I can’t exactly remember the first time I watched “Mean Girls,” but I’m pretty sure it was at a sleepover. I look back on nights like those fondly; watching rom-coms in basements, snuggled up under blankets and eating way too much candy and popcorn. Sleepovers were built for movies like “Mean Girls.”
Now, when I first heard in 2020 that they were remaking “Mean Girls,” I was less than thrilled. For one, they tried, and failed, to replicate the magic of “Mean Girls” in a horrific sequel, unoriginally named “Mean Girls 2.” But above all, I am a hater of most – if not all – movie remakes. Not to mention, this remake is a musical; honestly – I hate musicals.
However, when I heard that Renee Rapp was playing Regina George, I knew I’d have to swallow my hatred of movie remakes just for her.
I’ve been listening to Rapp’s music for a little less than a year now, introduced to her by my super-fan best friend. I went to her concert on Oct. 14 and to say that it was a life-changing experience just doesn’t do it justice.
Below you’ll find my thoughts on the trailer and Rapp’s iteration of Regina George in “Mean Girls” (2024).
Regina George Deserves a Queer Storyline
The first time I watched the trailer I was enthralled by Rapp’s performance. She is far more stylish than Rachel McAdams’ iteration of the film’s antagonist, and more importantly, way more queer. Rapp is seen wearing a pink corset in one scene and is dressed head-to-toe in leather in the other. She has swagger in a way that McAdams just didn’t. Rapp’s Regina George sashays through the trailer like the bisexual the queer community is clamoring for her to be.
Queer folk have been theorizing about Regina George’s queerness for years. They cite her need to be seen as popular, stylish and boy-crazy as proof of her desire to hide her queerness. They claim she uses her aggression, manipulation and bullying to bury the feelings she deals with as she navigates her high school’s society.
I believe they are right.
If we take a closer look at some of George’s decisions, there’s a lot of truth behind her possible queer identity. For instance, when George finds out Cady likes her ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels, she gets back together with him. On the surface, this seems like just another mean-spirited move on George’s part. Okay, sure; that’s a totally reasonable explanation.
But let’s look at it from a queer person’s perspective for a second. Let’s say George doesn’t want to hurt Cady’s feelings – but rather – she actually kind of likes her and wants to make sure she doesn’t date anyone else. After all, George says to Cady early on, “but you’re like, really pretty.”
Let’s also not forget: George spreads a rumor that Cady’s other friend, Janice, is a lesbian who tried to kiss her. Why don’t we flip the script here too: Let’s say it’s not Janice who tries to kiss George, but the other way around. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was insistent on keeping my queerness hidden from the world – I think spreading a rumor that it was the other girl (the less popular, more grunge girl) who kissed me would be the next logical move.
Now I could be reading into the trailer’s depiction of Regina George because of how much I love Rapp, who is bisexual. Though, if I’m going to watch a remake of another movie, I’d really prefer if said movie actually did something different than the first.
And I’m sure it will; I’m just hoping giving a queer-coded character a real, actual queer storyline is at the forefront of those differences. George deserves that, and so do queer folk.
Notable Cast and Positive Plot Changes
The trailer says a few things that make me hopeful that it will be different, referring to the remake as not “your mother’s Mean Girls” and “a new twist from Tina Fey.”
There are some notable changes in casting and plot. For one, the cast is more diverse and brings in a lot of new-Hollywood faces. A “Health and Human Sexuality course” replaces the original’s infamous gym sex-talk-scene. Instead of the coach yelling at them to use condoms because if they have sex they will “get pregnant and die,” he says:
“We will be getting into abstinence, of course, then followed by in the spring: Condoms and choking.”
Aside from a more sex-positive spin, there are more changes that I’m excited to see in terms of inclusivity. Namely, when we see the Burn Book opened for the first time, it’s on Janice and Donovan’s page; this time around, it doesn’t say the “d-slur.”
Missed Opportunities and Things Left Out
Though there are positive changes to look forward to, just based on the trailer, the anti-sexism, “girl power” message remains as gendered as ever.
“As women we still have to support one another,” Tina Fey, reprising her role as Ms. Norbury, says to a group of students in what appears to be the other famous gym scene. Why we’re still assuming that everyone who deals with sexism/bullying/discrimination is a woman, is beyond me.
What I was most surprised to see left out of the trailer was Janice’s famous high school clique introduction. Now, it could’ve been left out simply because they want this movie to be as original as a remake can be. But, my sense is that maybe the cliques aren’t as focal to this version’s storyline. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen.
The weirdest thing about this trailer was that there was no singing. Like, at all. Which was really weird for a musical trailer. Scored by up and coming artist Olivia Rodrigo, one would think the music would be at the center of this trailer. But it wasn’t – which was obviously fine by me, I don’t like musicals – or Olivia Rodrigo.
While the original “Mean Girls” gets a lot right, it also gets a lot wrong.
There are multiple “r-slurs” and “d-slurs” throughout the movie. The original Janice explaining the Plastics scene is pretty awful to sit through; there’s an insult to almost every minority group in existence – not to mention, so much ableism. George is quite obviously dealing with an eating disorder that’s never addressed in a positive way and she is constantly shamed for gaining weight. And overall the film pokes fun at misogyny and sexuality, blaming most of the issues on women in the process.
That being said, at its core, “Mean Girls” is a great film. It does a great job of telling the story of mean girls in a satirical way. But, it can be so much better. This remake – coming out almost exactly 20 years after its predecessor – could be such a great opportunity to redo some of the mistakes they made the first time around.
And although I might truly hate remakes and musicals, you can bet I’ll be sitting smack dab in the middle seat of the middlest row (the best seat, obviously) on Jan. 12, 2024 with extra buttered popcorn in my lap, a coke slurpee in one hand and milk duds in the other.