‘I rewatched the original Mean Girls and yes, it's problematic. But it's still very funny.’

It's time to go back to a cursed moment in every woman who grew up in the early '00s.

A time when we were wearing jeans and a nice top, too much bronzer on our faces, incessantly saying the word 'biatch!' and had Maroon 5 playing on our purple iPod Minis. 

Yes, we're talking about 2004. The blessed year that Tina Fey's Mean Girls arrived. 

Like the characters in this iconic film, I was also in high school the year it premiered. This means it's impossible to separate the film from my lived experience enduring public school not at the fictional North Shore in Illinois but in a suburban town on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Sure, we wore school uniforms and none of us looked like Rachel McAdams or Lindsay Lohan, but there were loads of parallels. And 20 years later, Mean Girls is making a comeback with the Broadway musical now turned into a movie. 

It's a rich tapestry of Mean Girls media.

The new movie was billed as "This isn't your mother's Mean Girls," which is a personal attack I will never recover from. 

How very dare you. Image: Stan. 


But aside from that savage swipe, it does look like fun

So how does the original stack up in 2024? Is it still as hilarious as I remember, or are some of the jokes problematic in hindsight? 

Let's go (Glen Coco) and recap! 

It's Cady's first day of school, and within the first few seconds, we learn she has just moved over to the US from Africa where her parents worked as zoologists. 

Weirdly, throughout the entire film, she always just says Africa, as if Africa is a quaint little town and not a continent three times bigger than the US, and including 52 different countries and countless cultures.

But worry not about details because Cady is walking through high school and no one is very nice to her! 


"Talk to me again and I'll kick your ass!" says one tall girl in her first taste of human interaction. Delightful. 

In class, she briefly meets Janis and Damien before crashing into Tina Fey's Ms Norbury who flashes the class while lifting off her coffee-stained jumper.

'Your crush is looking, act natural.' Image: Stan. 


Principal Duvall arrives in time for the teacher to flash him. We get the vibe these two will have a low-key will they/won't they dynamic in this movie, as he can't hide his excitement when Ms Norbury announces she just got divorced.

But who cares, what's Lindsay Lohan Cady doing? 

She's confused by how high school compares to being home-schooled. 'Don't read ahead! No food in class! Never go to THE BATHROOM!' she's told. 

After spending her first day eating lunch in a toilet stall, she befriends Janis and Damien on her second day, which in hindsight is a rather speedy social trajectory from being despised to making friends.

I've been to high school and people aren't this nice! 

The trio of instant besties wags class and we get our first glimpse of the plastics, the group of girls considered 'teen royalty' in the school. Regina George is the leader with the intelligence-challenged Karen and secret-keeper Gretchen her loyal minions.

At lunch, Janis maps out all the high school cliques, which include some harmful stereotypes like 'girls who eat their feelings, 'girls who don't eat anything', 'Asian nerds', and 'unfriendly Black hotties.' No thanks! 

After being hit on by some creep named Jason, Cady is saved by Regina who invites her to sit with the plastics. The problematic language continues as Regina tells Cady "I know what home school is," before dropping an ableist slur, which she will repeat later in the film. 


Regina then baits Cady when she thanks her for saying she's pretty. This is Mean Girls at its best, as within a few words Regina proves she's not to be trifled with. 

This day Regina George... Image: Stan. 

... chose violence. Image: Stan.  Honestly, if a girl ever said this to me, I'd crumble into a pile of tears and start hysterically apologising. 


The movie then drops two of its most iconic lines in the space of five seconds, as Gretchen shares her new fave word is 'fetch' (it's British slang!) and Karen asks "If you're from Africa, why are you white?" 

Yes, it's problematic. But yes, it's still very funny, as is literally every single sentence Karen utters in this movie because Amanda Seyfried is an underrated comedic genius. 

And this was her first acting role. I wish I was this good at literally anything. 


Anyways, the plastics invite Cady to sit with them 'for the rest of the week!' Cady returns to Janis and Damien and they instruct her to hang with the popular crew and report back. 

Cady gets distracted by falling in love with Aaron Samuels in maths, a class she excels in so much that she's encouraged to join the Mathletes, led by the movie's greatest character Kevin G.  

