Study Guide

Mean Girls Society and Class

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.

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