Mitchell Jackson

The boring moralism of the new Mean Girls musical

Pop culture shouldn’t moralise

  • From Spectator Life
(Alamy)

The original Mean Girls premiered 20 years ago this spring, but it might as well have come out yesterday. The Middle East is, again, still, at war with the West. Britney Spears looks out from every tabloid. After years of cancel culture, being controversial is great again. And, just as in 2004, Mean Girls is everywhere. Walmart’s Christmas ad starred Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, another original Mean Girl –and (for some reason) Missy Elliott. Lohan has also returned as a romantic comedy star, via Netflix holiday flicks and an announced Disney+ Freaky Friday sequel. Even one of the film’s most banal lines – ‘On 3 October, he asked me what day it was,’ Lohan’s character says about her crush interacting with her in math class – has led to floods of Mean Girls memes every 3 October.

Mean Girls the musical might be both original and good, but what is good is not original, and what is original is not good

In 2004, Mean Girls was far from the biggest movie of the year, but today, it has major cultural significance. So it was inevitable that Paramount would remake it. The studio green lit a cinematic version of the Mean Girls Broadway musical for the Paramount+ streaming service and now it’s been upgraded to a theatrical release, hitting screens this week. It’s both a reminder of the original Mean Girls legacy and how far pop culture has fallen in the past 20 years.

Few have broken down why the film works so well. The 2004 film’s plot sounds like your basic teen movie. Cady Herron, the Lohan character, immigrates from Africa to suburban America and befriends Damian (a chubby gay boy) and Janice (his butch yet straight best friend). Damian is like a teenage James Corden, if Corden was fey and witty, and Janice wears dark eye-liner and oversized hair. They scream, ‘punch me’.

Like brutally honest anthropologists, they break down the school cliques for Cady, describing ‘the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst’.

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