Mean Girls Movie Project


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AP Psychology Project

How Hollywood exploited or helped the field of psychology? Was the movie biased? Did it help the field of Psychology or did it hurt the field.



Although Mean Girls is a Hollywood movie, it gets its inspiration from real life. Like any good movie, it starts with real life and exaggerates it to tell a compelling story. Furthermore, some psychologist think that the movie inspires other girls to be mean by making meanness more socially acceptable. However, the film does have a message. In the end, all of the girls face consequences for their action.

The Exposition

Mean Girls is the story of Cady, who just moved to America from Africa where her parents worked. She was home schooled before and is moving to conventional schooling for the first time. Her parents and her have apprehensions of what would happen in school. These apprehensions normally happen at age 6, when a child goes to school for the first time. As Cady walks to the door, she passes many groups of people who pay no attention to her.

When she finally makes it inside, she embarrasses herself on her first day. She mistakenly talks to a girl who she thinks it the teacher and the class laughs at her. She then tries to find a seat, but as she is looking for one, she bumps into teacher and send the teacher's coffee flying. This plays up the apprehensions people have on the first day that they will embarrass themselves. Most people do not, however, embarrass themselves as much as Cady does however. Cady says, "The first day at school was a blur, a stressful surreal blur. [...] I never lived in a world where adults didn't trust me."

The next day she meets outcasts Janis and Damien. They explain "The Plastics" to her, a group of beautiful, but stupid, social butterflies. Regina George is the leader for the Plastics.

Later that day, Janis hands Cady a map of the school cafeteria. In a brilliant sequence, the film breaks down the different tables of the cafeteria (freshmen, preps, Asian nerds, unfriendly black hotties, girls who don't eat anything, etc.). In my personal experience at Haverford High School, this is exaggerated to be a bit more clear cut. In general people sit with their friends and their friends usually share similar interests. However no one has ever taken the time to draw a map of the cafeteria, and would have a hard time classifying groups. This is where Hollywood exaggerates real life in my experience. People do not fit into nice, neat cliques as in the movie.

In the cafeteria, Cady meets "The Plastics" who want to make Cady one of them. Cady however, finds out that being a Plastic was not very fun. They were always stabbing each other in the back and making fun of others. They also had a lot of rules which they must follow, for example, not going out with someone else's boyfriend and requiring approval before anyone buys any new clothes.

Cady remains friends with Janis and they plan revenge on Regina George because Regina ostracized Janis a few years ago. So Cady remains friends with both groups. As the movie goes on, Cady finds herself liking the Plastics more and more while continuing to try and sabotage them for Janis.

Psychologists Respond

According to A New Universal Mean Girl: Examining the Discursive Construction and Social Regulation of a New Feminine Pathology by Jessica Ringrose, "feminist psychologists and educators, including Gonick, consistently claim that it is the reactive positioning of girls’ aggression in popular culture and media that has worked to pathologize and naturalize girls’ aggression in highly problematic ways" ([1] Page 3). This indicates that some psychologists think that by recognizing this behavior in popular movies, more girls will adopt the behaviors of the girls in the film. These psychologists strongly believe that Mean Girls has hurt the field of psychology.

However the author disagrees with these psychologists as argues that "these gender equivalency-seeking, sensationalist narratives do not emerge spontaneously out of a ‘popular’ culture or media backlash against feminism, as implied by these critics" (3). Rather, she investigates "how feminism is wrapped up in complex ways in what is a contradictory ‘postfeminist’ narrative of the mean girl" (3). The author goes on to talk about many stories and movies about mean girls including Mean Girls.


In the end, the film has a message however. The Plastics totally fall apart and turn on each other. The school finds out that all of the mean things that were said about them and are very angry at the Plastics. The group disbands and everyone becomes genuine friends with each other.

Although the movie does end positively, some psychologists believe that girls will try to imitate the mean girl behavior. Other psychologists disagree. Mean Girls gets its inspiration from real life, however it exaggerates real life to make a humorous movie. Overall, I think that this movie has helped the field of psychology by humorously portraying the interactions of high school girls for a wide audience.