Pop-Culture | Posted by Helen H on 01/28/2010

The Mean Girls Reality

Mean Girls: not always the truth

Mean Girls: not always the truth

It may have been my simplistic seven-year-old view of the world that made me categorize everyone into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but I soon got over it with the help of time, and even things like movies. Still, there was one kind of movie that never seemed to stretch that idea of good and bad, that always seemed to use the same archetypes, and frankly, that scared me.

Yes, I’m talking about the high school flick.The protagonist? The new girl, warm-hearted, pretty, smart. The antagonist? A typically blonde, vapid creature, who is usually captain of the cheerleading squad and always vain. Most of the time, the plots aren’t too creative either–our evil, sputtering antagonist realizes that new girl is a threat to her popularity, especially after new girl catches her boyfriend’s attention. So, antagonist comes up with some nasty ploy to destroy new girl and keep 1st place in the popularity contest.

Fast forward, though, to my first day at my own new high school, one of the best and most expensive in Jordan. I was given a scolarship to go there, and it was well-acknowledged that this school was for the diplomats’ sons and daughters, the children of rich businessmen. This, of course, terrified me. Not only was I afraid of being outcast as one of the scholarship students,  but also of finding myself in one of ‘those’ high schools, the ones I’d seen far too many times on T.V.

Neither happened. I’ll speak for myself, because as an overall uninvolved girl who likes to be on good terms with everyone in a relatively small school, I’m probably not the best person to give advice on this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my fellow high school girls are entirely peaceful creatures–I’ve seen girls bitch-calling and holding months-long grudges and I’ve been slapped by a best friend who claimed I was flirting with her crush. So, I don’t think it’s that we’re innately programmed to act like the cast of Mean Girls. I think it’s just that we’ve seen so many movies like it that we start noticing the little similarities–like, we see a girl who’s popular–and we immediately make a connection.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never to take another high school flick seriously, because I’ve seen some girls who could fit in the ‘vicious cheerleader’ stereotype, and hey, they’re not so vicious after all.

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  • ACW @ at 12:50 pm, January 28th, 2010

    Or, you know, a student’s first experience could go completely in the other direction, and truth could be as bad or worse than fiction:
    http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100128parents_demand_action_on_bullying/

    My sophomore year, a male student was sick of being bullied and –since the administrators and counselors were unwilling or unable to do anything about the situation– he brought a gun to school and ‘handled’ it himself.

  • Helen H. @ at 2:13 pm, January 28th, 2010

    Oh my. That’s terrible.

  • Helen H. @ at 2:15 pm, January 28th, 2010

    I mean, I’m speaking purely from my own measly experience, and that’s not much.

  • Jordi @ at 9:06 pm, January 28th, 2010

    I’m from Australia and so I’ve never been worried about the whole clique thing with the popular and beautiful girls having everyone in the palm of their hand at school that Hollywood seems obsessed with.
    However, I must admit that my and friend and I, after watching a little too many of these films, would love to visit America to see if it’s really like that ;P

  • Allie @ at 10:21 pm, January 28th, 2010

    Jordi — I think a lot of these behaviors are universal, they are just extremely exaggerated in Hollywood! so, I don’t think it’s actually like that in the US.. at least not most of the time, past middle school at least, haha.

  • Moria @ at 12:25 am, January 29th, 2010

    The mean cheerleader trope really irritates me. I was a cheerleader for a while in high school, and I really liked it. None of the girls on my team fit the “mean girl” stereotype, and many of us weren’t even people who fit any of the cheer stereotypes.

    Those movies are really unrealistic and promote a simplified view of high school as a dichotomy between good and bad. It’s ridiculous. Also, having so many stereotypes about how cheerleaders (and lots of other groups, too) are only serves to discourage young people from pursuing activities that might actually interest them for fear of not fitting in to a clique that doesn’t actually exist in real life.

  • Giorgia @ at 10:02 am, January 29th, 2010

    I don’t think all of Mean Girls was meant to reflect reality. The notion of the new girl being targeted (as with other teen movies), I believe was only for a storyline purpose because the new girl allows a whole new dynamic which provides for a more entertaining movie, and not to mention, it represents the audience as we are new to this world too.

    There are good and bad in every school, and some may have worse ‘clique’ problems than other. Hollywood, like with everything else, exaggerates it.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 11:02 pm, January 29th, 2010

    I’m convinced people who make movies about high school life were miserable in high school and are making the characters as unrealistic as possible in a feeble attempt to get even….they probably hate teens in general too.

    There is some truth to them, but it’s not nearly as mind numbingly simple as what’s shown in the movies. The “victims” often provoke the ugly treatment they latter cry about.

  • Anu @ at 9:08 am, January 30th, 2010

    “The mean cheerleader trope really irritates me. I was a cheerleader… None of the girls on my team fit the “mean girl” stereotype…”

    Well, to be frank, I’m sure a lot of people are completely oblivious to how horribly they (sometimes) treat other people. I don’t know you or your cheerleader friends and I’m more inclined to think you were/are decent people, but just because you (the potential bully in the stereotypical high school scenario) don’t think you or your friends were a bullies doesn’t mean it’s true. Who wants to admit they are/were a horrible person, even if it was years ago in high school?

  • kanadra @ at 12:01 am, February 1st, 2010

    To play the devils advocate to your comment, Anu (and not saying that i don’t agree to what you’re saying), but the cheer-leading team at my high school was the epitome of not-mean.
    We didn’t have a cheer squad for more than a year because while i was there, no one was really interested. Most of the “popluar”, cheerleader material girls were either involved in actual sports, or too busy with parties to get involved with extracurricular activities. The girls who were actually on the cheer squad, from what i can recall, were a pretty random selection from many crowds, including the art and gaming crowds, but mostly people who enjoyed dance and similar activities.
    I guess what i’m saying is, maybe the people on Moira’s team were not in fact bullies or “mean girls”. Just because someone is in a stereotypical high school role, doesn’t mean they have to fit the stereotype. :)

  • Toongrrl @ at 2:23 pm, February 1st, 2010

    I’m glad high school is over

  • PatriarchySlayer @ at 2:17 am, February 2nd, 2010

    Let me just say that everyone’s high school experience is so different. Even within my own high school there are a million different opinions about the same people, same teachers and same cliques.
    My personal experience was not great. I never felt that I fit in anywhere. I was the aimless wanderer, just hoping to make it out undamaged. I hated high school. There were some great people, but there were some really really horrible people. Not only to me but to other people. I tried to stop it when I could, but eventually when the people you are trying to protect turn against you, you know it’s a losing battle.

    The division in my school (I went to a big public high school) between the rich and the poor was very evident. There were a lot of rifts and imbalances. It was a tough time for a lot of people. So I can relate to the meanness. It can get pretty ugly.

  • kimi @ at 9:21 pm, February 2nd, 2010

    This kid in my school is bullied so much that the teachers are afraid to let him go to the bathroom. But in all fairness this boy is both rude and obnoxious to everyone, though I do believe it may have to do with the fact he’s always getting bullied.

  • cheergiirl @ at 11:51 pm, February 17th, 2010

    to jordi: no its not really like that here. theres really no cliques like that. some stereoype. like with cheerleaders but i am a cheerleader and almost none of us are really like that.

  • Lupe Tenhoff @ at 9:42 pm, March 1st, 2010

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  • Grey @ at 4:38 pm, July 5th, 2010

    Never happens in my school. Granted, I go to an art school where everyone’s friendly with each other. And in middle school it never happened. These types of films annoy the hell out of me. Sure, Mean Girls is entertaining, but most high school flicks bored me to death.

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