Ever since I was little, I have always noticed gender stereotypes in the media. From advertisements, to television shows, to movies, it is pretty much everywhere. One particular instance I can think about where gender stereotypes are especially prominent occurs in the movie “Mean Girls.” Although I really enjoyed the movie “Mean Girls,” at the time, this is a main form of media where I see gender bias towards females who are encouraged to act a certain way in order for people to like them.
When I was in the seventh grade I went to see the movie “Mean Girls,” right when it came out in the theatre. I thought the girls looked so perfect and pretty and I wanted to be just like them. I couldn’t wait to see the movie. I didn’t realize it at the time but there were so many gender stereotypes portrayed in this movie. Watching it at such a young age I was too naïve to realize these things. Now, looking back on it after learning about gender stereotypes in class, there are so many in this movie.
In the movie “Mean Girls,” the main characters are called the “Plastics.” They are known as the most popular and perfect girls in the school. Everyone aspires to be them. The way these girls are depicted is telling society that in order for everyone to like you and want to be like you, you have to be physically flawless. They even go to the extent to pick out the flaws of other girls in the school.
The main character, Cady, transfers to the school from previously being home schooled. In the beginning of the movie she is portrayed as liking math, always wearing her hair in a ponytail, wearing loose fitting clothing, and not wearing any makeup. During this time she only has a few true friends, but for the most part no one really notices her and she is known as a “loser.” She becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a “Plastic.” On her quest for popularity she changes everything about her – how she dresses, how she acts, and who she hangs out with. Everyone starts liking her, or at least pretending to like her, once she is considered what is “pretty” and “cool.” This is proving the gender stereotype that in order to become well liked and popular you have to portray yourself as having a beautiful appearance, power and control.
Thinking about this gender stereotype of femininity, this brings me back to the reading by Mary Celester Kearney, when I read about the Mattel’s Barbie Wireless Video Camcorder. In this article, it explains that the camcorder is pink. This also happens to be the color that the “Plastics,” have made a rule of wearing every Wednesday to school. If one of the “Plastics,” does not wear pink, then they cannot sit with the others at lunch in the cafeteria that day. The quote from the movie is, “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” The toy was made for females and provided information that girls should be in front of the camera as a beautiful model, rather than behind the camera doing the photography work. This reminds me of in the movie that rather than being smart, hardworking and interested in math like the main character Cady is, the way to popularity and the way that women should act should be in the spotlight, not behind the scenes.
Another main character of the movie, Regina Georgia, is the “Queen Bee” of the Plastics clique. She is portrayed as the most perfect of them all. She always has a boyfriend. Other girls in the school are interviewed throughout the movie talking about how badly they want to be like Regina George. One quote from the movie is, “Regina George wore army pants and flip flops, so I wore army pants and flip flops.” Another girl is quoted saying, “Once Regina punched me in the face. It was awesome.” Regina George is the perfect definition of a stereotypical mean girl, but for some reason everyone still idolizes her even though she is so cruel. This is sending a gender message to young girls that in order to be the most liked and most popular, it doesn’t matter what your personality is like as long as you appear perfect on the outside.
As a young girl watching Mean Girls, I thought it was the best movie in the world. I aspired to not act like them, but definitely look like them. The movie’s main purpose is for girls to aspire to be the “most liked,” such as Regina was. I definitely did not even think about all the gender stereotypes in the movie at the time. It is crazy how a few years later I have such a different perspective on this movie.
Kearney, Mary Celeste. (2010). Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls. Camera Obscura 74.