14
Jul 04

Those Mean Girls posts not quite in full.

Do You SeePost a comment • 712 views

Those Mean Girls posts not quite in full. I have written and discarded three posts about Mean Girls, which suggests that I think this might be the most important film of the year. It is not. It is instead a rather good, smart teen comedy which happens to stand at what I think is the crossroads of its own genre. Its position therefore undermines its own effectiveness, as it is no longer possible for a teen movie simply to be JUST a teen movie. The only proof I have to offer is how seriously I am bloody taking it. Bah!

Post 1 tried to do a Mean Things to say about Mean Girls: The five mean things I though of were:
1: It is not as good as Popular.
2: The girls are not mean enough.
3: Cady (Lindsey Lohan) would not be invited into “The Plastics”.
4: It is not as good as Clueless.
5: Tina Fey must love herself.

Okay, 1 and 4 are basically the same idea, criticizing something for what it is not (and is definately a mean thing to do). The Clueless diss is easy, since Clueless is a teen movie, an adaptation of Emma and Beverly Hills 90210 parody all at once. Not only does it have more going on, it is a lot less interested in its happy ending and is told from the P.O.V. of a popular girl. The newcomer plot of Mean Girls gives it much less moral ambiguity. The Popular diss is a bit harder to justify, but I hold that the nature of High School is something that is better documented in a television series. Mean Girls is too tied into its narrative arc to get its chops into any real character issues. The truth is that High School rarely has the neat resolution of Mean Girls, people are damaged by it and whilst nice bits of character growth can happen, it is not the norm. And quirk for quirk, mean for mean – Popular wins out.

Mean for mean (2), the girls in Mean Girls are not mean enough. The height of their meanness seems to be writing a book about how crap other people are. Which is not VERY mean. As for (3) – Lindsey Lohan has a girl next door kind of look that just does not fit the Plastics. They do not appear to need a fourth member, and Cady’s infiltrate and destroy policy just does not convince. The Lacoste polo shirt would surely have been enough to ban her.

(5) – Tina Fey loving herself was just me being plain mean. But the nice teacher who sorts stuff out character seems a little bit 1970’s for this kind of drama. Writing that role for yourself seems narcissistic.

So the second post was overly allegorical trying to make a comparison between the teen movie genre and the western. The parallel was trying to do a back to basics, John Wayne oater in the mid-seventies. It was a lousy parallel, but there is still some truth in the idea. Mean Girls brings next to nothing new to the teen movie. It might be a very well executed teen movie (it is) but the twiddly bits – here the anthropology angle – is never really developed properly. Perhaps by showing us how much smarter it could have been, it infuriated me more.

The third attempt was a deconstruction of the high school genre. Its rules are so rigid now that almost every aspect of it can be ignored (a la Buffy say) and remain in genre with the vaguest of nods. Can the genre therefore stand such a bold and obvious restatement of the rules as Mean Girls. The reason it can is because the audience for Mean Girls of course is contemporary with its protagonists. The audience for Mean Girls is the tween’s, the eight to eleven year olds. Which is where my real problem lays. This film has the clothes of a sophisticated deconstruction, but is really just another episode of Lizzie McGuire. Clueless was made for a teenage audience, Mean Girls is not. It may be considerably more raunchy that say The Breakfast Club (it is), but it is by and large a parent friendly, kid friendly retelling of the basic high school myth.

Every one of those posts had a caveat saying how much I liked it by the way. This is Post 4. That was the caveat.

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