Garlic when it was first created. Image: Stan.


Back at lunch with the plastics, she finds out "the rules of feminism" will prevent her from pursuing Aaron, as he's Regina's ex-boyfriend.  

I guess The Bell Jar missed that important lesson. 

Everyone tells Cady not to join the Mathletes as it's 'social suicide' before the group goes to Regina's parents' mansion, and we meet her iconic 'cool mum', played by Amy Poehler. 

The three plastics proceed to insult their physical appearance and then turn to Cady who offers "I have really bad breath in the morning." This is one of several moments that is a pitch-perfect reflection of girlhood, based on a mutual understanding of disparaging ourselves. 

The infamous Burn Book is brought out, which Cady contributes to by writing Damien was "too gay to function". It's worth noting that once you learn Rachel McAdams was wearing a wig in this movie, you simply can't unsee how bad this wig truly is...

This is a crime against wigs. Image: Stan. 


Regina then does something that will deeply trigger anyone raised in the '90s who orchestrated a three-way call. She calls up Cady to reveal Gretchen told her about her crush on Aaron, but then tricks her into saying something about Gretchen who is secretly on the call. 

I've been the Gretchen in the scenario and heard my friend say "Tara is so lazy, it seems like she doesn't want to do anything with her day," but tbh, that tracks. 

For Cady, she accuses Gretchen of liking attention, but other than that, she gets through unscathed. 

Regina gives her blessing to Cady to pursue Aaron, and she decides the only way to get Aaron's attention is to act like a dumb bitch in maths class even though she's much smarter than him. 

It works! Huzzah! Another rule of feminism to embrace! 


Nobody tell Maya Angelou. Image: Stan. 

Aaron invites Cady to his Halloween party, but she doesn't get the memo that girls commonly dress as BDSM rodents for the holiday - instead, she comes as a spooky bride with dental concerns. 

Karen comes as a mouse and confesses she often hooks up with her cousin. I have no issue with this because everything Karen does is flawless. Kiss your cousin, Karen. You do you. 


At the party, Regina paints Cady as a 'stalker' to Aaron before pashing him in front of her. 

Cady decides to get her revenge on Regina, enlisting the help of Janis and Damien to cut off Regina's three biggest assets - Aaron Samuel, her 'hot body', and her 'army of skanks' aka the rest of the plastics.

Regina continues being Regina, taunting Cady with Aaron by asking if his hair 'looks sexy pushed back'. To this, one of several 'African animals' dream sequences unfolds, as Cady imagines ripping Regina to shreds. 

Omg, get him Faye from Richmond! Image: Stan.


At the yearly talent show, Cady saved the group's rendition of 'Jiggle Bell Rock' after Gretchen kicked the stereo over, which followed a scolding from Regina. Gretchen was already on edge after she thought Regina hadn't sent her a candy cane for Christmas, a ploy from Cady to make her paranoid.

It worked because Gretchen ended up confessing Regina was cheating on Aaron with Shane Oman. But Cady has lost sight of the goal: instead of being obsessed with revenge, she's just become obsessed with herself... and Regina.

After kissing, Cady spills to Aaron during a maths tutorial that Regina is cheating on him. Then Damien plants a nomination for Gretchen as Spring Fling queen to rattle Regina. Cady is also nominated which only inflates her ego more. 

She's also become mean, adding Ms Norbury to the Burn Book claiming she's a drug dealer just because the teacher scolded her for failing maths to get a boy's attention. 

Regina goes up a dress size because Cady tricked her into eating high-calorie protein bars. This means this very slim teenager just became a well... still very slim teenager. 

Cady orchestrates a three-way call with Regina as the target, successfully turning Karen against Regina by Gretchen playing rather fast and loose with Regina's words. 


My four personalities deciding what to wear every day. Image: Stan. 

The next day over lunch, the plastics turn on Regina: Gretchen tells her she 'can't sit with us' because she's wearing sweatpants. 

Cady throws a party to celebrate her reign as the new queen, but gets so drunk that when she's in a room with Aaron she refers to him as Regina's 'property' before vomiting all over him.


And they say romance is dead. 

