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May 10, 2004


Mean Girls and Mean Girls Grow Up (aka 13 Going on 30)

We池e always eager to discuss movies about teenage girls, especially when there are several of them released at the same time. This weekend we saw both Mean Girls and 13 Going on 30, which had similar themes of how cruel girls can be to each other in their quest for popularity. Both were morality pieces about the horrible things that happen when you sacrifice friendship and kindness for membership in shallow but exclusive social cliques. Obviously, the movie that stars Lindsay Lohan was bound to be the better of the two; despite the overwhelming mitigating factor of Mark Ruffalo, 13 Going on 30 was disappointing.

But back to the teenage girl stuff. Mean Girls had much sharper insights about high school social groups and the complete disdain that different crowds of kids have for each other. Not surprising, since it was written by Tina Fey, whereas 13 Going on 30 was written by the team that brought you What Women Want. According to 13 Going on 30, what women want is the friend from middle school who had a crush on you and who you rejected in favor of the cool girls. They also apparently want to buy pink houses in the country and to wear thermal shirts and jeans, even though they may think they want swanky Fifth Avenue apartments and a fabulous walk-in closet. I guess we池e meant to realize that the vision of our adult, stylish, selves that we long for when we池e in 7th grade is probably going to be majorly disappointing once we actually get there. This movie promoted a strange message of 電on稚 follow your dreams of being a fashionable urban woman, because they are selfish and will only make you miserable.� The assumption that being single and cool in the city equals having destroyed everyone who loves you in the process of getting there is surprisingly conservative for a Jennifer Garner movie that markets itself as 鄭 comedy for the kid in all of us.�

But Mean Girls: this movie was about how pretty much everybody in high school is incredibly cruel and backbiting to pretty much everybody else, despite social groups or popularity. And wouldn稚 it be so much nicer if we could all just get along and be open and honest with each other instead of talking behind each other痴 backs and stealing each other痴 boyfriends? The ending was this insane vision of high school utopia, in which even the meanest of the mean girls starts dressing conservatively (again with the thermal shirts) and smiling warmly at the less popular. At least the soundtrack to this unrealistic vision was Orbital痴 滴alcyon,� but it was still a departure from the rest of the movie, which was insightful and hilarious. Sure, high school might be easier if everyone wasn稚 so horrible to each other, but then where would all of us misfits and social outcasts who made it through the struggle be? Probably not in Manhattan, home of the high school uncool. -Amy

Emily adds:

Both of these movies also set themselves up for comparison with some films that affected us as teenagers. For instance, when Mean Girls� junior high school girls are forced to admit en masse to backstabbing, it recalls nothing so much as the tearjearking* 的知 a nerd, too!� final scene in Revenge of the Nerds . The nicest of us are mean girls, just as the prettiest and most popular of us are nerds.

The obvious structural comparison for 13 Going on 30 is Big. Both movies feature adolescents who wake up to find themselves grownups in a world that strangely still resembles school. However, Big succeeds where 13 cops out. Josh (Tom Hanks) realizes in the end that he痴 not cut out yet for the grownup world. As awkward and painful as it is to live through those gawky years, no magical fortune-teller can speed the process along. Jenna (Jennifer Garner) has no such realization. I thought that 13 was heading to a similar conclusion when Jenna finds herself 13 again, sitting miserably in the basement closet. This time she can choose to kiss the dorky friend next door who will become the delicious Mark Ruffalo instead of rejecting him for the popular clique. This ending would have been moving, and more honest. But instead, she kisses him, then magically drags him up the basement stairs to � their wedding! By choosing friendship over popularity, Jenna has chosen the harder path, but suddenly it isn稚 the harder path at all. She痴 simply managed to do what many of us longed for at the time, and skipped her teens altogether.

*I知 totally serious here, this scene always makes me choke up.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 2:44 PM | #