• Bea Sanchez

Today in Girl World: Behind the Powerplay of Regina George



Tall, check.

Hot, check.

Blonde, check.


And a mythic b-word, absolute check.


“Evil takes a human form in Regina George.”

GIF from Mean Girls



Nearly two decades since its release, the classic cult film ‘Mean Girls’ has remained prevalent as one of the main powerhouses of pop culture references in recent years—often passed around as either memes, still shots, or even GIFs that contain some of the most now-considered iconic lines in film history.


“Like, why are you so obsessed with me?”

GIF from Mean Girls


As such, it is only justified that in light of Women’s Month this March that we delve a little deeper into the world of the plastics—or in Cady’s words, “The Girl World”—as an attempt to shed light on the film’s political undertone, and what this means to the current, yet eerily similar structures existent today.


“Regina George is an evil dictator”

Still shot from Mean Girls


The oppressive yet subtle quasi-authoritarian regime weaved within the systems of North Shore High School is unlike any other. Aside from the evident picture that it is led and dominated by a female—yes, even with the emergence of third-wave feminism at that time, it is also heavily controlled and regulated through seemingly unconventional means—where the degree of power equates popularity, competence equals gossip, and faculty parallels pretty privilege.


“But this was Girl World, and in Girl World,

all the fighting had to be sneaky.”

GIF from Mean Girls


In the context of the film, it is the pink-loving, girly girl Regina George, that intelligently manipulates these methods, enough to let herself be acknowledged as the leader of a regime—one of which stands because of three factors: legitimacy, co-option, and repression, with all three necessary for the subjects—a.k.a the students of North Shore High—to deem her rule valid.


Legitimacy

It is a no-brainer that Regina George—with reference to her last name—is gorgeous, possessing what today is dubbed as “the pretty privilege.” With pale skin, eurocentric features, a slim body, and straight blonde hair, nobody can deny that she is a candy to the eyes. Paired with being economically well-off, the image cultivated by Regina succeeds a reputation of the unreachable and flawless girl—someone other girls may despise, yet unknowingly desire to be.


“One time she punched me in the face…it was awesome.”

GIF from Mean Girls


As such, instances of being the b-word—i.e. Being mean and utterly intolerable, are excused or even justified. Treated comparable to a literal goddess, anything she says goes (and she takes advantage of this way too many times to count).



Co-option

A strong rule has the particular characteristic of an absence of threats.


In Girl World, in order to negate a threat, one must be willing to keep them close—like a friend. Besides getting chummy with Cady—another conventionally attractive girl that has an interesting African backstory, Regina also cunningly conditioned both Gretchen Wieners (A rich heiress, with her dad being the inventor of Toaster Strudel) and Karen Smith (A very attractive but definitely stupid popular student) into subservience, effectively creating her own little oligarchy that ensures the smooth operation of her administration.


“That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.”

GIF from Mean Girls


Gretchen, whose hair is full of secrets, acts as the main intel of the plastics. All the new and juicy gossip from the high school flows through and is filtered by her before reaching the queen. Consequently, it is only Gretchen that possesses the deepest, darkest secrets of Regina—those of which could potentially ruin the validity of her rule once outed (which eventually did). She, unlike Karen, holds the same level—if not more—intellect than Regina; but fear, paired with the lack of leadership charisma, eventually won her over and thus settled as one of Regina’s sidekicks instead.


“But everyone forgets about her because she’s such a slut.”

Still shot from Mean Girls


Karen, riding on the “dumb blonde” trope is arguably the most attractive “side-kick” of the three – she could as well be more gorgeous than Regina; but with the overall absence of political savvy, Karen, contrary to Gretchen is ultimately satisfied with her current position.


“On Wednesdays, we were pink.”


GIF from Mean Girls


Repression

With the lack of any external threat and the existence of a firm foundation, Regina had little to no obstacles to ensure that her rule is sustainable for the years to come.


But in the rare moments that there were, repression—through both her unspoken and spoken rules, implemented by her underlings, Gretchen and Karen—would definitely eliminate them without as much effort.


“So you agree, you think you’re really pretty.”

GIF from Mean Girls


Today in Our Girl World

By now, it must be blatantly obvious that there had been more than what the film let on, or what the character of Regina George has made known. More than the admittedly entertaining girl fights composed of backstabs, snitches, or even sabotages, the film, through Regina George, effectively emulated the experiences of each and every girl in existence that had to operate within a man’s world.


“Mom, can you pick me up? I’m scared.”

GIF from Mean Girls


Unable to express themselves freely or unable to reach for power deemed unfit for their gender, they had to find another cunning way to thrive—pulling strings, gaining intel, and sharpening their manipulation tactics to near perfection, just so they could control the variables and attain a taste of success even within the oppressive system.


Admittedly, while this operation is nothing short of clever (Trust me, I think Regina is a genius), it does provide the unwanted but inevitable consequence of disempowerment – that of which where the triumph of a few girls would require the negligence of most.


With that, our girl world at this day and age must be vastly different from the plastics of the film, and thus cease all the alleged competition. Beginning with the acknowledgment that no girl is better than the other—no matter how pretty, how rich, how smart, how girly, how exotic, how eurocentric, how curvy, how skinny, or how thick, each of us is. As in one way or another, we all possess an identical identity, with the same underlying problem of a currently patriarchal society. And so, instead of “putting other girls down,” we must try to lift each other up.


And I know, it is easier said than done—what, with the years of being constantly told to “not be like other girls.” So, why not start small—maybe next time, just attempt to restrain the b-word from coming out and say something nice instead (a compliment goes all the way)!


In the words of Ms. Nurbury, “You’ve all got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, it just makes it okay for guys (and thus the system) to call you sluts and whores.”


 

References:


Mean Girls: Regina George, The Psychology of a Dictator. (2019, April 27). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i6b0gtsWeM


Kaplan, Anna (n.d.) "'Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen’: The Disempowerment of Women’s Voices in the Film Mean Girls.," SUURJ: Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 3 , Article 16. Available at: https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/suurj/vol3/iss1/16


The Underlying Politics of Mean Girls. (2020, October 2). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNaCY9m-aZs



 

Article Contributors:


Bea Sanchez Content Creator

Maru Rubino Creative Director





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