Janis and Damien bust Cady throwing a party without inviting them. Cady tells Janis that she is acting like she's 'in love with her', which we discovered earlier was the same accusation Regina said to Janis before their friendship ended. 

This is sadly again an accurate reflection of my teenage years when homophobia was rampant at school. 

Regina discovers the protein bars Cady gave her are the reason she has gained weight. She screams! It's all very dramatic! 

Me when the slightest inconvenience happens at work. Image: Stan. 


For revenge, Regina writes in the Burn Book that she is a 'fugly slut' so that when she hands it to Principal Duvall the next day, it looks like she was the victim of the book and not the owner. 

As the three girls who aren't named in the book - Cady, Gretchen and Karen - are being questioned, Regina litters the school with printouts of the book.

Obviously, chaos ensues. 

When I'm expected to start adulting at the age of 35. Image: Stan. 


This scene is a lot! Between the cat snarls coming from the young women (cat fight, get it!) and all the girls freaking out when the water sprinkler ruins their hair (a fate worse than death!), it's basically every harmful trope about women condensed into a neat package. 

The Principal and teachers make the girls sort through their problems in the gym, featuring some random girl who 'doesn't even go here!' joining the school because she simply has "a lot of feelings".

A moment I remember distinctly from being in high school is Ms Norbury telling the teen girls that they have "got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, it just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores." 

It doesn't sound particularly profound by today's standards, but in the early '00s, this was not a sentiment shared in mainstream teen movies, which were more likely to slut-shame and mock teenage girls who were sex-positive.  

Janis exposed Cady's whole plan to 'mess up Regina George's life', telling the group "I'm so sorry Regina, I don't know why I did it. I guess it's because I have a big LESBIAN crush on you," she teases to wild applause.

Me when my work bestie doesn't compliment my outfit. Image: Getty. 


Regina rushes out of the gym and as Cady chases her to apologise... Regina gets hit by a bus. 

I don't know why we ever accepted this as a normal narrative device in this movie, but here we are.

Regina is dead, we're told, before then finding out she fractured her spine (is this still a comedy??), and now has her neck in a brace. The rest of the students assume Cady pushed her. 


Back at school, Cady admits to making up the entry that Ms Norbury sells drugs which means she cops the blame for the whole Burn Book. 

Cady commences an apology tour. Ms Norbury forgives her but says to avoid failing class and as her 'personal form of punishment' she will need to join the Mathletes.

The competition is on the same night as the Spring Fling. Cady is picked to be in the deciding final round, and she wins by uttering this iconic answer. 

How many times I can bring up my cats in every/any conversation. Image: Stan. 


The Mathletes roll into prom in time for Cady to win Spring Fling queen. But instead of accepting her crown, she gives a speech on how the tiara is 'just plastic' and snaps it in pieces to share with the rest of the class. 

Cady quickly makes up with Janis and Damien before Aaron arrives to dance and they kiss. At the same time, the Principal and Ms Norbury are dancing and staring lovingly into each other eyes. 

Inappropriate behavior and obvious power balances, be damned. 

Then in the weirdest moment of the whole movie (out of precisely 62 weird moments), Damien (a famously too-gay-to-function man) and Janis decide to kiss. 

My thoughts exactly. Image: Stan. 


MY EYES. MY EYES. I don't know why this happened but if there was one scene that should have been cut from Mean Girls, it was this.

In a cuter development, Kevin G and Janis start dancing and by the end of the film, they're dating. 

Cady rounds out the movie by sharing that after the Spring Fling, the plastics disbanded: Cady is back with Damien and Janis, Regina became a sports girlie to channel her aggression, Gretchen started serving a queen in a different clique, and Karen well... started torturing a random girl by braiding her hair. 

The queen of being accidentally iconic. Image: Stan. 


But it wouldn't be Mean Girls without ending on a joke that relies on finding teenagers dying a tragic bus death funny. And it is very funny, as Cady adds that if a younger group of plastics threatens their newfound peace... they will get hit by a bus. 

Watching Mean Girls in my formative years made me believe that death by bus was something I needed to actively avoid. 

But like everything in this movie, it might not be perfect - but it's forever iconic.

Feature Image: Stan. 

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