The movie, Mean Girls, can be summarized as a classical film that depicts the enduring power of association by examining real-life sociological phenomena. The movie is both compelling and educational, as the viewer might think it is real. In the initial scenes, the teenage girls captured in the film are involved in making exciting decisions at stake. The central character, Cady, missed a vital psychosocial and cognitive stage in her early childhood development that affected her social interaction. The issue was, however, solved through interaction with different groups at the end of the film. Cady’s attractiveness is central to the plot, which qualifies her to the alpha group, “The Plastics”. Cady emerged throughout as curious, probing, and analytical such that she could not be an obedient follower in the groups. The movie concludes with full social integration of Cady with the entire school population.
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The film is endowed with exploring social dynamics in high school centered on Cady’s, whose behavioral analysis can be explained using Erikson’s psychological and Piaget’s cognitive development theories. The movie depicts how the social environment in childhood impacts future interactions (Punjabi, 2018). For example, Cady, being a homeschooled girl, had challenges with her upbringing based on cognitive development stages illustrated by Piaget’s theory (Berger, 2018). Erikson’s approach illuminates Cady’s development throughout life, while Piaget focuses on her infancy to teen years. She had poor social skills when she joined high school but later resolved through peer influence. For such consideration, Cady is a candidly innocent girl who attempts to explore her social reality since she is unfamiliar with the things that are normal to other girls.
Cady is depicted from an early age living with her parents in Africa before joining for the first time a public high school in Evanston, Illinois. Since she cannot make concrete decisions even after passing Piaget’s third stage, she had no predetermined idea of how students should interact with others in groups (Punjabi, 2018). However, her colleagues engage with her immediately and take advantage of her unfamiliarity because she does not know the rules. For example, Cady’s first experience at school was the overwhelming chaos, something she had never been exposed to since childhood (Berger, 2018). In such adversity, she made no sense of the increasing complexity of high school’s social relations.
Naturally, a character such as Cady is likely to gain sympathy from her colleagues. She interacts with peers and is briefed on the school’s cliques by Damian and Janis. Such briefing probably raised her awareness of the unspoken rules in social reality. Regina George embarrasses Jason to support him for using innuendos to flirt with her (Mayron & Waters, 2004). Since people tend to see something before they believe it, she is compelled to play by her set of rules before discovering another, unspoken set of rules to control her game. Regina and her accomplice, known as “The Plastics,” have a strong admiration for Cady’s looks and innocence, compelling them to invite her for lunch conditionally.
Mean Girls features “The Plastics” as the alpha group, while Janis and Damien fall in the omega. In-between social groups that are not significant in the transpiring events also exist, as the Asians. Cady is easily persuaded by her peers, indicating a lack of ability to make independent decisions and autonomy as described by Piaget’s and Erikson’s models. Every group in the film characteristically probed a new member to gauge where they stand in the hierarchy. However, Janis plans an act of revenge towards “The Plastics” through Cady because Regina is her enemy. Janis wanted to seek a way of delegitimizing the alpha group. Such scenes predict that the film will progress into conflicts between the social groups to win Cady’s membership.
Cady was attracted to a fellow mathematics colleague, Aaron Samuels. However, since no member of the alpha group was for the relationship, one of them revealed that Aaron was an ex-boyfriend to Regina and hence makes him untouchable. Cady’s advantage towards Aaron stimulated Regina to reconcile with him in front of her at a Halloween party (Mayron & Waters, 2004). Such a scenario depicted an increased mistrust level as indicated in stage one of Erick Erikson’s theory (Berger, 2018). Candy, nonetheless, was compelled to run to Janis and Damian and kick off their revenge mission after shame and doubt in “The Plastics.”
Even though the mathematical teacher encouraged Cady to join the Mathletes, she professes not to comprehend math to request that Aaron mentor her, and he concurs. When Cady revealed to Aaron that her ex-girlfriend was untrustworthy, they had separated again (Mayron &Waters, 2004). Another level of Erikson’s mistrust is shown when Cady fools Regina into consuming weight-acquiring bars under the pretense of weight-reducing ones to increase the damage. Cady, further, engineers a quarrel between Gretchen and Regina by making the former feel unreliable about not getting a marked sweet sticky note from the latter.
Even though she invaded “The Plastics” for the omegas, Cady begins to adapt to “The Plastics” at an exceeding rate. Ultimately, Cady supplants both Regina and Gretchen to be the head of the alpha group. The omegas then denied Cady’s relationship for mistrust and indecisiveness (Mayron & Waters, 2004). Further, Regina realized about the weight-adding bars after recovering a Burn Book in Cady’s chamber. The book was loaded with unkind tattle and horrendous abuses on the various people and instructors in their school. Regina handed over the book to the head teacher after composing hostile observations of herself. She assured the principal that other members wrote it off “The Plastics” and afterward messed the compound with copied pages, which caused a school demonstration. The rioting students settled on the vital decision at a gathering in the recreation center. The principal addressed the girls involved and compelled them to draft statements of regret for the actions. After Janis’ statement of regret uncovers herself alongside Cady’s arrangement to undermine the alpha group, Regina walks over and is run over by an imminent school bus.
