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A Gen Z Take On the New "Mean Girls"

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by remakes? If you’re anything like me, then your hand is probably raised. I am typically not a fan of remakes, especially in cases where the original movie was made within a 20-year span. So when the announcement that the musical adaptation of the classic 2004 film Mean Girls was being turned into a movie, I can’t lie, I was less than excited. Mean Girls is one of my favorite movies of all time. I can quote it forward and backward, and it’s a movie that every girl should watch when they become a teenager. While some of the material is outdated and offensive, the message still stands and teaches young girls valuable lessons that stick with them for life. I saw the movie for the first time in sixth grade when one of my classes had a substitute, and it left a profound impact on my friends and me.  

Jojo Whilden/AP ©

Although I wasn’t bouncing up and down with excitement that they were essentially remaking the original movie, I did go see it opening weekend, and naturally, I have some thoughts from a Gen-Z perspective. While the original movie came out ten years before I saw it, my generation still grew up with it.

With that being said, there are SPOILERS AHEAD for the new Mean Girls, so read at your own risk.

Now, to start, I am a fan of musicals, just not when they are adapted for film. Mean Girls was planning on coming to my hometown but was canceled due to COVID, so I never got the opportunity to see the musical, which is a very important part of my review. If I had seen the musical, my opinions certainly would be different; however, as a massive fan of the original movie, I do feel like my opinions are justified. Many audience members, however, were unaware that it was a musical due to the studio's decision not to advertise it as one. My theater was literally full of groans when the characters started singing, which was a glaring example that people these days—including Gen Z—do NOT want to see musical movies. 

The film as a whole fell flat to me. It was trying too hard to be relatable to Gen Z and it was very obvious that they did not enlist the help of anyone in the generation while in the writing room. This is a recurring trend that I see in media that pertains to our generation. Millennials and Gen-Xers try to replicate how they think our generation acts and talks, and it almost always comes off as corny or cringey. My least favorite part of the film was the inclusion of what appeared to be screen recordings of the characters using TikTok. While our generation does use the app, we don’t use it when it comes to reinforcing high school cliques and stereotypes, as the movie portrayed. 

The story itself was the exact same as the original movie, which was completely expected. But I was thrown when exact conversations were replicated, and it almost made me feel like I was in the Twilight Zone. I was watching a movie I had never seen before, but in reality, I actually had seen it. This raised a problem for me because the writers were so hellbent on portraying a Gen Z perspective yet replicated exact conversations originally had by millennial characters. I think if they wanted to fully embrace the Gen Z POV, more changes should have been made to the storyline and dialogue.

Jojo Whilden/AP ©

One thing that the original movie is known for is its fashion. I wouldn't say I was a fan of the outfits, but the costume/fashion choices are one of the film's more accurate depictions of Gen Z culture. All of the outfits are ones that I’d see not only on my college campus, but in real middle and high schools today. The 2004 film’s fashion was over the top and designer and unlikely to be seen on real 16-year-olds. So, I guess they got that right.

My last criticism is the changing and erasing of iconic scenes. The one that struck me the most was changing the “Jingle Bell Rock” dance number that the Plastics do. They changed the song to “Rockin’ Around the Pole,” along with the dance and the overall outcome of the scene. In the original, the girls are dancing when their CD player starts to skip, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) begins singing the rest of the song and the crowd joins in, effectively letting the girls finish their routine. In the new film, gymnastics are introduced into the routine, and when Regina (Reneé Rapp) goes to do a handstand, she completely falls, and the crowd erupts into laughter, signaling the beginning of her downfall as Queen Bee at Northshore High. I am not sure why they changed this out of everything, and do not know if this happens in the actual musical, but it changed the overall tone and trajectory of the movie for me.

Jojo Whilden/AP ©

Now, enough criticism because there were some positives to the film that I would be remiss not to mention. For starters, Reneé Rapp has a beautiful singing voice and does a good job as Regina. I will say she doesn’t have the same mean charm that Rachel McAdams has, but she makes up for it with her amazing singing ability. Jenna Fischer and Busy Phillips are great casting choices for Cady and Regina’s mothers, respectively. Jaquel Spivey shines as Damian and truly was the MVP of the film for me. Every line of his was funny, and his French rendition of the iCarly theme song had the entire theater in stitches. Auli’i Cravalho is a wonderful Janis, and along with Rapp, her singing was absolutely stellar. Avantika Vandanapu portrays an even dumber Karen than Amanda Seyfried’s (which I didn’t think was possible), and I just wish they had included the bit about her ESP. Overall, for a musical adaptation, the cast was strong, but at the end of the day, remakes are rarely better than the original, and that still applies in this case. 

My favorite part of the entire film was the surprise cameo from Lindsay Lohan. I actually gasped when she appeared as the moderator of the Mathletes championship that Cady (Angourie Rice) was participating in. It was a great callback to the original and an absolute treat for fans. 

Jojo Whilden/AP ©

While it may seem like I ripped this movie to shreds, I think it was entertaining, but it just had such a huge monument to live up to. As mentioned previously, if I had seen the musical, I am sure my opinions would be different. After all, it is a movie based on a musical based on a movie, so many details were surely going to be convoluted in the adaptation process. I think shifting the perspective and target audience to Gen-Z did the movie more harm than good, but the lessons and message from the original movie are still shown in the end, and I still think it is a great movie for young girls to go see.


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