Strangely, upon reading Judith Hess Wright’s “Genre Films and the Status Quo,” I was reminded of the movie “Mean Girls” when she discusses the criteria of the Gangster film genre.
The major conflict attributed to Gangster films is “the contradictory feelings of fear and desire that are aroused by attempts to achieve financial and social success” (42). The film is based when the new girl, Cady Heron, is uprooted from home schooling in Africa and transplanted into a suburban public school where social hierarchy reins supreme. Wright also asserts that gangster films are “made up of a pyramidal hierarchy,” where only one can be “top dog” (48). In Mean Girls, the Plastics rule. Soon, Cady befriends Janis and Damian, who are considered to be at the bottom of this hierarchy. However, Cady is also befriended by the Plastics and her association with them quickly catapults her into quick popularity. Her true friends, Janis and Damian, devise a plan for her to infiltrate and destroy the Plastics. As a pseudo part of the Plastics, Cady experiences the fears and desires of her newfound social success. While she enjoys being one of the most popular girls at school, she also fears that this status has changed her.
Mean Girls further exemplifies the idea to maintain in “our hierarchical social structure” (49). Regina George is at the top dog of the Plastics. Gretchen and Karen are Regina’s main “henchmen” so to speak. They understand that they would rather stay in the Plastics, but forever be under Regina’s grasp, then to cease being popular. They realize that they must do Regina’s bidding in order to survive in high school hierarchical social structure.
I suppose, after all, Mean Girls is not a gangster film. The vicious cycle of being the Queen Bee is destroyed once Cady defeated “other people to succeed” (49). The lesson of the movie is actually the opposite of a gangster film: one is suppose to struggle out of his or her place in the social structure rather than conform.