From the beginning, Cady is more fond of the omegas, that is, Janis and Damien, than “The Plastics.” Even if she was unattractive, the omegas would have nothing to fear or lose in Cady’s presence. However, since Cady is attractive, she is a perceived threat to “The Plastics”. For such a reason, it is not a coincidence that “The Plastics” invited her for a sitting. “The Plastics” talent-scouted Cady because beauty is a social currency in their high-school environment. Regina thought it was safe to keep Cady closer to control her, as she was beautiful. Regina knew that if Cady was left as a free agent, she could have been a trouble to “The Plastics” by earning handsome boys’ attention, such as Aaron. Such shifts could have disoriented the alpha status of “The Plastics.”
Bits of gossip had it that Cady pushed Regina before the school bus, and everybody, including the omegas, shunned her. Her parents also registered their dissatisfaction concerning her conduct too, and her dad opted to ground her. However, in one mathematics lesson, Cady admitted to having been inscribed in the book and owned up to censure (Mayron & Waters, 2004). As part of a disciplinary measure, the principal had Cady engage with the Mathletes to partake in the math championship competition. Amid the competitions, Cady knew the only provable hard and intelligent toil would address all of her problems and allow her to improve, as opposed to frivolous put-downs or dynamic control. Cady can provide the right solutions and give up the broader scope of damaging practices ingrained in her by the alpha group.
Motivated by Mathletes mates and the principal to participate in the Spring Fling dance, although her parents grounded her, Cady proceeds to find that she had gone against all odds to be elected the Spring Fling Queen. Cady canceled the designation in her triumph discourse and broke her headband into pieces, sharing them out to her colleagues as a sign of fairness. As the new academic year started, a lot had changed in the school. For example, “The Plastics” had been dispersed. Also, Regina was united in the lacrosse crew. Gretchen had decided to participate in the “cool Asians” inner circle. As well, Karen became in-charge of the weather in the school. Besides, Cady gets back to being companions with Janis and Damien, who had excused her and reunited to watch out for impending “junior Plastics.”
Mean Girls demonstrates in-group politics in alpha groups couples with Erikson’s trust versus mistrust portrayed by Cady, alluding to Regina’s approval even though she hates her. Such a case indicates that people tend to be drawn into toxic relationship even if it hurts them (Berger, 2018). Gretchen decides not to leave “The Plastics” because of the alphas’ status despite being miserable. People tend to choose to be the least recognized in the top group than be on the outside (Mayron & Waters, 2004). Having Cady in the alpha group maintains their status since they get the attention of being sexually desired and envied by everybody. However, Cady is likely to win the attention of other group members due to her attractiveness, which can hinder their relationship with Regina (Berger, 2018). In such regard, Regina is more likely to employ her arbitrary rules against Cady to disenable her from gaining followers. Such consideration demonstrates Regina’s sociopathic intelligence that she uses to manipulate “The Plastics”. Regina manipulates Cady to keep her in line and avoid backstabbing her. For instance, Regina had Cady insulting Ms. Sharon to leverage her and build her social capital. Additionally, Regina lies to Aaron about Cady to address her insecurities.
Overall, Mean Girls demonstrates how social reality resembles poker since real stakes are involved. Cady is depicted as a key player in “The Plastics,” and she cannot win by playing nice. Social dynamics in high-school populations are also illuminated, focusing on people struggling to maintain the alpha status while undermining the omega group. In “The Plastics,” the leader is always socially intelligent and manipulates other members to maintain her position. For instance, Regina was hit by the school bus to quit the play. People who play their cards straight are also more likely to lose their members while thinking they would be appreciated, like Janis lost Cady to “The Plastics.” Ignorance of social dynamics is revealed by the group members, who cannot challenge the leader. Cady’s school involvement exposed more of its growth, association, and developmental habits, as explained by Piaget and Erikson. For instance, Cady’s formal operational stage in Piaget’s theory was not fully developed, having been homeschooled, allowing for more substantial influence by peers. Thus, she could not think more about social or moral issues in a real-life setting.
Berger, K. S. (2018). Developing person through childhood and adolescence (11th ed.). Worth Publishers.
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Mayron, M., & Waters, M. (Directors). (2004). Mean Girls [Film]. Paramount Pictures.
Punjabi, S. (2018). Child development & pedagogy for CTET & STET (Paper 1 & 2) with past questions (3rd ed.). Disha Publications.