I don't want to be punished for being well-liked. And I don't think my father, the inventor of toaster strudel, would be too pleased to hear about this.

    Oh, snap; Gretchen played the rich dad card. That's because, in high school, just like everywhere else, sadly, wealth equals power. Nobody wants to be like Gretchen and her fellow Plastics because they're kind or smart or really good at Mario Kart; they want to be like them because they wear the latest trends, live in huge houses, and drive expensive cars.

    CADY: Well, half the people in this room are mad at me, and the other half only like me because they think I pushed somebody in front of a bus. So that's not good.

    DUVALL: You know, it's not really required of you to make a speech.

    CADY: I'm almost done; I swear. To all the people whose feelings that got hurt by the Burn Book, I'm really sorry. You know, I've never been to one of these things before, and when I think about how many people wanted this—

    Cady takes off her Spring Fling Queen tiara.

    CADY: And how many people cried over it and stuff… I mean, I think everybody looks like royalty tonight. Look at Jessica Lopez. That dress is amazing. And Emma Gerber: I mean, that hairdo must have taken hours, and you look really pretty. So why is everybody stressing over this thing? I mean, it's just plastic. Could really just—

    Cady breaks the tiara into pieces.

    CADY: Share it. A piece for Gretchen Wieners, a partial Spring Fling Queen. A piece for Janis Ian.
    DUVALL: Seriously. Most people just take the crown and go.
    CADY: And a piece for Regina George. She fractured her spine, and she still looks like a rock star. And some for everybody else.

    First of all, we should point out that Mr. Duvall's interjections are a subversion of the "big speech at the dance" movie trope. They're acknowledging that it's weird that Cady's giving this big speech about what the movie's about while she's accepting her Spring Fling Queen title.

    About that speech, though…Cady's sharing with the rest of the Spring Flingers what she's learned over the course of the school year: cliques are bogus. Ditto for trying hard to be popular. Cady's realized that, instead of trying to be something that she's not in order to shoehorn herself into North Shore society, she's better off just being herself.

  • Identity

    CADY: I know what you're thinking. Home-schooled kids are freaks…or that we're weirdly religious or something…but my family's totally normal, except for the fact that both my parents are research zoologists and we spent the last twelve years in Africa. I had a great life, but then my mom got offered tenure at Northwestern University, so it was goodbye Africa, and hello high school.

    Cady starts off the movie self-aware and levelheaded, as seen by the fact that she immediately shoots down the stereotypes that usually accompany kids who are home-schooled. She also establishes that she's had a unique upbringing, and we can be pretty sure that that's going to influence her decisions, interactions, and experiences going forward.

    JANIS: Cady, there are two kinds of evil people: people who do evil stuff, and people who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it.

    Life is full of big decisions like this. What you choose helps shape your identity. Just ask Darth Vader.

    JANIS: I love seeing teachers outside of school. It's like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.

    Ignoring the fact that teachers have actual lives outside of the classroom is a practice as old as the teaching profession itself. Because they're so close to their job, it's easy to zero in on that, and only that, slice of their identity.

    CADY: You're not stupid, Karen.

    KAREN: No. I am, actually. I'm failing almost everything.

    CADY: Well, there must be something you're good at.

    […]

    KAREN: I'm kind of psychic. I have a fifth sense.

    Karen's identity revolves around the fact that she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so it's kind of shocking, and even a little bit sad, when we learn that she's aware of it, and still doesn't seem to want anything more out of life than to be Plastic. That's also why it's so cool to see her using her "fifth sense" to do the morning weather reports at the end of the film.

    CADY: I pretended to be bad at math so that you'd help me, but the thing is, I'm not really bad at math. I'm actually really good at math. You're kind of bad at math. Anyways, now I'm failing. Isn't that funny?

    AARON: Wait. You're failing on purpose? That's stupid.

    CADY: No, not on purpose. Just, you know, I just wanted a reason to talk to you.

    AARON: So why didn't you just talk to me?

