What the heck is this blog about?

I’m Lucy and I’m an English and Film Studies double major at Winona State University. This semester, I’ll be releasing content for my series “Helpful or Harmful? The Depiction of LGBTQIA+ People in Contemporary Film”. I will be critiquing the depiction of the LGBTQIA+ community in movies today as a member of the community myself. I hope you’ll stick around! I’ll be releasing new content every Friday alternating between written and video film reviews.

Film Synopsis

To summarize Mean Girls (The Musical), first we have to summarize the OG Mean Girls (2004). Mean Girls, directed by Mark Waters, follows Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan), a teenage girl who has grown up in Africa and been homeschooled all her life but is now moving back to the U.S. The movie follows her journey going to a public high school for the first time. The first friends she makes are Janis and Damian, two misfits who help guide Cady through her journey at North Shore High School. Cady soon meets the Plastics, the three most popular girls in the junior class. After the Plastics invite Cady to eat lunch with them, Janis tasks Cady with spying and messing with them. At first, Cady is apprehensive, but after Regina George (the most powerful of the three Plastics) intentionally begins dating the guy that she knows Cady likes, Cady agrees to help take down the Plastics. After spending so much time with them, Cady begins to act like one of the Plastics herself and ends up hurting Janis and Damian in addition to messing up what she has going on with her love interest. Mean Girls is an outstanding comedy that pokes fun at the social hierarchy in high school. Twenty years later, the movie is still relevant as it is quotable and relatable. Now think of this same plot, add a few songs, and then you have Mean Girls (2024). However, the occasional dance number wasn’t the only change made to this film. There were a lot more changes made than diehard Mean Girls fans were expecting, and thus came the downfall of Mean Girls The Musical. 

Why Mean Girls (2024) Flopped

As a diehard Mean Girls fan myself, I had very high hopes for the new Mean Girls. I was excited to see how they’d tailor the story to my generation. I heard big name stars like Reneé Rapp had been cast as well as returning characters like Tina Fey. Maybe I built Mean Girls (2024) up too much in my head. Nothing could live up to the original Mean Girls—but I think that this musical didn’t even come close. First, let’s talk about Angourie Rice being cast as Cady Heron. The last thing I want to do is continue to dogpile this actress, as her performance has already been so heavily criticized, but I do feel the need to mention her vocal performance. I think she is a wonderful actress and she can hold a tune, but when you’re singing alongside people like Reneé Rapp and Auli’i Cravalho (the literal voice of Moana), you have to be able to match their singing ability, and Angourie Rice’s songs were a little underwhelming compared to her castmates even though she was the lead actress. This made the film seem a little unbalanced. Otherwise, I thought she did a pretty good job embodying Cady. Avantika Vandanapu played Karen in this film (another one of the Plastics) and her vocal performance was pretty spectacular! As for her overall performance as Karen, I don’t know if I can say the same. My main issue with her performance was that I thought she was trying too hard to exude Karen Smith. I thought that her constant open mouth and wide eyes made her look more like she was high rather than giving the appearance of being airheaded like Karen is supposed to be. In the original film, there was a deleted scene where Regina (Rachel McAdams) forgives Cady because she’s on pain medication after getting hit by a bus. This scene was included in Mean Girls The Musical. I thought it made Reneé Rapp’s Regina become too nice. I think part of what made Regina such an iconic character was how incredibly mean she was, so to see her being nice took away some of the shock value from her character. One of Regina’s most notable moments was completely changed in this version of the film as well, and this is when she discovers that Cady has been messing with her and has her iconic “Burn Book freakout.” The song Regina sang while writing in the Burn Book was good, but the scene was much too calm and didn’t have the same emotion that the original performance. I like Auli’i Cravalho as an actress but I don’t think she was the right Janis. She wasn’t spiteful enough to me and nothing will beat Janis’ funny remarks in the original movie. Auli’i Cravalho and Lizzy Caplan (the OG Janis) gave very different performances in the role. To win the love of diehard Mean Girls fans, I think that Auli’i Cravalho would have had to play her role similar to Lizzy Caplan and her performance was of course difficult to replicate especially the addition of songs. On the flip side, I thought the actor that played Damian was very accurate and funny. 

LGBTQIA+ Representation in Mean Girls (2024)

The treatment of LGBTQIA+ characters was very different in this film as opposed to the original. In the original film, Regina assumes that Janis is gay because Janis was jealous of how much time Regina spent with her boyfriend when the two of them used to be friends. In the new film, we’re told that Janis came out to Regina when they were friends and then when Regina rises to popularity, she then makes fun of Janis for her sexuality. At the end of the original Mean Girls, it’s implied that Janis starts dating Kevin Gnapoor, the leader of the mathletes. In the new Mean Girls, Janis is openly gay and goes to the Spring Fling with a girl. Janis being openly gay in this film certainly wasn’t as taboo as it was only twenty years ago. It was refreshing to see LGBTQIA+ characters such as Janis and Damian be treated more normally. In this remake, the story goes that Janis gave Regina a stuffed animal with a pride pin on it to come out to her, and Regina began showing it to people to shame Janis. Janis, fed up with being made fun of, tried to destroy the stuffed animal by lighting it on fire and Regina’s backpack caught fire in the process. Janis got suspended and nothing happened to Regina. I thought this was a very interesting route to take the story. It reinforces Regina’s role as the untouchable “golden girl” who’s really a bully. I think this was also a way of reminding the audience that LGBTQIA+ people are villainized more often than straight people and don’t have as much of a voice in our society.

Final Thoughts

Although the movie was pretty clunky, the fun vibes of Mean Girls (2024) were undeniable, and certain set designs were a sight for sore eyes. I think fans of Mean Girls (2004) should watch this remake at least once. It’s fun to witness a new take on an old classic and to catch all of the callbacks to the original.