Cady is going to encounter psychological struggle and unwritten social rules that teenage girls face today. Through the Marxist perspective, the movie will be analyzed in order to show how sometimes the pull to conform to hegemony is so important that we have no choice that letting us be dragged to respect the established hierarchy. Mean Girls is an excellent artifact, worthy of investigation in the way that it shows how we expect teenage girls to act, but also how difficult it is for them to refrain from acting that way.
When using the Marxist perspective, we begin by identifying the subject positions, as models or anti-models. Mean Girls provides clear subject positions about the models – characters that viewers are encouraged to want to be like, and the anti-models – characters that viewers are encouraged to no want to be like. Thus, the models appear to be “The Plastics”, a group composed of the three teenage girls Regina George, Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith. By analyzing “The Plastics”, it seems like teenage girls need to follow a specific pattern in order to be popular.
That is to say, on a physical standpoint, teenage girls need to be thin, pretty, and wear tight and revealing clothes, while on a behavioral standpoint, they spend their time gossiping, partying, dating, and talking about boys, rather than focusing on their academic success. On top of the hierarchy is Regina George, and the two other “Plastics” are her subordinate. On the contrary, the anti-models, challenging the status quo and considered as abnormal or undesirable are represented by Janice and Damien.
Both of them are belonging to the oppressed group, or the group that is considered as “inferior” and “subordinate” to the dominant group. Mean Girls depicts how easy it is for a dominant group (“The Plastics”) to impose its ideology on other groups. The interests of the empowered group are then promoting as being natural. Indeed, in Mean Girls, the dominant social group keeps the control over the other groups because nobody dares challenging the authority claimed by “The Plastic”. “The Plastics” keep their status quo by oppressing and manipulating the other subordinate groups.
They dictate how things should be. The positive power of popularity combined with the negative disempowerment of being unpopular and rejected ultimately reinforces hegemony. That is to say, those who are popular are empowered even if popularity is just a facade for these teenage girls, and those who are not popular are disempowered. By focusing on Cady Heron, and observing how from an innocent teenage girl, she becomes a terrible “Plastic”, we can deduce that once accepted by the dominant group, people have trouble in seeing the flaws and drawbacks of the hegemony they are in.
In order for them to be aware of it, they have to become a member of the subordinate group. Only the anti-models characters are able to see how wrong is the hierarchy they live in, and are willing to change it in order to create a more equal system. Mean Girls proposed both a preferred and an oppositional view on the hegemony. Indeed, from the beginning to the middle of the movie, Mean Girls brings a preferred reading with Cady altering her original beliefs, joining the dominant group and becoming a “Plastic”.
Cady’s desire to respect conformity can be explained by a need to fit in and avoid ridicule. As a consequence, the viewers, siding with her, support the status quo. On the other hand, from the middle to the end of the movie, Mean Girls gives an oppositional reading by considering that “The Plastics” ought not to be empowered, in order to have a more equal system. Indeed, by the middle of the movie, Cady understands that her destructive behavior made her loose her two closest friends (Janice and Damien).
She also realizes she needs to stop acting like a “Plastic” and to categorize people according to superficial traits, and that she should start considering people according to different characteristics (intelligence over beauty for example). As a consequence, Cady, desirous of putting things right, starts to think how she could readjust the hegemony around her. Thus, she considers destroying the hegemony reigning at school in order to challenge the status quo. At that time, the movie gives the viewers an oppositional reading rejecting the
hegemony. In spite of the casualty and frivolity of the topic addressed (teenage girls movie), Mean Girls is still interesting to study because it gives us some interesting and engaging acumen into Marxist perspective and hegemony. Mean Girls shows us how hard it is to resist hegemony when everyone else is subjected to it. Mean Girls also makes viewers being more critical about how hegemony is reproduced in regular patterns of life, like the passage in high school for example.