Why the cult classic Mean Girls is still a fan favourite for new generations

Three of the film’s stars have reunited for a Walmart advert which parodies the acclaimed film

Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert have reunited to parody their hit film Mean Girls for a Walmart commercial. Photo: Paramount Pictures
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Although it's been almost two decades since Mean Girls was released, the film is showing no sign of releasing its grip on popular culture.

Released in 2004, the movie has been recreated and parodied by US retail giant Walmart as part of its Black Friday advertising campaign, with new adverts scheduled to run every Wednesday (when we wear pink) until November 24.

The commercial reunites The Plastics, a group of popular girls from North Shore High School. There's Cady Heron (played by Dubai resident Lindsay Lohan), who is now a guidance counsellor; Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), still a meteorologist; and Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), who is now a mum – a cool mum. Their leader Regina George (played by Rachel McAdams) does not appear in the commercials.

“It was so nice being back together after all these years,” Lohan told People of the reunion. “It was great catching up with everyone.” Chabert added: “It was wonderful to spend the day with Amanda and Lindsay and it was so much fun getting to reminisce and be together again.”

The first commercial also features mathlete Kevin Gnapoor (Rajiv Surendra) and Cady’s friend Damian (Daniel Franzese).

'Smart and funny'

The film was penned by writer and actress Tina Fey, who was head writer at Saturday Night Live at the time, and directed by Mark Waters, who had previously worked with Lohan on the 2003 body-swap comedy Freaky Friday.

Based, in part, on educator Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes – about female high school friendships, cliques and bullying – Fey admitted to also drawing on her own experiences as a high school bully when writing the film.

“It’s another coping mechanism,” Fey told The Edit about having picked on other people in high school. “It’s a bad coping mechanism, but when you feel less than... in your mind, it’s a way of levelling the playing field.”

The film was released to critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone calling is “comedy gold” and critic Roger Ebert, writing: “In a wasteland of dumb movies about teenagers, Mean Girls is a smart and funny one.”

Themes and memes

If further proof were needed of the film’s enduring popularity, Mariah Carey dressed up as Regina George for Halloween this year, recreating the scene where George’s vest gets cut and she inadvertently starts a new trend.

As well as boasting quotes that are still used today (“That was so fetch!”, “Get in loser, we’re going shopping”), many of the film’s lines have become memes (“The limit does not exist.").

It also has its own special day: October 3. This is in reference to a scene in which Cady, dreaming about her crush Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), recalls their recent conversation: “On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.”

The universal themes of the film such as dealing with new beginnings and situations, bullying, trying to fit it and finding your place in the world are notions that have resonated with different generations.

Issues facing young women are also tackled and skewered in a humorous way. Diet culture and body image is touched upon with Regina George’s declaration that she “wants to lose three pounds” while bemoaning her “man shoulders”.

Celebrity worship and influencer culture get a nod as a wide-eyed student declares: “I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops, so I bought army pants and flip flops.”

Ultimately it’s Cady's journey of self-discovery, learning to embrace what she wants to do rather than what society and peer group pressure thinks she should do, that continues to appeal.

It's an enduring, inspiring epiphany that's summed up perfectly in her "Aha!" moment at a maths competition towards the end of the film that “calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter.”

Updated: November 02, 2023, 9:28 AM