Movies For Mean Girls

The dramatis personae native to any high school consist of well-established archetypes. The weight of the adolescent plight, moreover, can be as excoriating as any Greek Tragedy. The awkwardness in coming into one’s identity and forming a role within a rigid social structure is a universal rite of passage for every teen, and has yielded ripe fodder for the screen from American Graffiti to American Pie – from  Twin Peaks to Freaks and Geeks

Sunday 3/26 at 2pm

Clueless owes its unique brand of character development to Jane Austen, having been loosely adapted from her 1815 novel, Emma. Released in 1995 and set in the Beverly Hills of its current day, the film centers around Cher (Alicia Silverstone) – the beauty queen with a rich dad, a white jeep, and a daily consultation with a digital wardrobe simulation. Though spoiled, and endearingly shallow, Cher renounces mean-girl conventions by taking the awkward and unfashionable Tai (Brittney Murphy) under her wing, instructing the latter on the social ladder and fitting her with suitable suitors. But the ugly ducking story takes a Frankenstein turn, when Tai begins to threaten Cher’s own popularity.

The mean girls in Clueless have hearts, however, and the cast is wholly enchanting. The humor of its screenwriting is hilarious, especially in anachronistic retrospect. Apart from being Murphy’s most notable role, the film was an early appearance for Paul Rudd as Cher’s Gen-X socially conscious stepbrother, and a pleasing appearance by Wallace Shawn.

Saturday 3/25 at 4pm

Things get a shade darker in 1999’s Jawbreaker. When a trio of the most popular girls in school (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and Julie Benz) play a prank on their unfortunate bestie as a birthday surprise by which she suffers and untimely death by choking on the eponymous candy. The crime is witnessed by timid social outcast Fern, played by Judy Greer who would later come to be known as “Kitty” on Arrested Development. In exchange for an oath of silence, the unwitting killers transform Fern with a makeover and an attitude adjustment and adopt her into their clique. It’s a bit like Clueless meets Heathers with a raucous 90’s alternative soundtrack blaring the likes of Veruca Salt, throughout. And despite the juvenile plot, the film is well acted, uniquely funny, and accented with impressive cinematography and production design.

Saturday 3/25 midnight

The mean girl ranges from comedy to black comedy, to horror with Brian De Palma’s 1976 Carrie, based on the novel by Stephen King. This time the title role is the misfit herself (played by Sissy Spacek), mean-girl victim with telekinetic powers and a fervently religious mother (Piper Laurie) who truncates her daughter’s social and sexual development. Both Laurie and Spacek earned Academy Award nominations for their roles, and the film was a career launch for the young John Travolta. The archetypal impact of Carrie cannot be denied as an ominous warning that being a Mean Girl can come to a cataclysmic end, and that high school can be a horror of supernatural proportions.

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Words by M.Pellerano