“Mean Girls” (2024) Made Us Feel Too Gay To Function

This review will have spoilers for the 2024 movie Mean Girls… and also the 2004 movie Mean Girls, and the 2018 Broadway musical Mean Girls.


The new Mean Girls movie finally did what the original movie hinted at and the Broadway show didn’t commit to: Janis is canonically, unabashedly, officially queer. Finally.

But let’s back up a little. As a person of a certain age (that age being millennial), Mean Girls has been part of my life for the past 20 years. Which is an insane number to type out, but it’s true. Although we didn’t know each other, Nic and I (Valerie Anne) were both in our final semester of sophomore year when this movie came out, getting ready to become juniors like the girls in the movie. It was hilarious, it was quotable, and I was instantly obsessed. My friends and I constantly expressed our disapproval by saying “boo, you whore” for years. We would regularly call things “grool” and “fetch” when we were trying to be unserious. Over the years my friend groups would change but our shorthand would be the same. As I grew up and came out, my queer friends and I would often call ourselves “too gay to function.” We would randomly shout “I’ve got a big LESBIAN crush on you” to make each other laugh. “The limit does not exist” was just a phrase we used to express our capacity for fangirling. It was, and frankly still is, part of the fabric of our existence. This was only amplified by the movie becoming a Broadway musical in 2018. It borrowed the same overarching plot as the movie (teenagers being cliquey and bullying each other is, unfortunately, timeless content), but punched it up with catchy songs.

And then came the 2024 movie. Reboots are hard. Turning a musical into a movie is hard. So being a movie turned musical turned movie musical, Mean Girls (2024) had a lot of hurdles to overcome. It gracefully leaps over some and stumbles over others, and that’s what Nic and I are here to discuss today. One thing is for certain though: this is the gayest adaptation of Mean Girls yet.


Valerie Anne: My friends and I were deeply into the original Mean Girls movie. Did you have a similar experience?

Nic: I did! In fact, hearing you talk about your experience unlocked a core memory for me. Some of the details around why we did this elude me (Halloween? Spirit Day??), but I have a visceral memory of scouring my closet and the mall (Delia’s and Claire’s, of course) for the perfect pink outfit to wear when my friends and I dressed up as the “Mean Girls” for school. It was a huge deal because I went to an all-girls Catholic school where plaid-skirted uniforms were the name of the game, and we yearned to express our personalities in any way we could without getting written up for violating the dress code.

Anyway, we were also very into quoting our favorite lines from the movie. Everyone was talking about it. Not to be all “get off my lawn!”, but I kind of miss that about this “peak content” era we’re in. Sure, our smaller friend groups have our go-to inside jokes and one-liners that we quote, but EVERYONE knew Mean Girls lines; it was a cultural phenomenon. One part of my experience that was different from yours was while some of my friends got to decide which cast member they were emulating, I was simply “generic mean girl number 4” because there were very few cast members who looked like me. Thankfully, they remedied that with this reboot. I’m also a big ol’ theater nerd, so the 2018 musical adaptation immediately skyrocketed to the top of my favorite soundtracks after seeing it live. I still listen to it regularly thanks, in part, to your “High School’s a Bitch, the Musical” playlist.

Valerie Anne: One thing we both noticed that I want to talk about is the…pop-ification of some of the songs. I personally think it worked for some — like Janis and Damian’s songs being rockified worked for me; Auli’i sold me as a rock star 100%. And a lot of the power ballads still rang true. You can take Reneé out of Broadway but you can’t take the Broadway out of Reneé. But some of the other songs felt…watered down. Broadway songs are punchy and you have to hit your consonants like they’re punching bags, but they took sandpaper to a lot of these songs’ edges. It felt especially weird with the new song, “What Ifs,” because it was the first song that was an in-universe/daydreamy song. (The very first song, “Cautionary Tale,” was cleverly filmed as a video for social media.) Even though it didn’t SOUND too musical theater-y, it did have some musical theater chorus dancing going on out of nowhere. It felt a little discordant at times. But then “World Burn” was literally perfect, from the lighting to the staging to the singing, no notes. How did you feel about the music overall?

Nic: I completely agree with you. Auli’i’s rocker version of “I’d Rather Be Me” was incredible! I know we were both eager to hear what she did with the “Someone Gets Hurt (Reprise)”, and my WORD did she exceed my expectations.

Valerie Anne: I think we both audibly yelped at that part.

Mean Girls Janis queer: Auli'i Cravalho as Janis from the Mean Girls movie

I genuinely don’t know how Janis wasn’t canon queer from day one but glad we’re here now!

Nic: On the flip side, “Stupid With Love” is one of my favorite songs from the musical, and a lot of that has to do with the arrangement and Erika Henningsen’s delivery. Okay, and also because I can’t resist a pun. But the punniness of lyrics like “I’m astounded and nonplussed, I am filled with calcu-lust” just didn’t hit as hard when, like you said, the consonants were more smoothed out than punctuated. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Angourie did a fantastic job as Cady, I just wanted a bit more…pizazz in my movie musical. And then there’s Reneé. (Is it time to yell about Reneé yet?!) My absolute favorite sequence was “Someone Gets Hurt” from the Halloween party. At least I think so. I may have blacked out during it from sheer awe. The choreography and camera work were brilliant. Reneé was mesmerizing. I’m honestly still speechless.

