Review: Musical Movie Doesn’t Recapture Mean Girls’ Genuine Meanness

The eponymous mean girls in Mean Girls aren’t as mean as they used to be. The 2024 version—a movie adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of the original 2004 movie—retains some of the iconic lines of Tina Fey’s masterpiece (fetch is still not happening). But the power of the original derived from how surprising it was to see true-to-life teen-girl smack talk on screen, and to see it presented without a moralistic good victims/bad bullies Manichaeism. The popular girls were mean, but so were the outcasts.

The musical tells instead of shows, with songs about how everyone is, in fact, mean. It’s possible that teens have actually gotten nicer since 2004, but a more likely explanation is that the audience’s tolerance for the truth about bullying—and the difficulties of preventing it—has diminished in our oversensitive age.

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