In every social setup, groupings are inevitable; it is a part of the natural tendency of people to organization. With every formed group, there is, naturally, a person who will lead. This scenario is pretty easy to picture in a world full of adults. But what happens when this scenario is replaced by children, adolescents? What the book Queen Bee & Wannabees and the movie Lord of the Flies portray is the oft-secreted reality that children, when left on their own, can actually be as mean and conniving as adults are when it comes to their desire for power.
It is not a welcome fact as it goes against all that parents hold dear when it comes to their children. Often, they could not, would not, believe that their beautiful daughter or son is capable of harming another human being, more so deliberately. But Wiseman puts it bluntly in her book Queenbees & Wannabees: “…[P]arents don’t like to admit to themselves that their daughters could be mean, exclusive, and catty – or, on the other end of the spectrum, isolated and teased.
Parents so often see their daughters’ behaviors as a reflection of the success or failure of their parenting that they refuse to look at their daughters for who they really are (Wiseman). What is it that adolescents do when confronted with the opportunity to belong to a group, and to lead it? This paper will deal with that query within the context of the aforementioned book and movie by comparing and contrasting the differences in the social setup between girls and boys. Their differences do not merely lie in the types of games they would like to play, nor in their interests in books, films or hobbies.
A deeper form of separation exists between them, but at the same time, the stereotypes also do run parallel with each other. The comparison and contrast will be dealt with in three levels: first, what are the necessary traits needed for a boy or a girl to become the leader; two, what does it take for that power or leadership to be transferred; and three, what happens to the ex-leader and followers if their leadership is usurped? On the first level, it is important to determine which traits are attractive to relegate a teen girl or boy into the top rung of the social ladder.
In an ideal world, what we would find attractive would be a person who is smart, rational, just, fair and decisive. These are what we consider proper markers of a true leader, able to withstand pressure and commit him/herself to a choice that would make the best solution for the problem. However, this is not an ideal world and its inhabitants are far from perfect. Children and adolescents are not exempt from this reality. In the Lord of the Flies, we were first introduced to the would-be leader of the group of stranded British boys, survivors of a plane crash, Ralph, by the shore with Piggy.
In that scenario, it was obvious who the stronger character was. Ralph was lean and seemed more confident, while Piggy, apart from having a laughable name, was fat and slow, although very inquisitive and forward. And then arrived the choir boys, led by Jack. At the very onset, it was made clear that he is an even stronger character than Ralph and Piggy combined together. He looked confident and strong, and he easily towered Ralph. But at that point of introduction in the film, he did not present himself as the leader of the group yet, and in fact allowed to be subjected in a votation.
Gathered round on the beach, the group of the choir boys and Ralph’s group then decided who will be their leader to organize them while they remain stranded in the island. Ralph easily won the seat of power that time, mainly because he seemed the more rational one amidst all the ruckus that their newly-formed group was creating. But even then, there was already a sort of opposition in Jack’s character, appointing himself as the head of the hunter group. This will later create tension and will shake up the foundation of their organization and leadership.
Meanwhile, we see on the other end of the spectrum the choosing process of girls in the book Queenbee & Wannabees. Wiseman describes the Queen Bee as such: “A combination of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Barbie, she is a mixture of charisma, force, money, looks, strong will and manipulation. She reigns supreme, can silence other girls and boys with a look, and her popularity is based on fear and control. ” Easily, it can be seen that the Queen Bee is far from the ideal leader we pictured, definitely not fair nor just, and most certainly not caring about what’s rational or not.
All that is important to the Queen Bee is for her to retain the influence she enjoys over her court, and that can only be done by doing things that will reaffirm her social status among her friends. There is no denying however, that she is smart. Not necessarily in the book-smart kind of way, though (in fact that’s a point against), but more of street smart. She uses her charms to get what she wants, and if the situation does not look as promising as she would have wanted, she uses manipulation to ensure that she will get the deal closed, and that it will be in her favor.
But not only that, she must also be good-looking. This seems to be the biggest consideration of it all. Not only must she be cool and hip and in the know about the latest fashion, she should look good in it. It was also found in the book that having cool accessories – ie. boyfriends – is another sure way to get to the top. Unlike the boys in the movie, picking a Queen Bee does not go through the democratic process of voting. Instead, it happens quietly, with no questions asked.
The Queen Bee works her way silently among her group, carefully selecting the people whom she would like to surround herself with, filtering out those that do not meet her own high standards of who should deserve to be in her company. It’s a cruel process that ends up alienating others, but that’s exactly the point there, because it is in this practice of alienation and separation that the Queen Bee is able to reinforce her power and leadership over all the other girls. However, not all remains fine and well in the high court of the young leaders. As in any political setup, there will be opposition.
