Since our project is about the coming of age of Mean Girls cliques, we decided to go out and learn how the film influenced the coming of age of real people who were at the right age when the movie first came into theatres. According to a study done by Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz and Dana E. Mastro, "Research examining the effects of media exposure demonstrates that media consumption has a measurable influence on people's perceptions of the real world, and… they are used to help guide subsequent attitudes, judgments, and actions." Ted Marzolf, a freshman here at Michigan State University can attest to that. He felt that the movie played a role in his coming of age, that is, after he was finally allowed to watch it. “It sort of played a role later in life, but the immediate effects weren’t really there because my parents wouldn’t let me see it. So I definitely identify with it now that I’ve experienced high school.” Unlike Ted, Harriet Spears, a freshman at Northwestern University remembered watching the film when it was first released. “I think [Mean Girls] was released when I was around 9 or so...I was still fairly innocent in terms of sexuality, etc,” Harriet said, “...it contributed to my perceptions of middle and high school. It was one of the first films I was allowed to watch that focused on issues like cliques, sex, and drugs. ”
Is It Accurate?
It is clear that the film had an influence on our interviewees, but is Mean Girls accurate as to the way high school plays out? According to Ted, “It obviously is a caricature of realistic high school cliques and groups. It’s a comedy so it should all be taken with a grain of salt...all stereotypes and caricatures are grounded in some truth and I think this movie is the perfect representation of this sentiment.” Katie-Lynn Fisher, a freshman at MSU had a similar response. “Mean Girls accurately represents how high schools have different cliques, but I feel the movie over exaggerates them.” Most agreed that the film had lots of realistic traits but that most things were exaggerated to make a point or simply for humor and viewing pleasure.
Is It Relatable?
Many people found that they could identify with at least one part of the film, be it a character, a clique or even an event. However, the general trend was that they identified with pieces of different parts of the movie and not just a single one. “In terms of the cafeteria scene where [Janis] points out the different cliques, I'd like to think I'd fall into the category of ‘the greatest people you'll ever meet,’ but more realistically I'd fall somewhere between the overachievers and the jocks. The movie exaggerates stereotypes that exist in schools, because in reality cliques are not always so clean-cut.” said Harriet on where she thinks she would fit in at North Shore High. Ted agreed with Harriet stating, “I don’t really identify with any certain character just traits from a lot of different characters... I think myself, and many other people, aren’t like only one character; it can always be so up in the air.”
Why Mean Girls?
No one can dispute that Mean Girls is a classic coming of age movie for our generation but the question remains, "why?" Why did this film do so incredibly well compared to former or succeeding teen movies? Ted says, “I think the movie and character representations cover such a broad array of personalities and people that SO many people can identify with them.” The ability for teens to relate to the characters would help to explain the movie's popularity. "This tendency for teen movies to center on the social world of teens likely occurs for good reason—the teenage years are typically characterized by a time of relationship and identity growth and struggle" (Behm-Morawitz, Mastro), and those aspects are something nearly all teens can relate to. However, the amount of impact it had on each viewers coming of age journey does seem to vary, but most can agree that the film had some sort of effect on them and those around them at some point in their lives. Katie recalls knowing many scenes of the film by heart commenting, “My favorite scene is near the end when they're having an intervention with the girls. The one girl states how she feels and then [Damian] says, 'She doesn't even go here!'" This is not unusual. The film was nothing less than a sensation with our generation. According to boxoffice.com, Mean Girls grossed a whopping $129,042,871 worldwide! This doesn’t leave us too surprised that many teens can quote the entire “Kevin G” rap from memory or can perform the talent show "Jingle Bell Rock" dance. Mean Girls without a doubt influenced this generation's collective idea of what coming of age looks like through it's integration into our daily lives and attitudes, though it may have taken us a few years to grow up and realize it.