"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

‘Mean Girls’ can still be fetch in 2023

Why you should still watch the new ‘Mean Girls’ movie
2024’s “Mean Girls” movie is not a sequel or a remake (Courtesy of Reddit).

The 2004 cult classic “Mean Girls” is one of my all-time favorite movies. While it is arguable that the “popular clique takes in a new member” troupe originated in 1988 with the film “Heathers,” “Mean Girls” undoubtedly sparked a resurgence in comedies, particularly those focused in high school. The movie is filled with quotable lines and memorable performances — and quite frankly is perfect as it is. So, understandably, when the trailer dropped on Nov. 8 for the new “Mean Girls” movie, a lot of eyebrows were raised.

However, what I think many people do not realize — and what the studio has failed to effectively portray — is that this is not simply a remake of the original “Mean Girls.” This is a movie based on the “Mean Girls” Broadway musical, which does feature differences from the original film.

The lack of knowledge that this new film is a musical is understandable. Instead of featuring any of the amazing music from the Broadway show, the trailer features “Get him back!” by Olivia Rodrigo, giving viewers no hints of what makes this version unique. 

Many commenters online also seem angry with the casting — particularly the fact that the Plastics don’t appear to have that stereotypical popular and untouchable look as in the original film. Stills from the film show Regina George in an all-black leather look, Gretchen Wieners in a sweater vest and Karen Smith in a crochet top — looks that they would not have sported in the original film. This new costuming and overall modern look of the remake have caused many, such as National Post columnist Rahim Mohamad, to slander producers of “Mean Girls” for abandoning “realism for woke ideal.”

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Despite this, I wish people would hold out a bit more hope for the new film. I have always been a fan of the “Mean Girls” musical ever since its 2017 out-of-town tryout in Washington D.C. In 2020, I even saw the show on stage, featuring Reneé Rapp, the star of the 2023 movie, as George. 

I must say, part of the reason I have so much faith in this movie is due to Rapp. Rapp took over the role of George on Broadway at only 19 years old after winning “best actress” at the national high school theater awards, the Jimmy Awards. Funnily enough, the male recipient of the Jimmy Award that year was Andrew Barth Feldman, who has recently been praised for his performance alongside Jennifer Lawrence in the summer blockbuster “No Hard Feelings.” 

With Feldman’s success, it only seems natural that Rapp gets her chance to shine on the big screen, too. Admittedly, I am a gigantic Rapp fan and suggest that if you haven’t listened to her first album “Snow Angel” — do so immediately. She is also from my hometown of Charlotte, N.C., and after seeing the show in 2020, I eagerly waited at the stage door to meet her. When I did, we discussed which CLT area code was superior. All this to say, Rapp is a talented vocalist with experience in the role. If anyone can lead this movie to success, it is her.

The poster for the new movie lists the stars of the new cast. (Courtesy of IMDb)

Besides Rapp’s incredible vocal chops, the rest of the cast also sports great voices. Bebe Wood, who plays Wieners, has earnest and impressive self-written music on Spotify, such as her song “Mathew Street.” I also trust her ability to combine comedic timing with a heartfelt performance, which she did perfectly in her role as Lake Meriwether on the show “Love, Victor.” 

Eccentric “art freak” Janis Sarkisian is played by Auli’i Cravalho, who you probably know as the voice of Disney princess Moana. The role of Sarkisian is one of the most vocally demanding in the musical, originally played on Broadway by powerhouse Barrett Wilbert Weed, but Cravalho is more than capable of rising to the challenge. Sarkisian’s bestie Damian Leah is played by Jaquel Spivey, who received universal praise and a Tony nomination for his performance as Usher in Broadway’s “A Strange Loop” in 2022. In the musical, Leah’s songs sound the most like typical Broadway showtunes, and Spivey has the skill to nail these numbers.

The only casting choice I have reservations about is Chris Briney as Cady Heron’s love interest Aaron Samuels. While admittedly Samuels does not sing a ton in the musical, Briney became an internet meme over the summer for his less-than-ideal singing as Conrad Fisher in “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” Indeed, his subpar voice could have been an acting choice for the emotional scene, where his character was singing at his mother’s funeral. Still, there are tons of male actors in Hollywood or on Broadway who could have amped up Samuels’ dreaminess through a melodic voice.

With a cast this great, one may wonder why the choices are getting so much backlash. I think one reason is, frankly, the many feel that the looks of the actors do not match the skinny and white image that has become synonymous with the Plastics. Smith, for example, is played by Indian actress Avantika Vandanapu, and Rapp opened up in a stage panel at the 2023 Teen Vogue Summit about how the public is “clincially so obsessed” with her body. While the “Mean Girls” musical is no stranger to diverse casting, which can be seen across its Broadway and tour productions, it seems that the film audience is less receptive to these choices.

On stage, where people are used to full adults often playing teenagers, there is more willingness among the audience to bend ideas about what someone “should” look like. For on-screen performances, people are less willing to forgo these assumptions. If audiences fail to look beyond their current version of the Plastics, they could seriously miss out on some promising, upcoming talent. 

So to those skeptical of the new “Mean Girls” movie, I do understand. I would also be mad if this was simply a remake of the original film, but it’s not. This new movie is sure to feature amazing vocals and fun new additions to characters we already love. Instead of seeing it as replacing the 2002 film, look at it as an even bigger glimpse into the story that had the whole world wanting to “make fetch happen.”

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