Study Guide

Mean Girls Themes

  • Society and Class

    In Mean Girls' North Shore cafeteria, it's eat or be eaten—and we're not just talking about the mashed potatoes. There's a well-defined social order, with rules both spoken and unspoken, and cliques at every turn.

    At the tippity-top, we have The Plastics. At the bottom, new kids like Cady. The higher up the hierarchy you are, the more clout you have—and with great power comes great weekend plans, cool clothes, and almost zero personal accountability.

    Questions About Society and Class

    1. How does the class system at North Shore high school mirror the real world? How is it different?
    2. What role does gossip play in a social hierarchy?
    3. How would you describe the social order at your high school? Can you map it out like Janis did for Cady?

    Chew on This

    As a new student—both to North Shore and to American public schooling—Cady is in a unique position that allows her to subvert the North Shore social order in a way that her classmates have been unable or unwilling to before.

    In the high school setting, female social circles are both more powerful and more vicious than male ones.

  • Identity

    High school's hard enough when you haven't spent the past twelve years being home-schooled and hanging out with elephants after class. Socially, Cady's a blank slate when she enrolls at North Shore High School, and she soon finds that it's a minefield of cliques.

    It's up to Cady to figure out who she is and where she belongs…and that's basically the plot of Mean Girls.

    Questions About Identity

    1. At what point do you think Cady becomes fully Plastic? How can you tell?
    2. When Cady, Janis, and Damian carry out their three-part plan against Regina, aren't they being just as evil as she is?
    3. What's going on with Gretchen joining the cool Asians at the end of the movie? Is that surprising? Strange?
    4. Why is Cady drawn to Regina and the Plastics? Is it just the fame, or is there more to it?

    Chew on This

    The message of Mean Girls is that if you want to be happy, be yourself.

    Cady's evolution shows that the North Shore jungle isn't that different from the African jungle.

  • Power

    Sure, it's not as cool as x-ray vision or flight, but the manipulative power Regina George wields in Mean Girls is almost as strong. She gets what she wants.

    At North Shore, social standing is power, and with her rich parents, expensive wardrobe, and shiny ride, Regina is the queen bee—and she knows it. Regina regularly uses her place of power for evil, which sets most of the movie's plot in motion, as Cady leads the revenge plot against Regina, and risks becoming exactly like her in the process.

    Questions About Power

    1. It's clear that Regina's a master manipulator, but why does she do it? What's her motivation for being so mean?
    2. Why are all the adults in this movie so ineffective? Compare and contrast Cady's parents, Regina's mom, and Mr. Duvall.
    3. Gretchen tells Cady that Regina forbid her from wearing hoop earrings. What would you do if one of your friends told you that you couldn't wear what you wanted?

    Chew on This

    Janis was half-right: The junior girls don't love Regina, but they do love what she represents.

    Regina manipulates her classmates because she can't control her parents' splintering marriage.

  • Women and Femininity

    There's a part near the end of Mean Girls when, as the girls of the junior class brawl throughout the halls, Joan the Secretary yells to Mr. Duvall, "Ron, come quick! They've gone wild. The girls have gone wild!"

    Joan: they were wild all along.

    Mean Girls presents a vicious version of womanhood that rings extremely true for, well, pretty much every woman in the Western hemisphere. Its mascots are The Plastics. They're self-centered, they're cutting and cruel and talk so much garbage about their female peers that it literally fills a book. They're also the most popular people in school, the social gold standard, a fact that speaks volumes about the way society at North Shore and beyond values women. Fortunately, that's where Cady comes in, to unintentionally reshape the status quo.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. How are appearance and femininity intertwined in Mean Girls? How does Cady's appearance change as the story progresses, for example?
    2. If The Plastics are so popular, why do they need to maintain a Burn Book? Shouldn't they have better things to do?
    3. How does pop culture contribute to the toxic femininity at North Shore?
    4. Cady tells us that there's peace in Girl World at the end of the movie. How long do you think that'll last?

    Chew on This

    Mean Girls is a take-down of toxic femininity.

    It may feature girls gone wild, but Mean Girls is a unique comedy because it features an almost entirely female cast and none of them are boy-obsessed maniacs.