Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mean girls

So Stef and I saw The Duff and I realized about halfway into it that the film was probably based on a book I read a few years back with the same title.  I know.  I'm a genius.  I think it took me awhile to connect the dots, however, because the film is very funny and the book is primarily very angsty--no doubt because the author was actually in high school when she wrote it.  Which is amazing, but still.  Lots of angsty-angsty.

Anyway.  None of this is the point.

The point is that there are mean girls in this movie.  Really popular, good-looking mean girls who do things like humiliate other girls in public.  It's a favorite YA trope--the really popular, good-looking mean girls who humiliate other girls in public.  They show up in movies and TV shows and books.  We love to hate them, those evil fairy tale queens who persecute the ordinary nice girls.

Like us.

But, are they for real?  Or are they--you know--just evil fairy tale characters?  Because when I think about it, I have to say I've never known girls who were so pro-actively YA novel and movie mean.  Am I just being naive here?  You know--because I didn't have sisters or daughters?

Discuss please.  I don't mind if you disagree.


CSIowa said...

I was part of a discussion about mean girls at a parent/leader session of a leadership conference for girls recently. There was an argument against labels, specifically "mean girls," and I could see the point. I think there are girls who have more mean moments than others. I generally considered myself one of the nice ones (as did my peers and teachers, I think), but I remember discrete occasions of being a twelve-year-old power-tripping mean girl. That person still pops up every now and then. Mostly she needs someone to love her. I think the impulse to teach empathy and compassion to all people is more valuable than the impulse to "fix" the mean girls.

James said...

I am sure there are mean girls. I am sure there are friendly girls whose actions are sometimes interpreted as being mean. I think the mean girl has mostly become a cliche, which is not always a bad thing. Cliche's help the reader get to a certain point without too many chapters on how they got to be mean girls. The key, I think, is using the cliche to one's advantage.

Enough about the mean girl cliche. Let's talk about vampires.

(I agree with CSlowa. Teaching empathy and compassion is of primary importance.)

Lauren said...

There were two mean girls in my grade in high school. I still have an immediate reaction when I think about them... scrunch my eyebrows, slit my eyes, become very protective of myself.
Some revenge was exacted via the high school yearbook. Didn't make it better, of course, but it happened. After years of being a mean girl, the "little people" who have all the dorky positions like in journalism and on the yearbook committee, take their revenge.

Dianna said...

I never met any really deliberately mean girls in high school, but I do have to confess that every once in awhile I like a really catty antagonist in my reading, especially when she gets her come-uppance.

Cindy Stagg said...

Oh yes. I had mean girls growing up. One was just nasty and mean. Calling me names, making a point of making sure I knew I disgusted her. The other girl bullied me until the 10th grade when she got pregnant. Not that I condone teen pregnancy, but it worked out to my benefit in this case. Now, as the Primary President, I see some mean girl stuff happening in the 10-11 year-old group. We're having lots of sharing time lessons on kindness these days.

Elena Jarvis Jube said...

Most of those book and movie portrayals feel like caricatures to me.

My own experience with "Mean Girl" stuff tended to be a lot more subtle than anything you see in those shows. So subtle it was hard to pin-point sometimes, so that if you decided to call someone on it they could always act like they didn't know what you were talking about--and they really might not know. Not that I ever did confront anyone (I was a wimp).

But maybe that dates me, since the internet wasn't invented when I was in high-school and technology allows for meaner mean stuff, since you don't have to actually see the hurt on someone's face when you say something horrible.

Even still, a lot of it seems half-consciously done and inspired by fear, rather than a desire to be cruel.

Yes, we need more compassion on both ends.