Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The World of Mean Girls (2004), Part 1

Everyone who has seen the movie Mean Girls knows that this is how Regina George dies (Just kidding!):


 But do we realize that the film foreshadows this, gives it away, in fact, in the first five minutes, where we learn that Evanston High School has the worst bus driver ever?

Also, there's this:


There's also a brilliant bit of visual storytelling, this time in the form of costuming, that signifies the end of Gretchen Wiener's story arc:

Pssst... it's the earrings. I'm talking about the earrings.

These two clever bits are really just the beginning of how brilliant this film is. Read on, bee-otches!

One of my favorite things about this film is the repeated use of the background characters to make the high school feel more like... well, a suburban high school. To highlight how out of place Cady is, some characters appear over and over again, but so briefly that they may be missed, building on the idea that these people really have always known each other. The most obvious example is Bethany Byrd (because somehow most of these character have names) who most of us know as TMI Redhead girl:

We meet her first during the "introduction to Regina George" segment:

Here she is again, observing and joining in Regina's new "boob hole" trend, helping save the Plastics' Christmas Carol, and standing next to Damian at the Spring Fling

These are just a few of the times we see Bethany, she's all over the place. "Big whoop, she's a background character," you may think, right? Well, let's take a look at some of the other people we meet during our introduction to Regina:

 Well, don't worry, Amber D'Alassio, there's plenty of other ways to get famous! Like, making out with a hot dog for example!

Sure it was.

Then there's this dork:

 He's not a very social guy, we don't see him again until the tournament of the Matheletes, where we learn that his last name is Pak.


 Wait a minute, "Pak"? Why does that name sound familiar?

Thhaaaaaaat's right, apparently Mathelete Tim Pak must be related to the infamous coach-kisser Trang Pak:

This is called "World Building", and it's not just exclusive to comic-book movies. Director Mark Waters wanted to create a tightly-wound community where lots of secrets could be easily exchanged and names could be known, while still giving the appearance of a large population. He does this by selectively re-using characters at distinct points throughout the film, spread out so far that sometimes you don't even realize they're the same person:

Sometimes we achieve verisimilitude by giving the character a distinct characteristic or attitude in every scene, which, in Kristen Hadley's case, is "looking/acting like a total bitch."

Dawn Schweitzer has a huge ass, you see.

She DOES like her weird, ginger-fro-ed boyfriend though:

 Which is weird, because he's a wussy.
Note: I really like how he's wearing the same shirt in both of these photos,
with no collar this time.

 And a sociopath.

The best use of a recurring character has to be the simple transformation of Emma Gerber, who epitomizes the downfall of Regina George's public image. Through the course of the film, Emma's opinion of Regina goes from this:

 To this:


The point is, by repeating these characters and having them make an impact on our brains, even without us realizing it, it makes a massive difference and adds the extra punch when the crowd turns on Cady:

In this picture: Emma Gerber, Dawn Schweitzer, Gretchen Wieners,
Karen Clark, Bethany Byrd, Jessica Lopez, and Short Girl.
I'm not making that up. They named the girl with Dwarfism "Short Girl."

Because in that shot right there, the film is putting us in Cady's position, that's why it's filmed from her POV. And it stings a lot more when people you know fairly well are mad at you that when total strangers, or "extras" are. The use of repeated characters actually gives us a sense of related empathy-by-proxy for Cady. We wouldn't care nearly as much about her making things right if we had no idea who these people were. Unless of course, you just have a lot of feelings, like this girl:

Ironically, I recognize non of the non-Damian people in this shot.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome, thank you! I was looking for something to help me write a film analysis based entirely on the use of visuals. I chose 'Mean Girls' just because I'd seen it so many times, but I had never picked up on what you mention here! Cool read.