    CADY: Well, because I couldn't. Because of Regina. Because you were her, her property—

    AARON: Her property?

    CADY: No. Shut up. Not her property—

    Two things here: first, Aaron's exactly right. It's way lame that Cady pretends to be bad at math in order to talk to Aaron. For starters, if he's bad at math, why couldn't she just offer to tutor him, right? Second, Aaron's still right: Cady is acting like a clone of Regina here, right down to telling him to shut up. She thinks acting dumb and mouthing off is the way to attract Aaron, and she's super-duper wrong.

    CADY: You know I couldn't invite you. I had to pretend to be Plastic.

    JANIS: Hey, buddy, you're not pretending anymore. You're plastic. Cold, shiny, hard Plastic.

    Janis and Cady's fight in the street is a wake-up call for Cady. She has turned to Plastic. She dresses like them. She talks like them. She's self-centered like them. She's not doing Plastics sabotage anymore; she's just hanging out with her fellow Plastics—and leaving Janis and Damian in the dust.

    JANIS: See, that is the thing with you Plastics. You think that everybody is in love with you, when actually, everybody hates you. Like Aaron Samuels, for example. He broke up with Regina and guess what: He still doesn't want you. So why are you still messing with Regina, Cady? I'll tell you why. Because you are a mean girl! You're a b****!

    Preach, Janis! Cady's in denial that she's a Plastic because, underneath that haze of hairspray and lip gloss, the kindhearted, levelheaded girl that we met at the beginning of the movie is still in there, and she knows that the Plastics are awful.

    CADY'S MOM: This is the fertility vase of the Ndebele tribe. Does that mean anything to you?

    CADY: No.

    CADY'S MOM: Who are you??

    After half the school thinks Cady threw Regina in front of a bus, we're pretty sure Cady's asking herself that, too.

    CADY'S DAD: Maybe you should come back and be home-schooled again for a while.

    CADY: No, the only thing worse than going back would be not going back.

    CADY'S DAD: How bad's it gonna be tomorrow?

    CADY: Remember when we saw those lions fighting over the wart hog carcass? I'll be the wart hog.

    CADY'S DAD: You're not a wart hog. You're a lion.

    Dad's right. She's a lion, and the fact that she realizes she has to suck it up and show her face at North Shore is the first step toward Plastics rehabilitation.

    NORBURY: Well, you didn't write that whole book yourself. Did you tell Mr. Duvall who else did it?

    CADY: No, because I'm trying this new thing where I don't talk about people behind their backs.

    AARON: That's all right. Getting hit by a bus is pretty good punishment.

    NORBURY: 94.

    AARON: Welcome back, nerd.

    That's our girl. Aceing her calculus quiz and not being a gossip. When Aaron welcomes Cady back, he isn't just welcoming her back to total math class domination. Grool.

    CADY: I had gone from home-schooled jungle freak to shiny Plastic to most hated person in the world to actual human being. All the drama from last year just wasn't important anymore. School used to be like a shark tank, but now I could just float. Finally, Girl World was at peace.

    By the end of the film, Cady's settled into a comfortable identity: she's just herself. Her "new student" sheen has worn off and the implosion of the Plastics also destroyed North Shore's network of cliques. She's embraced the worldview of international spiritual leader Mary J. Blige: "No more drama, no more drama."

  • Power

    CADY: This is your room?

    REGINA: It was my parents' room, but I made them trade me.

    We don't even want to know how Regina managed to bully her parents into giving up the master suite.

    REGINA: I mean, I don't care; do whatever you want, but let me just tell you something about Aaron: all he cares about is school and his mom and his friends.

    CADY: Is that bad?

    It's bad if you're Regina and it means that Aaron doesn't put you before everything and everyone else in his life, which means that your powers don't fully work on him.

    GRETCHEN: If you even knew how mean she really is. You know that I'm not allowed to wear hoop earrings, right? Yeah. Two years ago, she told me that hoop earrings were her thing, and that I wasn't allowed to wear them anymore. And then for Hanukkah, my parents got me this pair of really expensive white-gold hoops. And I had to pretend like I didn't even like them, and it was so sad.