Valerie Anne: I think that was my favorite scene, too. It felt like it had Broadway staging and Reneé just took complete charge of that scene. So good.

Renee Rapp as Regina George sitting sexily on a cafeteria table

Regina Regina Regina!

Valerie Anne: Let’s talk about some changes; there were plenty, as expected, even though all three adaptations had overlapping creative teams. What were some things you think they changed for the better, and/or things that weren’t changed that maybe should have been? Is there anything you think changed for the worse?

Nic: Some of the immediately noticeable and positive changes to me were in the jokes and one-liners. We don’t use the same language now as we did in 2004, and the script was updated to reflect that. Language evolves, comedy changes, and I was really glad to see that they didn’t keep problematic dialogue just for the sake of nostalgia. Probably my favorite change though, was the Regina/Janis backstory lore drop. In the OG film, there’s a brief conversation involving Regina not wanting to invite Janis to her birthday party because there would be girls in bathing suits there, and honestly, I don’t think a Gen Z Regina would exhibit that kind of homophobia.

So in this version, Damian and Janis tell a different story still involving Janis getting jealous when Regina got a boyfriend, but some key changes to details as well as Jaquel and Auli’i’s delivery really made the scene stand out. As far as things I wish were changed, I really wanted them to lean harder into Regina’s bisexuality. Some would argue that by casting the famously bisexual Reneé Rapp, they did just that, but I long had a theory/hope that they would change Shane Oman’s gender in the reboot so nothing about that plot point would change, and they’d have a very clear way to confirm Regina’s queerness. After you and I saw the movie though, you made a fantastic point about them possibly not wanting to play into the “cheating bisexual” trope, so I will concede and allow Reneé’s casting to stand as confirmation. *bangs gavel* What about you? Is there anything you wish they did differently?

Valerie Anne: I think if you wanted to, you could read into the Janis/Regina lore drop as Regina being into Janis but then having a bit of a panic about it and walking it back but her defense mechanism was cruelty. But that’s giving the movie too much credit; I think you’re right in that Regina is only queer in that she’s played by a bi icon who loves to tell interviewers Regina is queer. Which works for me!

I agree I love that they updated the casting and the language. I do think it’s a little strange that they changed Gretchen from being Jewish since that was specifically called out in both the original movie and the musical, but maybe they just really loved Bebe Wood so they made her Cuban instead since Bebe isn’t Jewish. I also don’t know why they randomly decided to slut-shame Karen? I get dropping the incest storyline from the first one but they were already making fun of her for not being smart, I don’t think the slut-shaming needed to happen.

The thing that bugged me the most is they kept the kalteen bar storyline. It’s not that I don’t believe teenagers today are fatphobic and have body issues, but I just don’t think we needed to go there. I’m grateful they didn’t give Reneé weird butt pads like they gave Rachel McAdams in the original, but I think they could have left it at them giving her the kalteen bars, but then everyone just thinks she’s hotter. (The line in the song is, “God, look at her figure, did her boobs get bigger?” and it’s sung with admiration. Regina, Regina, Regina!) If they had to have the storyline at all (even though I think it’s weird that Janis, whose best friend is fat, would have the idea of making Regina fat. Even though I know it’s not that JANIS thinks being fat is bad, it’s that she thinks Regina thinks being fat is bad…I don’t know the whole thing is a mess.) As a fat person, I just wish they had gone with something else. Seeing Regina obsessively on the treadmill later in the movie just made me feel sad, which I don’t think is supposed to be the vibe.

I think in both of these cases, the problem wasn’t even just the inclusion of these questionable lines/plots but also that they weren’t called out in-movie by anyone as being shitty in the end. Aside from an off-hand joke from Regina’s mom, no one was like “you never needed to lose three pounds in the first place” or Cady wasn’t like “we used your insecurities against you when we should have been helping you get over them” or any kind of closure. It was just “oh that didn’t work okay moving on.”

The Plastics from the Mean Girls movie

I do love Karen so much. Just happy to be here!!!

ANYWAY. Let’s talk about the pyro lez in the room: JANIS IS FINALLY QUEER!!! (And her name is not Janis Ian, it’s Janis ‘Imi’ike.) Not implied, not hinted at, not walked back by calling her “Lebanese,” no winking, no nudging, just rainbow flags and coming out lore drops. Thoughts, feelings, opinions?

Nic: When this movie originally came out, I hadn’t yet, and I was in that stage where anything related to queerness made me uncomfortable. The one line that didn’t become part of my everyday language was “I have a big LESBIAN crush on you!” because oh no, that seems like a bad word and I can’t be that bad word, no way. And the 2004 film played it as if it was the worst thing; so to see that, in this version, while Janis and Regina’s falling out involved Janis’s queerness it wasn’t BECAUSE of it?? It’s huge. And Janis taking a girl to the Spring Fling instead of awkwardly dancing with Kevin G?! Beautiful, no notes. More Auli’i playing queer, please and thank you.

