This Catch Up is written by Chelsea Cristene
Year of Release: 2004
Rating: PG-13 for mild sexual content, language, and adult themes.
Currently Streaming on Netflix?: Yes!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you know that last Wednesday was the highly-celebrated 10 year anniversary of Mean Girls, the 2004 comedy-now-cult-classic that added words like “fetch,” “grool,” and “skeeze” to our lexicon. I was a junior in high school when this film was released, and am hard-pressed now to think of a sleepover when my girlfriends and I didn’t watch it or a school day when we didn’t quote it. Ten years later, my students can rattle off their favorite lines with just as much enthusiasm, signifying that Mean Girls has truly stood the test of time.
It is possible, though, to be a fully functional adult in 2014 and not have seen Mean Girls. Rare, but possible. If you’re like my best friend’s husband (who was glued to my TV set for the next 97 minutes after enduring a considerable amount of grief), Netflix is your new best friend, having just added the film to its streaming collection last month. You have no excuse.
In a nutshell, Mean Girls is the story of North Shore High School’s “clique problem” – during the first thirty minutes, we become acquainted with the Preps, JV Jocks, Asian Nerds, Cool Asians, Unfriendly Black Hotties, Burnouts, Sexually Active Band Geeks, and, last but not least, the Plastics. Led by “queen bee” Regina George (Rachel McAdams), the Plastics set the North Shore standard for what is “fetch” (a word coined by Gretchen, Regina’s desperate sidekick, played by Party of Five’s Lacey Chabert) and what is not (“That is the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen,” Regina hisses to newcomer Cady Heron in the hallway).
Cady “It’s Pronounced Like Katie” Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan in better days, is the perfect blank canvas through which all of us come to understand the contrived ridiculousness of Girl World. Raised by zoologist parents in Africa, Cady is ill-equipped to navigate the trendy, touchy waters of a public high school in the States. After a few awkward lunch periods spent eating in a bathroom stall, Cady gratefully befriends the quirky Janis Ian (easily the best character in the movie) and the loveable Damian who take Cady under their wing.
Janis, however, has some mischief in mind. The mutual hatred between Janis and Regina reaches all the way back to elementary school, and after noticing that the Plastics have taken a special interest in Cady, Janis decides that the homeschooled transplant is the perfect weapon to take Regina down once and for all. Cady must pretend to be friends with the Plastics while reporting all of their best-kept secrets to Janis, incidentally now leading the same double life as her peers. Further complicating matters is the crush Cady develops on dreamboat Aaron Samuels – Regina’s ex-boyfriend. Once Regina backstabs Cady by getting back together with Aaron after giving Cady her blessing, it’s war.
Mean Girls may owe its timelessness to the subject matter (passive-aggressive cliques, popularity contests, stud/slut double standards), but it owes its entertainment value to the cast. There’s just as much here for adults as there is for teens thanks to Saturday Night Live comedians Tina Fey as the math teacher who cares too much, Tim Meadows as the principal battling a debilitating case of carpal tunnel, and Amy Poehler as Regina’s surgically enhanced “cool mom.” But my favorite character is Janis Ian thanks to her artsy and unapologetic personality: wearing a purple tuxedo to the spring fling, boldly embracing the false rumors that she is a lesbian, manipulative but caring in all the perfect ways. Her name also pays homage to the classic 1975 song “At Seventeen” by singer Janis Ian, an ode to all the girls “who knew the pain of valentines that never came” and “whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball.”
Now go turn on Netflix and make yourself comfortable, or you can’t sit with us.