    The fact that Gretchen would go to these extremes to please Regina illustrates the crazy-tight hold that Regina has over her minions—and that she's a terrible, terrible friend.

    KAREN: You wanna do something fun? You wanna go to Taco Bell?

    REGINA: I can't go to Taco Bell. I'm on an all-carb diet. God, Karen. You are so stupid!

    GRETCHEN: Regina, wait. Talk to me.

    Regina runs out of the room. Gretchen follows her.

    REGINA: Nobody understands me.

    GRETCHEN: I understand you.

    This exchange, where Gretchen literally follows Regina out of the room, does a tidy job of summing up their relationship. Gretchen will follow Regina to the ends of the earth to get her approval.

    CADY (V-O): I had learned to control everyone around me.

    She taps Aaron on the shoulder.

    CADY: Hey. I'm having a small get-together at my house tomorrow night.

    AARON: Is Regina going?

    CADY: No. Do you think I'm an idiot? No, it's just gonna be a few cool people, and you better be one of them, biotch.

    AARON: Fine, I'll go.

    CADY: Shut up. I love that shirt on you.

    Yeesh. Cady's turned into a clone of Regina at this point, not just because she's using obnoxious expressions like "biotch" and "shut up," but because, by her own admission, she's learned to control everyone around her.

    REGINA: She think she's gonna have a party and not invite me? Who does she think she is?

    SHANE: You're right, hon.

    REGINA: I, like, invented her, you know what I mean?

    This is as close as we get to Regina admitting the extent of her power—and her intent to manipulate people—in the movie. She thinks she deserves for Cady's personality, popularity, everything. She's like North Shore's Dr. Frankenstein but with more expensive shoes.

    DUVALL: Now what the young ladies in this grade need is an attitude makeover, and you're gonna get it right now. I don't care how long it takes. I will keep you here all night.

    JOAN THE SECRETARY: We can't keep them past 4:00.

    DUVALL: I will keep you here until 4:00.

    The faculty at North Shore—Mr. Duvall, in particular—don't hold nearly as much as power as the students do in Mean Girls.

    CADY: I'm sorry.

    NORBURY: I forgive you, but as my own personal form of punishment, I figured out how you're gonna earn that extra credit.

    KEVIN: Wassup.

    Ms. Norbury uses her power both as a teacher and as a person for whom Cady has respect in order to get what she wants: a Mathletes State Championship.

    CADY'S MOM: Where's Cady?

    CADY'S DAD: She went out.

    CADY'S MOM: She's grounded.

    CADY'S DAD: Are they not allowed out when they're grounded?

    It's not just the North Shore faculty who are powerless in Mean Girls; the parents are all ineffective, too. Well, maybe not Gretchen's dad, the inventor of toaster strudel, but we don't ever meet him.

    CADY (V-O) Miss Caroline Krafft seriously needed to pluck her eyebrows. Her outfit looked like it was picked out by a blind Sunday school teacher, and she had some 99-cent lip gloss on her snaggletooth. And that's when I realized, making fun of Caroline Krafft wouldn't stop her from beating me in this contest…Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George's life definitely didn't make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.

    Looks like our girl Cady's having an epiphany here: Manipulating, and just generally being a jerk to, other people doesn't give you power. It just makes you a manipulative jerk.

  • Women and Femininity

    HUGE GUY: Nice wig, Janis. What's it made of? 


    JANIS: Your mom's chest hair!

    Janis's edgy style makes her stand out like a sore thumb at North Shore, and makes her a target of barbs like this one. At North Shore, like most high schools, appearance is everything, and girls aren't supposed to dress like Janis.

    GRETCHEN: You can't wear a tank-top two days in a row, and you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week. So, I guess you picked today. Oh, and we only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays. Now, if you break any of these rules, you can't sit with us at lunch. I mean, not just you; like, any of us. Okay, like, if I was wearing jeans today, I would be sitting over there with the art freaks.

