Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mean Girls (film)

Mean Girls. Paramount Pictures, 2004. Directed by Mark Waters; screenplay by Tina Fey. Rated PG-13, 96 minutes. Based on "Queen Bees and Wannabes", by Rosalind Wiseman.

Plot Summary
Cady Heron grew up homeschooled in the African bush by her zoologist parents. She thinks she knows everything about survival of the fittest, but all her skills are tested when she enrolls in a public high school for the first time. As she tries to negotiate her place among the school's cliques--the cool Asians, art geeks, mathletes, and more--the Plastics, the coolest girls in school, decide to befriend her. But when Cady falls for the Queen Bee's ex-boyfriend, Regina schemes to destroy Cady's social future.

Critical Evaluation
Tina Fey's satire of the female high-school experience hits all the right notes. It's over-the-top portrayal fo the cattiness of teen girls hits home, but also manages to be very funny. The second half of the movie, after the school riot and its aftermath, falls flatter than the first, but it's telling that a story about mean girls only becomes cloying and sentimental in the last 20 minutes as the film tries for a happy resolution. In reality, no endings are so perfect, but the backbiting throughout the rest of the film rings true.

Reader’s Annotation
Cady grew up homeschooled in Africa, but high school cliques seem wilder and meaner than anything she ever saw in Africa. Can she negotiate the world of high school girls without getting caught in the crossfire?

Author Information
Tina Fey was born in Pennsylvania in 1970. She considered herself a "supernerd" in high school (IMDB). After studying drama at the University of Virginia, she went to Chicago to audition for the Second City comedy group, where actors like Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Mike Myers, and Stephen Colbert got their start. She was the first female head writer in the history of Saturday Night Live, and was the co-anchor of SNL's Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon. She currently stars in the show 30 Rock on NBC.

Tina was asked whether the character of Regina, the Queen Bee, came from people she knew in her own life. She said, "Regina is not. Regina is the most amalgamated. One of Regina's big moves in the movie is actually based on my mom. My mom has this habit that if she sees a lady in a really ugly hat or a glittery sweatshirt, she'll go "I love your shirt" and I'll say "Mom, that's really mean". And she'll say "clearly she wanted someone to notice that shirt. She picked it out. It has a huge Teddy Bear on it". That is actually the closest to a real inspiration for the movie." In interviews, she shared other ways that teen girls were mean to her and her friends when they were teenagers, and it's clear that she had a huge emotional stake in the success of the film.


Curriculum Ties
Sociology: bullying, teen girls

Booktalking Ideas
N/A. To build interest, show the scene where Regina (the Queen Bee) first invites Cady to sit with her.

Reading Level/Interest Age
High school students and adults.

Challenge Issues
The language teens use to describe each other ("so gay he can barely function", slut, whore, etc.). While it felt realistic to me, considering my experiences in high school, it may seem inappropriate to older adults who are not accustomed to modern teen behavior.

Challenge Defense
Find linguistic studies of high school language to help show how realistic the language in the film is (for most areas). Become familiar with the film before recommending it.

I included this film because it was selected as a 2010 Fabulous Film for Young Adults. I also really like Tina Fey's work in 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, and was interested to see her foray into screenwriting for film instead of TV or sketch comedy.


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