It’s not my fault you’re, like, in love with Mean Girls or something. Twenty years after its wildly popular debut, Tina Fey’s brain child — based on Rosalind Wiseman’s self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabees — remains a beloved staple of pop culture. So much so that the movie is getting a musical reboot.
In the 2004 teen comedy, Lindsay Lohan plays the new girl at school, a naïve 16-year-old transfer student Cady Heron who has yet to experience the ups and downs of the high school hierarchy. Miraculously, she lands herself a spot with "the Plastics," the popular but cruel clique helmed by Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and the group quickly kickstarts Cady’s journey of self-discovery.
The 2024 Mean Girls Musical Movie stars singer-actor Reneé Rapp as Regina George and Australian actress Angourie Rice (Spider-Man, "Black Mirror" and "Mare of Easttown") as Cady. The 12-song soundtrack is led by "Not My Fault," a midtempo dance pop bop performed by Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion; its title, of course, is inspired around an iconic line from Regina George ("It's not my fault you're, like, in love with me or something").
Regina's message is updated for 2024. Rapp, who is openly bisexual, encourages her listeners to "Kiss a blonde, kiss a friend! Can a gay girl get an amen?" on the track. Knowing its place in pop culture, Mean Girls metamorphoses as a sign of the times, and a queer Regina George is just what 2024 needed (and hoped for).
Keeping in mind its $17 million budget, it’s easy to point to Mean Girls’ $129 million box office gross as a quantifiable measure of the movie’s achievements. Or its sweep at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards. Or the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. But the film earned so much more than these material accolades — from style to memes to music videos, Mean Girls became a cultural touchstone with life long beyond the early aughts.
The movie inspired countless memes, GIFs and merch, and it’s quoted by everyone from your average fan to Mariah Carey to Wet Leg to even the White House. Fans declared Oct. 3 as "Mean Girls Day" in reference to one of Cady’s lines. The iconic music video for Ariana Grande’s No. 1 hit "thank u, next" was Mean Girls themed and starred original cast members. And Wednesdays are for wearing pink, of course.
Mean Girls also helped establish 2000s "It Girl" starpower: Lindsay Lohan became a household name; Amanda Seyfried, a future Oscar nominee, made her film debut; and McAdams starred opposite Ryan Gosling in The Notebook later that same year. Even Fey, who was already a popular "SNL" regular, found herself climbing to a new level of fame.
Internet culture helped Mean Girls find a second life — and music importantly helped it find a third. The 2004 film’s comedic timelessness earned a musical stage adaptation of the same name, which debuted in Washington D.C. in 2017 and ran on Broadway from April 2018 to March 2020.
A film adaptation of the musical (also of the same name) is hitting theaters on Jan. 12, in which Rapp reprises her Broadway role of Regina George. (Rapp played the blonde queen bee as a 2019-2020 replacement for Taylor Louderman.)
"As Regina, Reneé has this quality that Regina has to have, which is you're scared of her, but you also really want her to like you," Fey, who returned to write the Mean Girls (2024) screenplay, told Screen Rant. "You want her to notice you. You want her to approve of you. You want her to shine her light on you."
In addition to Rapp as the Plastics’ reigning leader, the Mean Girls musical has quite the roster. The film stars Christopher Briney as her love interest Aaron Samuels, Bebe Wood as Plastics’ member Gretchen Wieners, and Busy Phillips as Regina's mom (a character originally portrayed by Amy Poheler).
Fey knew that a brilliant cast was only one step toward making the 2024 musical film a success. Alongside directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., Fey was tasked with crafting something modern and innovative that still maintained the magic of the original.
"I think the key goals for this version were for it to be fun, fresh, and surprising," Fey told Screen Rant. "Most people who will see this movie have seen the original; a fair chunk of them have seen the musical, but how can we delight and surprise them? What can we give them that they didn't expect while still bringing them these characters that they have affection for?"
Perfect surprises can take a long time to craft. The stage musical took years to put together, for instance; the creative process began in 2013, and it debuted on stage four years later. But it was all worth the wait — the show was refreshing and nuanced, constructed carefully for its eager and often young audiences.
"I really love that we’re bringing young people out, especially young women," Broadway performer Louderman told Cosmopolitan. "I want [young people women] to feel more empowered to say how they feel and to deal with their emotions in a very straightforward and respectful manner."
For the sake of time and tonality, not all 14 songs from the original Broadway musical made the cut in the 2024 film adaptation. Each song was reworked by lyricist Jeff Richmond and composer Neil Benjamin. Taking the essence of the 2004 film, Richmond and Benjamin’s lyrics transformed Mean Girls into a new theatrical form. From Regina’s hair-raising anthem "World Burn" to ex-Plastic Janis Ian’s cathartic "I’d Rather Be Me," music breathed new life into the movie’s classic genius.
From the screen to the stage to, well, the screen again, Mean Girls has stood the test of time for good reason. Beyond its enduring cultural relevance and musical revitalization, its classic comedy makes it stand out — whether a laugh is conveyed through a perfectly delivered line on screen, or a witty lyric belted out on stage.
"It makes you laugh rather than depicting [adolescence] as solely being a drag," director Mark Waters said of the original Mean Girls to Cosmopolitan. "It also makes you realize you’re going to survive, make it out of this phase and be a better person for it."
Waters’ comment sheds light on a critical, though often painful lesson from Mean Girls: accepting change. Though it was predominantly written for female adolescents in mind as a target audience, the film smartly speaks to more than female politics: it encapsulates the human experience. Nearly everyone knows what it’s like wanting to desperately fit in, what it’s like to want to skip your awkward teenage years full of crushes and acne and jealousy. When an originally homeschooled Cady finds herself in high school for the first time, she learns to adapt — and most importantly, learns how to stay true to herself.
"It seems to be a rite of passage for high school girls to see the movie," Waters continued. "Beyond all the gags, there's something that's really authentic and timeless about how much of a struggle it is to be that age."
While some may superficially disregard Mean Girls as a silly chick flick or throwaway teen comedy, its modern revamps through music speak to the film's timelessness. Beyond being a stellar candidate for reinvention over a generation, Mean Girls meets audiences where they're at.
"It has this little net that catches girls as they pass through preteen and high school age," Fey told the New York Times. "Girls will come up to me and say it helped them get through a terrible year."
Whether it’s 2004 or 2024, Mean Girls is one of those films that’s comfortable knowing exactly what it is. It’s okay with being silly, and it still has more than enough heart. Like its protagonist Cady, Mean Girls isn’t supposed to be perfect; it’s just meant to be relatable. And that’s what makes it so fetch.
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