Sunday, December 28, 2014

a subtext driven rumination ten years after the release of the film Mean Girls on the eve of Mars Hill's formal dissolution.

Ten years ago a couple of movies came along that stuck with Wenatchee The Hatchet.  One was Team America: World Police and the other was a film Wenatchee didn't get around to seeing until this year, Mean Girls.

The basic plot hardly needs much explanation. Lindsey Lohan plays a girl named Cady, a girl who grew up in South Africa and was home-schooled and came to America and entered public school.  There she meets new friends and discovers friends who she later sees as enemies, the Plastics.  This really was some time ago as Lohan's star has largely plummeted from the Hollywood firmament (kinda like Lena Lamont). 

Central to the film's conflict was Cady realizing what a nasty piece of work her newfound associate Regina George actually is.  Regina is introduced through the direct characterization given her by a supporting character.  "She may look like your average selfish back-stabbing slut-faced ho-bag but she is more than that."  That line was so breathtaking in its vitriol it may have skirted the boundaries of what could be said within a PG-13 film.  Though Regina seems sweet to Cady at first over time her capacity for deceit, manipulation, and verbal and physical brutality slowly start to emerge.  When Regina decides to kiss an ex-boyfriend Cady has a crush on, Cady is incensed.  She resolves to destroy Regina and to do so must destroy her "army of skanks" along the way.  Thus the comedic plot.

The reveal by the film's third act is that Cady has succeeded but has an uncomfortable epiphany, if Regina has stopped being the queen bee who has replaced her? She has a moment where she awkwardly realizes she has gained that role.  A friend who suggested the conspiracy against Regina to begin with  becomes estranged when Cady casts aside friendly activities to focus more on destroying Regina.  The friend tells Cady, "Regina and I KNOW we're mean.  You keep pretending you're innocent."  The meanest girl of the mean girls has, in the end, turned out to be Cady.  Convinced of the rightness of her crusade against Regina, she does not realize her schemes have shown her to be Regina's better in deceit and scheming.  Cady, though crestfallen by this realization, starts working to make things right by the people she has harmed.  Regina doesn't, but since in a comedy the ending isn't usually too downbeat (unless we're talking "Stanley's Cup" the vicious satire of inspirational sports movies done by South Park) she manages to find a more constructive outlet for the anger she has about things in her life.

Mean Girls is clearly meant to be more of a trifle of a film but it's depiction of power politics among girls in a high school setting may be useful as a point of comparison for power politics, scheming, conspiracy and betrayal and a lust for attainment in, well, church contexts. 

As light as the film is the idea that the boundary between a manipulative, abusive person and the the manipulated abused can be far more permeable than we are likely to see in the midst of self-congratulatory anger or contempt.  Little does Regina imagine Cady actually has both the means and the will to hurl her down from her lofty position as the alpha female of the high school.  Little does Cady realize that in her own way she is capable of even more venom and abuse than even Regina.  As Cady's friend tells her so bluntly, she's the mean girl and the bitch because she's convinced of her innocence. 

It's all too easy for watchdog activity on line to be done by those of us who may be Cady's.  We want injustice to get addressed but the warning we might gain from Mean Girls (if you'll humor Wenatchee The Hatchet this far already) is that it's possible after things are said and done for you to turn out to be even more able to be vindictive, petty, driven by vengeance and grudge-holding than whoever it is you think you're righteously speaking out or fighting against.  The worst offenders may even be most convinced of the rightness of their cause and least open to the possibility that personal grudges or grievances are at play.  By contrast, the Reginas who know they're mean and are perfectly up front (at least to those close to them) about their personal animosities may be mean girls ... but they at least know it. 

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet is necessarily thinking Mark Driscoll is like Regina George.  For the cautionary nature of the comedy to have its effect you have to be able to imagine that you're either one or both of Cady Herron and Regina George. 

No comments: