Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman (2002)
Mean Girls directed by Mark Waters (2004)
Mean Girls directed by Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr. (2024)
This book, as you can tell from the title, is actually a self-help book! It is targeted to parents of daughters, but even though I don’t have kids, I still found it really interesting and helpful! She goes through “girl world” beginning when they are about 12, up till late teens and the various phases girls go through at these different ages. This was written over 20 years ago, and yet I think a lot of it is still applicable to today.
It also made me reflect on my own teen years to a certain extent. The reason Wiseman became interested in understanding teen girls was because in her late teens she got in an abusive relationship and from the outside, she was not the kind of girl you would “expect” to be in a bad relationship. She made the connection to when she was younger and how her friends with other girls paved the way for her to end up with an abusive guy. So if you are like me, and don’t have teen daughters, this may still be interesting to read because you can reflect on your girlhood friendships and how they may have foreshadowed the romantic relationships you later had. For good or bad.
Wiseman was ahead of her time in some ways, she has amazing feminist views and calls out toxic masculinity saying we need a boys/men revolution to happen to help boys break the mold of what it means to be a man. She has a really great section that is all about boys and how they treat girls which was fantastic.
She also discusses racism and even colorism. Of course to really get into this, especially colorism, I think you need to be a person of color to expand on that. But she shares what her collogues of color have said in various seminars and I liked that she addresses these topics.
She also talks a lot about homophobia and has a section where she flips the script; saying things like “straight people need to stop pushing their agenda on us”, “why do straight people need to shove it in our face by holding hands in public?”, “maybe you just need a gay experience, and then you won’t be straight anymore”. And different things like that. It’s not like this was written in the 1960’s or something, but still, homophobia was very common in the early 2000’s so I thought it was awesome that she was such a great ally early on.
She also talks extensively about sexual assault and calls out victim blaming and gets into why people don’t come out about it as well as why it happens in the first place. So there are a lot of very serious topics discussed, but I thought she talked about them all so eloquently.
She talks about different parenting styles and which ones do more harm than good.
All in all, I would recommend this especially if you had any connection to young girls or boys. I’m not saying she is right about absolutely everything, and some things almost come across almost cringey as she is telling parents what certain lingo means and some of the ideas she suggests parents do seem extreme at times. But I am not a parent of a teen so I guess it isn’t fair of me to comment on what is or isn’t extreme.
This isn’t the first movie to take a self-help book and turn it into a narrative using different scenarios and personality types described in the book. But I think this one made it popular. After this we got other self-help to comedy movies like He’s Just Not That Into You, Think Like a Man, and What to Expect When Expecting.
Tina Fey wrote the script and it is very clever and witty in its humor.
I have fond memories of this because it came out when I was a young teen and I liked it right from the start. Through the following decade I watched it a number of times and while in college it was a big deal. I had a friend who would wear pink on Wednesday and would get others in the student housing I was in to join in. October 3rd was also Mean Girls day, and just in general people were always quoting it.
In the last ten years though I don’t think I have watched it at all and it brought back a lot of good memories to see it again.
It’s cool to see some of these actors who have done so much since, like Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried. I also thought Tim Meadows was hilarious as the principal, Amy Poehler is hilarious as the iconic “cool mom”, and Tina Fey was perfect as the teacher.
I think this holds up really well and would definitely recommend it. It has a good message, though to be honest, I don’t remember thinking anything of that aspect when I watched this as a teen. It isn’t anything groundbreaking, but I also think I was just more interested in the humor of the movie than in its the message.
I will say, this movie has a storyline where a teacher is having sex with at least two students, and it isn’t shown in a particularly serious light. This doesn’t surprise me too much, because as forward thinking as the book is, comedies at this time did tend to make light of serious issues like this.
The 2024 version is the movie adaptation of the 2017 Broadway musical that was adapted from the 2004 movie! I never saw this on stage, but I read that quite a few songs were removed from the film in order to keep it in budget.
I liked this movie and had a good time watching it. I thought the musical performances were well done with great voices all around, and the choreographed scenes were cool. We get a lot of the same jokes that we had in the 2004 movie, but there are some new ones as well. There is a line when a guy says something and Tina Fey, who once again plays the teacher, says to him, “hey keep it pg13”. This is a funny reference to the fact that Fey had to clean up the original script quite a bit in order to keep the pg13 rating back in 2004. There is also a funny scene when they start the assembly and Fey walks up and makes it seem like she is about to sing, but then her voice cracks and she just talks instead.
It is impossible to watch this and not compare people to their 2004 counter parts, and in general, I prefer the 2004 cast. However I still liked the actors here and for the most part. The only one here that I just wasn’t feeling was Bebe Woods who plays Gretchen. Also, Seyfried was much better as Karen, but overall I still liked Avantika well enough in the role.
The story is very similar to the original, though certain aspects felt rushed in order to make time for the songs.
After going back and forth on whether this should get 2.5 or 3 stars on letterboxd, I ended up going with 2.5. I know this seem low considering I said I enjoyed it, but while I would recommend it to Mean Girls fans and I think it is a nice accompanying movie to the 2004 version, and they even made two changes that I liked better, but in the end 3 just seemed kind of high.
From here on out I will be getting into some plot details, which means there will be spoilers going forward!
