Ten Life Lessons We Learnt From 'Mean Girls'

3 October 2015

Perfection takes movie form in Mean Girls. Don't be fooled, it may seem like your typical teenage high school comedy but in reality it is so much more than that.

If like me you first watched Mean Girls when it first came out and have seen it hundreds of times over the past decade, you'll probably agree that Tina Fey pretty much wrote a masterpiece. Although set in Illinois I actually think the film takes place in Girl World - a world that Cady's "like a Martian" in, and seeing her navigate the rules and hierarchies that exist within it say so much about being a teenage girl. Not only a film that can be quoted in any situation, but a film that genuinely taught me so many life lessons as I was growing up. Here are ten!

#1 You're not better than anyone else, so don't act like it
Because although it might not necessarily end by getting hit by a bus, the chances are that it won't end well. Life can sometimes be a bit like high school in that cliques exist, but who are we to look down on others and decide that we're somehow 'more'? Regina initially decided who was 'cool enough'and wound up getting excluded for wearing sweatpants on a Monday, y'know? Adopt a kinder, more inclusive attitude and be all "you CAN sit with us".

#2 Be a little more like Miss Norbury
...or at least find someone who's like Miss Norbury to help guide you through the muddy waters of being a teenager. She's just so wise - how did she get so wise?! - and she always knows what to do, so when in doubt it's a good idea to ask yourself what Miss Norbury would do. She also takes her wig off when she's drunk, or something. She imparts her wisdom throughout the film (see #3 and #4 for examples) and to me, she's quite the role model.

#3 Know that being smart is really, really attractive
As Miss Norbury put it best, "you don't have to dumb yourself down in order for a guy to like you". Aaron likes cultured Cady - remember how the smile drops from his face when he moves from the photo of her with the elephant to the photo of her with the Plastics? And how he's all "welcome back, nerd" when she starts reaching her full potential in Math again? That's because being intelligent is a big 'yes', so go get yours with your grool smart brain.

#4 Slut-shaming completely goes against the rules of feminism
You know, I think one of the most impactful lines of the whole film is, "you have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores". Miss Norbury busting out that logic of respecting your fellow females.

#5 Never let the haters stop you from doing your thang
You know who else is pretty wise along with Miss N? Kevin G. The G's silent when he sneaks through your door, and he knows a lot about being unapologetically himself. He's not afraid to say the word 'thang' and he was using the word 'haters' in 2004, so he's basically a modern-day prophet who teaches us a valuable lesson about not caring what others think if it makes us happy. Yeah, GET SOME!

#6 Bringing others down won't raise you up
The realisation that Cady has at the Mathletes State Championships is so poignant and I'm not gonna lie, I kind of want to make a print of it and have it on my wall or something. "Calling someone else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter". PREACH. You can't fix your own issues by projecting them onto someone else, and it certainly won't help to try and drag others down to your level of insecurity. Instead of criticising others, focus on improving yourself and I promise that positive things will come from it. 

#7 Be yourself, always
Cady changes so many aspects of who she is to make herself more like the Plastics, and look how it ended - the fertility vase of the Ndebele tribe didn't mean anything to her, for crying out loud! Popularity in high school may seem like the most important thing in the world but in the grand scheme of your life it really doesn't make a difference. Go to Janice's art show instead of worrying about whether you got enough cheese and crackers for eight people. Listen to Ladysmith Black Mombazo if that's more your jam than Overdrive by Katy Rose. Even if being with a group of friends is like being famous, who cares - do you really want to smell like a baby prostitute and be cold, shiny, hard plastic? It's horrible when Cady starts telling people to "shut up" in a Regina-like manner. It's not worth losing who you are to be someone else's idea of 'cool', so when they're ordering you around like "get in loser, we're going shopping" and compromising your values with "you let it out honey, put it in the book", be like "...nope".

#8 Revenge isn't sweet, served cold or not
Even if you think someone needs to add 'Life Ruiner' to their CV, is attempting to take away everything they care about the mature and right thing to do? Yep, some people are mean. They'll tell your crush that you're some sort of voodoo queen, fake-compliment the bracelet your mum made you and tell you that hoop earrings are their thing. But that's not really your problem, and whilst you're on a quest to destroy their social status by pretending that everyone in Africa can read Swedish and whatever else it takes to reduce them to nothing, you'll also destroy yourself in the process. You'll wind up being just as mean as you think they are, and you'll cause full-tilt jungle madness. 

#9 Learn from Regina George's mistakes
It seems like everyone idolises Regina. They talk about her like she's a celebrity, think she's flawless and that it's awesome if she punches them in the face, but she's absolutely awful to the Emma Gerber's and the Caroline Krafft's of this world and in fact, she's even awful to her so-called best friends. Constantly manipulating them through three-way calling attacks and put-downs, she may be the Queen Bee of Girl World and set trends at North Shore but she isn't even liked. Her comeuppance just goes to show that if you're only popular because you're a bully and everyone is afraid of you, even your mates will grow weary of thy bullshit.

#10 Do the right thing
Although "most people just take the crown and go", I think Cady's Spring Fling Queen acceptance speech is really important. She owns up, apologises to everyone she's upset and gains back the respect of her parents, Aaron Samuels, Miss Norbury and her peers. Instead of letting things play on your conscience or being stubborn, although it's hard, you'll ultimately feel better for admitting that you've done wrong and saying sorry to those you've hurt. It's all about being the best person you can possibly be.

As for our happy ending, I've always loved that moment where Regina and Cady wave and smile at each other. They're now floating in what used to be a shark tank, and Girl World is at peace. I love Mean Girls for showing that women don't have to fight and compete with one another, and I'd really recommend reading Rosalind Wiseman's 'Queen Bees and Wannabes' as well as watching the film with the commentary on for more life lessons. Oh and also... don't forget to live every day like you're Glen Coco.

Has Mean Girls taught you anything? Let me know!


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