Here, we take a look at how power can be revoked in the two settings. In the movie, Ralph started losing control over the group when the bonfire they had created burned out. It was meant to serve as a smoke signal for potential rescue, and originally, it was Jack and his group who were tasked to make sure it doesn’t go out. However, Jack had other plans. He led his group to hunt down a pig and successfully returned to their site expecting praises. Upon returning, what they found instead was an angry Ralph and Piggy because the bonfire did go out, and so they missed an opportunity for rescue when a plane passed overhead.
Of course, Ralph had every reason to be angry. It was the first task given to Jack, and already, he showed his tendency to become insubordinate, showing off to their peers that he does not just follow orders from a “leader” selected on the beach. What became the straw that broke the camel’s back was how Jack successfully made the rest of the hunter group believe that he is a much better leader because unlike Ralph, he appreciates their effort of bringing the pig home, and being physically strong, he can be even more useful to them.
Loyalties quickly changed, and Ralph soon found himself to be deposed and stripped of his leadership because of that event. In the book, it is found that there is a lot of cattiness involved among the girls. There is also a tug-of-war into play when talking about group loyalties, same as with the boys in the movie. However, it can be said that the girls can just be as aggressive as boys, and even more. It can be a very snarky environment in the girl clique, with the girls just “using” each other to get what they want, and after which, dispose of the “used” girl.
That is why it is important that the girls on their own prove themselves useful to the others, especially the Queen Bee, lest she finds herself thrown out of the social circle. Once that she no longer has a juicy benefit to offer to her peers, then she is more likely to be dumped. She may find herself the victim of a vicious rumor spread around by one of her very own “friends”, and if there is no one to defend or back her up, then she may find herself from hero to zero. As mentioned earlier, having a cool boyfriend is also a must.
It has been found in the book that dating a guy beyond par, so to speak, is a grounds for deposition. What happens then to those kicked out of the group and their followers? No doubt they are put in a very humiliating state. Their former group now perceives them as outcasts, while the bystanders, as Wiseman would call it, are afraid to publicly embrace them for fear of backlash from the Queen Bee and her court. For Ralph and his remaining group, being kicked out meant being left alone to fend for themselves in the island, without the help of the hunter group.
There was no group to speak of any longer, just factions, and he belonged to the loser side. The effects on the kicked out members, both in the world of the Queen Bee and in the island in the movie, do run parallel. They are now excluded, and have become the subject of ridicule, even violence. Of course, in the non-fiction world of the Queen Bee, the violence can also go to great lengths such as doing physical harm on the Targets (chosen bullied ones), but it does not come any close to the movie’s depiction of violence culminating with the deaths of Simon and Piggy.
But the real difference is how this violence is actually carried out. In the movie, it was plainly depicted that the boys will fight it out with their fists. A scuffle here, a cheered-on fight there, and in the unfortunate case of Simon, a mob mentality beating him up because of mistaken identity. But in the Girl World, the rules for violence are different. Yes, they may get into catfights, pulling at each other’s hair at some point in time, but more often than not, the violence is emotional and physical.
Wiseman observes that the girls can be very loyal friends, able to share intimate secrets with each other. But at the same time, this intimacy is what will make them their own worst enemies. Because of all the information they have on each other, good or bad, they become all the more potentially powerful because they can use it against each other later on. The bigger the secret, the bigger the damage. Of course, it should be recognized that the setups between the boys’ club and the Girl World are different, particularly in this paper, because one group is fictional and the other is real.
However, that delineating mark ends there, because we see that it is absolutely possible to find the same results in real life. Although, for the boys in the island, they can be defended with the reason that they were pushed against the wall, having been pressured not only by an absence of guiding adults, but on top of all that, they were put in a less than enviable situation, left with no shelter, no food, no safety in the forest on a deserted island. The girls, meanwhile, do have within adults in their plane.
But even the adults are filtered out so that their clique can go about their business of backstabbing each other and pleasing the Queen Bee so they may be included in her group, or if lucky, maybe even grab the power of the Queen Bee for herself. At the end of the day, what we do find in this paper is that there are certain universal standards in teen groups (ie. filtering who is in or out), but at the same time, there are certain standards that differ from each other (ie. the method by which power is enacted, and how violence is carried out).
What remains constant though is the truth that man indeed is a social animal, and it is a matter of survival for him or her to be included in a social group in order to survive the harsh world out there. WORKS CITED: Talbot, Margaret, Girls Just Want to Be Mean, FASLink, Research, Information, Support & Communication, 24 Feb. 2002, http://www. faslink. org/GirlsJustWantToBeMean. htm, (retrieved 20 Nov. 2008). Wiseman, Rosalind, Queen Bees & Wannabees, Crown Publishers, London, 2002. Film: Brook, Peter (dir. ), Lord of the Flies, Continental Distributing, Inc. , Jan. 1963.