Themes from the book that are in the movie
There won’t be too much comparing going on, since this isn’t a direct adaptation. But I do want to go over some specific book elements that are in the movie.
For example, the dress code for the week. The exact code for the plastics came from a quote from a teen girl in the book. She also discusses girls being in a goth phase, and we get Janice who has the goth/emo look. The book also compares group of teens to a group of animals, and we get this in the movie as well. The movie makes it work because Cady had lived in Africa where she really did see wild animals in their natural environment. I loved these scenes, especially the one in the cafeteria because the actors really go for and are committed which made the scene hilarious.
The book also goes over what tends to happen at teen parties, and we see some of these things play out in the two different parties that happen during the movie. The book also says how Halloween is the one time when a girl can dress like a sl*t and not be shamed for it, which of course is in the movie and we get the iconic line, “I’m a mouse, duh.” Wiseman also discusses the three way phone call attack, which we have in the original film but not in the new version. This also gave us an iconic line, “Boo, you wh*re.”
The book also talks about how girls dumb themselves down in order to be appealing to guys. We see this when Cady pretends to be bad at math, in order to get Aaron’s attention. I thought these scenes were funny, especially when in voiceover, we hear her saying that he is all wrong but she acts like he helped her.
Wiseman also talks about how she holds seminars and will do different things with the girls in order for them to see the way they treat each other in hurtful ways. In the book we get an apology note where the girl says something like, I’m sorry I said this about you even if I still think it’s true. We get some of these backhanded apologies in the movie during the scene where Fey is the Wiseman version who is facilitating a gathering with the girls in order to help them sort their issues.
The book also goes over different types of cliques, and the different type of girls in the cliques. The queen bees, the pleaser, the wannabe, the banker (the person who knows all of the gossip), the floater (the girl who is liked by all cliques). In the end of the movie, Cady says she can now float, meaning she is friends with everyone.
The book also talks about how friends will set each other up, and a person will feel obligated to go along with it in order to stay liked in the clique. We get this when Gretchen is telling Cady that if she likes someone, she needs to run it by the group first. She says, “because you might think you like someone, but you could be wrong.” Showing that she has had crushes that were vetoed by the group.
We kind of see the different parenting styles that are talked about in the book. She talks about the parents who try to be friends with their kids, the kind of parents that let their kids take advantage, the tough love parents, as well as the parents who have a more distant approach to parenting. We see the “cool mom” who Regina takes advantage of and walks over and we see Cady’s parents who have a more unique perspective and are naive since they have never had Cady in school like this until now.
In the ’04 movie, we also hear about Regina starting a petition in 8th grade that humiliated Janice, and we hear an example about a petition in the book as well. Though the petition in the book was written by a girl who wrote that another girl was a wh*re and made all the guys sign it saying they wouldn’t go out with her. In the movie it had to do with Regina calling Janice gay.
Speaking of, this is kind of like the homophobia that is talked about in the book and how being called gay was a form of bullying. In the 04 movie, Janice reads like a queer person and that is why she is so upset about Regina calling her gay, because she isn’t ready to be outed. However, in the end she starts dating a guy which seemed like something they had to include in order to show the audience she wasn’t actually gay. I think general audiences were starting to be accepting of gay men, but I think letting women be gay in movies was something that took longer for us to see. Maybe they also thought that one gay man in a movie was enough and it would be too much for there to be 2 gay characters. Ah the homophobia of the early 2000’s.
2024 movie changes
To move on to the new movie, I will go ahead and begin with Janice. Here we see that Janice is gay, and the story about how she was betrayed by Regina is a bit different because we hear about how Janice came out to Regina and then later Regina made fun of her. Janice then set something of Regina’s on fire, and so in the burn book it says she is a pyro-lez. I was glad to see they made her gay though and we see her with another girl at the dance in the end.
This movie also takes out the story with the teacher having sex with students which was a good call. I would have been shocked if they kept it in there.
There is also an added scene where at the spring fling, Cady runs into Regina in the bathroom and she is on pills to deal with her neck injury. Regina is then talking to Cady about how peopple call her a bitch, and she’s like, but if I was a boy do you know what they would call me? Cady says they would call her strong, then Regina is like, “Reginald. My mom said if I was a boy she would have called me Reginald. And I would rather be a bitch than be Reginald.” Which I also thought was a funny scene.
Speaking of the old cast, Lindsey Lohan has a great cameo as the moderator at the mathletes competition. She looked amazing and I hope she will be in more in the future! I would love to see a Lohan comeback. Also, as I said we have Fey as the teacher and Tim Meadows is again the principal. In the orginal movie they had a thing for each other and here we see they are in a relationship which was cute.
In this movie they get their revenge on Regina much sooner. Their Christmas dance goes poorly causing Regina to fall and it goes viral. The next day is when they say she can’t sit with them because she is wearing sweat pants. This was funny too because everyone in the cafeteria is starring and so Regina says, Take a picture, it’ll last longer. Then everyone pulls out their phones.
Book vs Movie
From the two movies, as you know I prefer the ’04 version. However, I can’t really do a book vs movie here where I pick which wins between the book and movie because the book is so different from what the movies are. So this one is a tie! I recommend both book and movie depending on what you are looking for.
What is your favorite line from Mean Girls??
If you enjoyed this, check out another post about girlhood-Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret book vs movie. The movie even stars original queen bee Rachel McAdams!