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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mean Girls is a 2004 comedy in which Lindsay Lohan plays Cady, a new girl in a high school where a clique of popular girls dominate. Some mature material for a PG-13 film, including crude humor, sexual references, references to venereal disease, underage drinking, and comic violence. Teen girls call other girls names like "slut-faced ho bag," "fugly slut," and "nastiest skank bitch." The mother of one of the "mean girls" offers alcohol to her daughter and her friends, acts drunk, and offers condoms to her daughter when she walks in on her on the verge of having sex. The sex-ed teacher is revealed to be committing statutory rape with two students, and is shown making out with a teen girl. Homosexual slurs used. There's a prank involving a pregnancy test. Cady allows her home to be taken over by partying teens, gets drunk, and throws up. A child watches Girls Gone Wild and imitates it. A girl refers to herself as "half a virgin" and there's a joke about girl-girl kissing. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of diverse characters, including disabled, gay, and minority students. Overall, it's a biting satire that doesn't shy away from the hypocrisy of some adults, and doesn't sugarcoat the language and behavior of teens when, mired in insecurity and feelings of inferiority, they spread terrible rumors and hurl vitriolic insults, and it tries to use the story to combat and address this issue.
What's the story?
MEAN GIRLS is about a girl who takes on a ruling clique. It's based on Queen Bees and Wannabes, a nonfiction book by Rosalind Wiseman about alpha girls and the impact they have on everyone else, adapted by Saturday Night Live head writer (and Weekend Update anchor) Tina Fey. Previously homeschooled by her zoologist parents while living in Africa, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moves to Evanston, Illinois, and attends high school. Cady finds herself having a hard time understanding the social norms in the school, and is drawn to "the Plastics," the most popular clique in the school.
Is it any good?
There's much that's fresh and sharp in this movie. And while Mean Girls has an uncertain hold on its plot and ends up pulling some of its punches and throwing in teen comedy clichés we have seen before, it's still enjoyable and thought-provoking for teens.
Screenwriter Tina Fey, who appears as a sympathetic teacher, has a good sense of how girls like Regina operate to establish their domination, appearing to be sweet and supportive but in reality being competitive, duplicitous, and manipulative, and always surrounding themselves with people who will add to their power and not challenge them. And Fey's superb sense of comedy gives the script some biting humor. Her Saturday Night Live colleagues lend support to the cast, with Tim Meadows as the school principal, Ana Gasteyer as Cady's mother, and Amy Poehler superb as Regina's mother, who insists, "I'm not like a regular mom; I'm a cool mom!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the elements that determine status for teenagers -- like those Cady must learn to navigate in Mean Girls -- are different from those that determine status in the adult world, at work, and with friends and family.
Use this movie to begin a discussion about the way that the girls your kids know treat each other, and the actions they can take to encourage the girls to be kinder and more supportive.
Ask kids if they know any "mean girls." How do they deal with them?
- In theaters: April 30, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: September 21, 2004
- Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey
- Director: Mark Waters
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Sexual content, language and some teen partying
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