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ISSUE 117 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/7/2004

Mean girls telling of high school horror

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor


Friday, May 7, 2004

The recently released film Mean Girls has a relatively simple plot -- one that teen movies have used for decades. However, this film is not to be overlooked by Dawson's Creek-wary moviegoers. With a brilliant screenplay from Saturday Night Live head writer/comedienne Tina Fey and an achingly vulnerable performance by Lindsey Lohan, Mean Girls stands out amongst the sugar-coated chick-flicks that have long monopolized teen cinema.

Lohan plays Cady Heron, the new girl in school. Raised and home-schooled in Africa for the greater part of her young life, Cady (pronounced Katie), now living in the states because of her mother's new job, will be attending high school for the first time.

Bright-eyed and optimistic, Cady observes her newfound peers as though they are African animals, congregating at the watering hole and sanctioning themselves off into small, like-genus groups. On her first day as a high school sophomore, Cady realizes immediately that her public schooling experience is going to be a wild one, full of slaughter, deceit and the pursuit of a spot in the herd.

With startlingly dark humor and ruthless female back-stabbing, the film is almost disturbing in its realistic portrayal of the Plastics -- the popular female clique at Cady's new high school, controlled by ringleader Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The appearance-obsessed girls wear belly-baring shirts to gym class, forbid ponytail-wearing more than once a week and take turns scribbling notes in a burn book meant to criticize the unpopular girls at the school.

After accidentally falling in with the Plastics, Cady attempts to foil the girls' popularity -- until Cady becomes a Plastic herself. She forgets her plans of sabotage and focuses on stealing Regina's ex-boyfriend-turned-boyfriend-again Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), a boy who loses interest in Cady after she transforms into one of her scantily-clad comrades.

The most convincing aspect of the plot is Cady's unadulterated willingness to conform to the Plastics' strict guidelines regarding fashion, etiquette and hairdos -- even though she knows that theirs is a petty and ridiculous lifestyle. Moreover, Cady hates Regina, but still seeks desperately to win her favor. Such is often the case with the most popular girls in school; they're usually the most hated, as well.

Fey's screenplay -- a caustic, comedic effort loosely based on Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabees," is truly telling of high school relationships, both in its honesty and its absurdity. Fey herself appears in the film as a sharp-tongued math professor who attempts to sway Cady from being wooed by the gilded luxuries of clique-dom, albeit rather unsuccessfully.

In the end, the ever-building tension between Cady's two very disparate worlds reaches its boiling point, and chaos erupts at school. Cady must reevaluate her unforgivable (though almost unintentional) behavior and, as she puts it (comparing her transformed life to the bite of a venomous snake) suck all the poison out of her thoughts.

The only point at which Fey's story becomes borderline-saccharine is the at the film's end, which resolves itself too abruptly after an unexpected accident opens Cady's eyes to the destructive actions of her peers. There is also a rather unbelievable segment in which Fey and the school's principle (played by her fellow SNL castmate Tim Meadows) attempt to solve the inter-clique conflict by making all of the junior girls apologize to one another for their wrongdoings and gossip.

In spite of the film's seemingly implausible conclusion, Mean Girls has a resounding and relevant message: be true to your own character, and follow your heart. Though it might seem a Teflon-coated message to impress upon America's young women, Fey is certainly trying -- and that's sufficient enough.





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