Valerie Anne: Janis came out in sixth grade and never looked back!! And I agree, I like that they removed all the homophobia from present-day Regina. An excellent update. I also think it just makes sense that the two loner “art freaks” that found each other in the jungle of high school are both queer. Especially since Auli’i herself is bi.

And speaking of Auli’i Cravalho, I feel like she and Reneé Rapp absolutely stole the show. Perhaps it’s because I am, indeed, too gay to function but dear GODDESS the vocals on those two. I know it’s also partially because they get the beltiest songs but also I can’t imagine anyone belting better than they belted!

Nic: Listen. They stole the show, gave it back, slapped us, we said “thank you”, and then they stole it again. It should frankly be illegal to look directly into the camera as much as the two of them did while possessing the amount of charisma and talent that they have. ILLEGAL, I tell you. You know in Tangled when Flynn Rider is going on and on about his smolder? Well his smolder doesn’t have SHIT on Reneé’s. Whew, is it hot in here? What’s happening?

Valerie Anne: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Let’s talk guest stars. We had some familiar faces we knew would be returning, like Tina Fey and Tim Meadows. Plus Ashley Park, who was in the trailers, who plays their French teacher which is funny because not only did she originate the role of Gretchen Wieners in the Broadway version of Mean Girls, but she also most recently starred in Emily in Paris. Nonbinary star of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies Ari Notartomaso was randomly there, though somehow not really in any big singing way despite their talents. And then there was the big one. (Do we spoil the big one?)

Nic: I so badly want to spoil the big one, but I think we’ve got to give the people something to look forward to.

Valerie Anne: I think you’re right.

I’ve been thinking a lot about who this movie is for. Especially since they started releasing trailers that don’t make it obvious at ALL that it’s a musical, despite the fact that they have entire goofy dance numbers. I don’t think it’s for people who have never seen any of the previous iterations of Mean Girls. I don’t know if it stands alone as a modern story, even though they did clever updates like having the Burn Book spread by social media instead of by photocopies, and other small changes like that. I don’t think it has enough character development to stand up to modern media, especially on the (high) heels of Barbie. It has a message, sure, but the message is essentially “fight fire with fire and watch the world burn” or “be nice to each other.” It sort of has the “women need to support each other not take each other down” message, but in a very 2004 baby step feminism way, a step that I feel most of Gen Z learned in the womb. And it’s not for people who loved the original movie but didn’t even know there was a musical. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only thing a person who hates musicals hates more than a musical is a surprise musical.

So I think it’s literally for us. The people who a) have strong nostalgia ties to the original movie, b) loved the musical and c) have big lesbian crushes on Reneé Rapp and Auli’i Cravalho. What are your thoughts on that?

Nic: Honestly, the only thing I have to add to what you’ve already said is that it’s also for people who d) wished there was way more diversity in the original.

Valerie Anne: Yes! That was definitely a marked improvement. And I think as long as you aren’t going into this movie looking for a deep, epic thinkpiece on modern feminism, you can have a blast.

Nic: Overall, I thought this movie was really really fun. You said this at the beginning, but reboots are tough to get right, and this one comes with the added pressure of, I guess, refusing to market itself as a musical? And sure, it wasn’t perfect, but neither are we, and isn’t that the point?

Valerie Anne: *tosses you a piece of a broken plastic crown*


Mean Girls (2024) is now playing in theaters. 

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 535 articles for us.

Nic

Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 76 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. This review was so much fun! I’m too old to have the same emotional connection to the movie, but I looove how into it you both were.

    Plus, can I just nominate this paragraph for Best Movie Commentary of the year?

    “Listen. They stole the show, gave it back, slapped us, we said “thank you”, and then they stole it again. It should frankly be illegal to look directly into the camera as much as the two of them did while possessing the amount of charisma and talent that they have.”

  2. i love this review so much! i am not very familiar with the musical, but now i’m wondering if i should give the soundtrack a listen before i see the movie or wait to have my face scorched off…

  3. My gf and I watched mean girls last night and let me tell you, I enjoyed the movie but the highlights were definitely
    1) Janice and Regina (I ship them)
    2) the groans of people realizing it was a musical, someone screaming ‘Is this a musical???’ And the second wave of groans that followed the question

  4. This review was extremely fun to read and this part made me grin because this is so so me: “So I think it’s literally for us. The people who a) have strong nostalgia ties to the original movie, b) loved the musical and c) have big lesbian crushes on Reneé Rapp and Auli’i Cravalho.”

    Saw it last night and had a blast! I appreciate that they didn’t take themselves too seriously and the casting was excellent. And of course getting to watch Reneé and Auli’i and Jaquel sing onscreen was a delight. This movie was so fun.

    (And totally 100% wish they had left out the kalteen bars. I feel like they could have come up with some other sneaky plan…there are other rules Regina could have broken for the “you can’t sit with us” scene)

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