Mean girl or queen bee?

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Despite being a movie about wearing pink on Wednesdays, <em>Mean Girls </em>introduced a world of structure, ethics, and cultural messages. Professor of Canadian literature with the University of Western Ontario David Bentley shed light on this world fans know as Northshore High at UW March 6.</p>

John Savarese, assistant professor here at Waterloo, said, “I was especially struck by the way Professor Bentley approached the movie both as a scholar and a fan. A lot of what happens in an English classroom, after all, is learning more about the works we love, and learning how to gain new perspectives on them.”

Bentley’s lecture examined the characters and other elements of Mean Girls, which is based on Rosalind Wiseman’s work of non-fiction, Queen Bees and Wannabees. Bentley stated, “The relationship between Mean Girls and Queen Bees is a close and complex one.”

“This is immediately apparent when Wiseman’s depiction of the Queen Bee and her court is compared to the movie’s characterization of Regina George and the Plastics, whose impact on the principal character, Cady, drives the narrative of her steadily-deteriorating values and their eventual reconstitution.”

Delving into classic literature, Bentley said, “The fabulous but evil Regina George personifies a mean and evil popularity based on fear and control, which she uses to dominate the other Plastics.”

Bentley’s mention of Gretchen’s speech, which is derived from the Shakespearean play that the girls were studying in English class, is an implication that Regina is a dictator, much like Julius Caesar. Bentley noticed,  “Caesar is murdered in the middle of Shakespeare’s play and Gretchen delivers her speech in the middle of the school year. And thereafter, the play and the movie become a bitter contest between one character whose fortunes decline, that would be Regina, and one characters whose fortunes rise, Cady,” he said, in reference to Brutus and Antony from the play. 

In both the screenplay and book, Cady throws a house party while her parents are away for the night, although both versions of the party serve very different meanings.

“Such parties and their components: blaring music, excessive drinking, sex in bedrooms and bathrooms and other spirited activities are textbook in movies about teenagers,” Bentley states. “The narratives of potential seduction in the movie and the book are again, very different. At the party described by Wiseman, a boy persuades a girl to go upstairs into a bedroom where he proceeds to kiss her. Wiseman uses this story to discuss the feelings and possible responses of a girl in this predicament.”

Bentley concluded his thesis by informing us, “Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabees provided the screenplay with a wealth of material, that reflects many of the realities of contemporary American culture and has roots deep in American literature. Both Mean Girls and Queen Bees have an educated and ethical purpose with overlapping principles of what is damaging and empowering to girls on their journey to adulthood.”

The Princess Cinema will be screening Mean Girls March 14 and 15.