How Hollywood Has Queer-coded the Mean Girl Trope and What It Means To Sapphics
On April 30th, 2004, Mean Girls was released to the public. Despite having average marketing, the early 2000’s were kind to the genre of teen comedies and teen girls flocked to the theaters in order to watch what is now considered a cult classic. I was a mere baby by the time this film was released and can only speculate why it drew in so many girls. Maybe it was the kooky characters that were so easy to turn on at any given moment, or quick quips that were easy to quote. Yet, I, and many more, found myself attracted to the titular antagonist of the movie.
Regina George, portrayed by Rachel McAdams, is the popular alpha girl played out to the fullest extent. She’s manipulative, charismatic, and will draw into a false sense of security before her fangs strike right into your flesh. She’s everything the general public should hate, but she’s ultimately an icon. I was confused by my infatuation by her but then understood so clearly by the time I aged 13 years old. Regina George emphasized the identity of a closeted woman who felt attracted to other woman. Especially when Janis Ian, another character in the movie, borderlines on lesbian stereotypes and Regina suspects her of being one.
The mean girl trope seems to relish in the intimacy that can be shared between two women as they oppose one another. They’re seemingly unattainable, always quick to sacrifice you before you can do any harm to their reputation. Yet, as the years go on, we’ve seen multiple variations of this, showing that these are women who simply have to shirk their identities in order to be seen as valued amongst their peers or others who are too stubborn to let go of their values and conform to the status quo that they lash out in defense.
Megan Fox, before being blacklisted from Hollywood, portrayed Jennifer Check in the 2009 film Jennifer’s Body. Jennifer is a perfect execution of the former example; she uses her sexuality in order to empower herself and has a relationship with the protagonist of the film, Anita “Needy” Lesnicky, that borders on something more intimate than friendship. They allow themselves to brush past a clear line of friendship once these two characters kiss and develop their relationship where they can be vulnerable to intimacy - not to mention the fact that Jennifer counters with the iconic line, “I swing both ways”, to Needy’s accusation that she only preys upon boys.
The mean girl trope often offers another glimpse of a girl, one that is fueled by a bit more toxicity and vengeance than others but it’s a realistic depiction of what some girls turn to when they wish to survive. Taking away parts of themselves just to please others and only picking out perfect traits that won’t cause a stir is what a lot of queer women have to do in order to survive. They see parts of themselves reflected within these girls, something reminiscent stirring within them.
Something about being represented can do wonders for someone and it’s why mean girls like Jennifer Check, Regina George, and Nancy Downs are close to my heart. They’re some part of me in them and they’re a method for sapphics to not feel so alone in their world.