Contributed by Ashley Reed
Sauntering down the hall with their Barbie-esque figures and saucy attitudes, the pink clad clique portrayed in Mean Girls resonates with many teenagers through its reflection of the social hierarchy played out in middle and high schools. In the film, a group of girls known as “The Plastics”, led by Queen Bee Regina George, spend their days harassing their peers and flaunting their perceived superiority. Enter, Cady, a homeschooler who enrolls in public school for the first time. Thrown headfirst into the jungle of high school drama, Cady goes from being an outcast to a member of Regina’s circle, becoming just as malicious as the Plastics in the process.
I went to a small private middle school where the girls had been in the same classes since pre-school. I didn’t really fit in and spent most of my time buried in books. That changed, however, when one of the girls from my grade’s version of “The Plastics” came up to me and informed me that I was now considered a friend. Eventually, I was accepted into the world of 3-way phone calls dripping with gossip, mall trips spent trying on clothes that were way too small and that we would never buy (or be caught wearing in front of our parents), and checking out guys at the movie theater. The thrill of being accepted into one of the recognized cliques at my school was exhilarating.
As you can imagine, the experience was not beneficial to my character whatsoever. I began to take on the characteristics of the girls around me – lying, gossiping, and teasing others. Ironically, the parents of the other girls liked having me around, seeing me as a positive influence for their daughters. Inside, I was wracked with guilt, but didn’t want to lose my friends or gained status. Like Cady in Mean Girls, however, I eventually resurfaced into reality.
Breaking away from my old friends when we graduated from middle to high school wasn’t difficult, as they enrolled in a private Catholic prep school while I went on to a public high school. Transitioning from a small school to an institution with a student population of 2,500 was terrifying, but it also was a relief to let go of the daily gossip and rumors that pervaded my old friendships.
My take away from my adolescent experience is that you become who you surround yourself with. Relationships formed in cliques are like plastic, breaking easily under pressure. I have learned that friendships are not built by music genres or clothing trends but by common interests and trust. Currently in college, I now have some sweet friendships that are unbound by the constraints of high glamour or feigned superiority, and it is liberating.