Pop Culture
Jan 17, 2024, 06:28AM

Singing October 3rd

Mean Girls doesn't offer much new remade as a musical, but it's fine as a pop feminist confection.

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People this week are tweeting about Tulsi Gabbard as a Veep candidate for Trump. (Why not for Vivek or DeSantis?) A year or so, as Gabbard was becoming more and more critical of the Democratic Party as a whole, conservative pundit Kurt Schlichter warned his Twitter followers: “I like Tulsi Gabbard and I’m glad she’s rejected the Democrats but she’s not a Republican and we should stop pretending she is and just accept that she’s someone who doesn’t seem to hate us but probably doesn’t agree with us on most of the important things, which is just fine.”

I feel this way about Tina Fey.

Fey’s brilliant. Yet she served at the center (Rockefeller Center!) of corporate ruling class Democratic media, NBC, where the comics make fun of people who raise questions about anti-Semitism on campus, and the long running shows—the Law and Orders and To Catch a Predator—exist to teach the public that evil private individuals are everywhere, and only noble government officials (and journalists) hold them in check. NBC had Rachel Maddow don a combat helmet and get in a tank to tell people about how great America’s government infrastructure projects were in Afghanistan and Iraq. When NBC decided to make its copy of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the drama Grimm, instead of the hero being an often truant girl who battles demonic mayors and (government) high school principals and defense contractors, the hero is a homicide detective. Government, government, everywhere.

One might worry that her 2024 Mean Girls is just a cashing in on her 2004 movie of the same name. It’s not. Early on, one obvious difference is clear—these kids have cell phones, which kids didn’t have in 2004. Their obsession with their phones, selfies, etc. have to become part of the plot.

Initially the cast looks wrong. A big-assed, big-boned blonde actress (Renee Rapp) has replaced the lovely Rachel McAdams as queen meanie Regina George. An actress, Angourie Rice, who’s close to the spitting image of the young Amy Adams, has the Lindsey Lohan part playing Cady Heron (Lohan has a cameo near the end). Heron no longer has two parents, but a single mom, played by Jenna Fischer, who looks like a slightly older Amy Adams. The dreamy Jonathan Bennett no longer plays the boy the girls fight over; Aaron Samuels, a more boy-next-door looking Christopher Briney does. Lizzy Caplan and Amanda Seyfried have been replaced with more ordinary-looking actors (though Busy Philipps and Bebe Wood are bigger names who both have great parts).

Maybe the reason so many people remind you of Amy Adams—and the reason the svelte Lohan, Caplan, McAdams, and Seyfried are replaced by actors with big boobs, thick waists, and big butts—is that this Mean Girls is a musical. It’s not just several music videos tied together with some dialogue. The bulk of the story is told in song and dance. It’s a comic operetta. At one point to keep the music flowing Tina Fey, reprising her role as the teacher Ms. Norbury, is going to re-enact the scene from the original movie where she gives a gymnasium full of girls a feminist pep talk about not tearing each other down, and then makes them do team-building exercises. She sings, and the audience holds its breath to see how Fey will do. She quickly loses the tune, makes a joke about it, and then delivers her part of the scene in straight dialogue.

There isn’t a lot to think about here. The movie’s against bullying, and even more than in the original the heroes are the outsider duo of the lesbian student Janis Ian (originally played by Lizzy Caplan) and her gay guy friend (who is now gay and black), who take new student Cady under their wings when she can’t find a clique to join. Janis is played by Auli'i Cravalho, whose credits are all things I’ve never watched, except for The Power. Initially I looked at her (among others) on screen and was irritated about what these people had to offer to improve on the original. But she’s a great singing talent, as they all were, so by the end all is forgiven and this feminist confection is fairly enjoyable.

I bet if you polled Tina Fey and the women (and men) involved in projects like Mean Girls, they all voted for Hillary Clinton, and supported her in her mean-girl lashing out at other women like Tulsi Gabbard.


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