    Cut to Janis and Damian. She's putting cold cuts on his face, and he's doing an impression of Sloth from The Goonies.

    GRETCHEN: Oh, and we also vote before we ask someone to eat lunch with us because you have to be considerate of the rest of the group. Well, I mean, you wouldn't buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you.

    CADY: I wouldn't?

    Look, we're not saying that society's treatment and expectations of women is to blame for this totally bananas conversation, but can you see Aaron and his soccer teammates having a conversation and litany of superficial rules like this?

    Okay, so maybe we are saying Western culture's conduct towards women is to blame, at least in part, for the crazypants nature of "Girl World."

    GRETCHEN: Ex-boyfriends are just off-limits to friends. I mean, that's just, like, the rules of feminism.

    Nope.

    REGINA: Get in, loser. We're going shopping.

    CADY (V-O): Regina's like the Barbie doll I never had. I'd never seen anybody so glamorous.

    That glamor is a huge part of Regina's appeal—to almost everybody. She's viewed by much of the North Shore student body as the feminine ideal because she's attractive, popular, rich, and hard-to-obtain. Even Damian concedes earlier in the movie that, "She's fabulous, but she's evil."

    MRS. GEORGE: Just want you to know, if you need anything, don't be shy, okay? There are no rules in this house. I'm not like a regular mom. I'm a cool mom. Right, Regina?

    
REGINA: Please stop talking.

    MRS. GEORGE: Okay.

    Ironically, a "cool" mom is the thing Regina seems to need least. It seems like she could really use a positive female role model and a mom who's more interested in helping her grow into a adult instead of buying her stuff.

    KAREN: God, my hips are huge!

    GRETCHEN: Oh, please. I hate my calves.

    REGINA: At least you guys can wear halters. I've got man shoulders.

    CADY (V-O): I used to think there was just fat and skinny. Apparently, there's a lot of things that can be wrong on your body.

    Cady's unique position as an outsider to American culture—and especially how it routinely teaches women to devalue themselves and each other—allows her to move through the North Shore student body. It makes the movie's plot possible.

    CADY (V-O): In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears. Unfortunately, no one told me about the slut rule, so I showed up like this. Cady walks into the party in a bloody wedding dress with gnarly fake teeth and a long black wig. Everybody thinks she's hideous, terrifying, or both.

    Cady's Halloween costume further cements her as an outsider who's able to view the social jungle at North Shore with fresh eyes. The idea of wearing lingerie and some mouse ears as a "costume" seems ridiculous to her, but totes familiar to the movie's audience. It also demonstrates how women are sexualized at every turn. Even holidays about candy corn.

    CADY: Gretchen thinks you're mad at her because she's running for Spring Fling Queen.

    REGINA: Oh, my God. I'm not mad at her. I'm worried about her. I think somebody nominated her as a joke or something, and when nobody votes for her, she's gonna have a total meltdown. And who's gonna have to take care of her? Me.

    CADY: So you don't think anyone will vote for her?

    REGINA: Cady, she's not pretty. I mean, that sounds bad, but whatever. The Spring Fling Queen is always pretty, and the crazy thing is is that it should be Karen, but people forget about her because she's such a slut.

    When Ms. Norbury refers to "girl-on-girl crime" at the junior girls assembly later in the film, this is what she's talking about. These are Regina's friends she's talking about. Ouch.

    NORBURY: Well, I don't know who wrote this book, but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.

    Preach! If that whole P.J. Calamity's thing doesn't work out, Ms. Norbury could have a meaningful career as a women's retreat leader.

    MATHLETE MODERATOR: North Shore, who do you select?

    TIM: The girl, dude. The girl.

    KEVIN: Contestant Krafft.

    MATHLETE MODERATOR: From Marymount, Miss Caroline Krafft.

    MARYMOUNT CAPTAIN: We pick the girl, too.

    Even at an academic competition, women are treated as less than their male counterparts. Both teams assume "the girl" is the weakest player solely because of her gender. Not cool.