Mean Women: Is ‘Bachelorette’ A Sequel To ‘Mean Girls’?

mean-girls-bachelorette Remember Mean Girls?

Of course you do. You’ve been quoting it since 2004.

On Wednesdays, you say: “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” On October 3, you ask what day it is. If someone tries to make fetch happen, you snap: “Stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen.” You will never eat toaster strudel without thinking of its inventor.

In other words, you’re too gay to function.

Regina, Karen, Gretchen, and Cady — AKA “The Plastics” — have gone down in history as a certain generation’s gay female pop culture proxies. (Past recipients of this honor include Cher from Clueless, the cast of Sex & The City, The Wizard Of Oz’s Dorothy, Joan of Arc, and Mary Magdalene.) It’s unlikely that Tina Fey intentionally penned Mean Girls as the most homosexually-quotable film of this millennium, but that she did — and I bet she’s proud of herself. Mean Girls was adapted from the teen self-help book Queen Bees & Wannabes, of all things, so maybe it’s not surprising that a tome helping 15-year-old girls navigate their way through the perils of middle school became the go-to flick at any gay slumber party. (Not to be confused with an orgy.) Gay men love powerful women, even (or especially) when “powerful” can be more accurately described as “chillingly bitchy.” What is a singular word for a “mean girl,” after all? Yes, that’s right.

A bitch.

Superficial, catty women who love to flirt and party and buy expensive things tend to be good stand-ins for gay men’s base desires. I don’t want to make blanket statements and stereotype, because there’s more to (most) gay men than shopping and gossip and talking about boys. Lots of gay men prefer sports to shopping, political debates to trash talk… blah blah, whatever. Even they still like Mean Girls.mean-girls

That’s because movies and TV are escapism, and such characters allow us to disappear into that fantasy for awhile. Maybe it stems from our insecure teen years — did you see the cute, ditzy popular girl with guys swarming around her, and wish you could have similar success? Maybe we’ve even unconsciously emulated her, because certain gay social circles follow the rules of Mean Girls’ “Girl World” to a T. The movie is, sadly but hilariously, quite relatable for most of us. The Plastics are who we all aspire to be, at least on an aesthetic level, while the film’s star Lindsay Lohan is the tragic, real-life cautionary tale of what will happen to us if we ever actually get there. (It’s not pretty.)  So thanks, Lilo, for the sacrifice — you’re proof positive that being “Plastic” only works out in the movies.

Why these girls? Why women, at all? Why don’t gay men aspire to be, I dunno, James Dean, or 80‘s Tom Cruise, or Chris Hemsworth? Pop culture is still having a “girl power” moment that began in the 90’s. Movie guys are getting ever more oafish — Seth Rogen is a funny guy, but do any of us aspire to be him? Doubtful. Straight guys may look at the couch-friendly stoner archetype and say, “Hey, cool, that guy plays video games all day like I do!” But women and gay men aspire to more; we’re still too unstable in a patriarchal, hetero-dominated society to rest on any such laurels. Our icons need to have it all — looks, social status, money, men. (Maybe smarts, too — but that’s negotiable.) It’s not so much a question of femininity as image and ambition. Why wouldn’t we prefer to be a Queen Bee than a McLovin’? Males just aren’t setting the bar very high at this moment in time, whereas Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada can dress in designer labels, boss her minions around, verbally cut a bitch at the drop of a hat, travel around in town cars sipping Starbucks, all while earning an Academy Award nomination for her troubles. It sure beats the hell out of dressing in drag and pretending to be your own fat sister, or whatever the fuck Adam Sandler is doing in any given year.

So will this quartet of high school girls (and their less popular classmates) ever fall out of fashion, as fictional creations sometimes do? It hasn’t happened yet! The funny thing about movie characters is that they stay the same age as we get older and wiser and (arguably) more mature, yet we don’t outgrow them the way we might move on from a real life friend who is still acting like a snotty cunt long after puberty can be claimed as the culprit. There was, in fact, a Mean Girls 2 that nobody watched and should never be mentioned again, but there likely will never be one that actually reunites Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, that tells us how Cady and the gang fared after graduation. (But wouldn’t a Mean Girls High School Reunion be incredibly awesome?) There is a movie, however, that gives us a glimpse at what a true Mean Girls sequel might be like, and that’s Bachelorette.bachelorette-dress

I feel the film needs no introduction, for already it’s one of the most buzzed-about and popular films to ever debut on demand. (It simultaneously hit theaters.) Given the girly title, female-dominated cast, and focus on nuptials, comparisons to Bridesmaids are inevitable, but Bachelorette is a totally different animal. A vicious animal that will maul you.

It’s about a quartet of friends from high school who reunite for a wedding. Sounds light and typical, right? Well, not when the one getting married is called “Pigface” by the other three. That trio is Regina George (Kirsten Dunst), Karen Smith (Isla Fisher), and Gretchen Weiners (Lizzy Caplan). Okay, those aren’t their actual names in this film — but we have the queen bee, the stupid slut, and the neurotic one, and their names are Regan, Katie, and Gena, respectively. Hmm… Regan, Katie, Gena… Regina, Karen, Gretchen… Regan, Katie, Gena… Regina, Karen, Gretchen… you see where I’m going with this?

I can neither confirm nor deny that writer/director Lesley Headland intentionally named her characters after their counterparts in Mean Girls, but let’s just say that Bachelorette serves as the unofficial sequel anyway. Bachelorette is just Mean Girls At The Altar, and a decade or so later, they’ve only gotten nastier. The three more conventionally attractive girls are shocked and appalled to discover that Becky (AKA “Pigface” AKA Rebel Wilson) is the first of their fab foursome to get engaged. They pretend to be happy for her, but behind her back (and occasionally to her face) they’re cruel as cruel can be. And since they’re all grown-ups now, the cruelty is more grounded and harder to take. It only makes these “mean girls” look more pathetic and juvenile, that they’ve only grown up now to be mean women.

As you might expect, these teen hyenas grow up to face their fair share of troubles. Katie’s bimbo act is growing stale after so many years of being used and discarded, while Gena is abusing alcohol to numb the emotional scars of her abortion of Clive (Adam Scott)’s baby. (And because “the world is an asshole” — as a sad-faced pancake explains.) Regan, meanwhile, is holding it together outwardly, but inside you can tell she’s a miserable Type A catastrophe. Some or all of these women have been bulimic. They have empty, unfulfilling sexual encounters. They’re selfish, coked up narcissists whose destructive actions constantly threaten to destroy what should be the happiest day of their faux-friend’s life, and they care only slightly.

In other words, please say hello to the gay world’s new female pop culture proxies, bitches!

Okay. So I’m (sort of) kidding. Yes, you can play “Which Bachelorette are you?” just as you can with the Plastics or the aging fashionistas of Sex & The City. But there’s a razor-sharp edge to Bachelorette that isn’t quite found in any of the above-mentioned properties, and much less of a silver lining. Bachelorette is technically a comedy, but the problems these ladies face are darker and more realistic than the usual fare. It’s bound to turn some off of Bachelorette, while at the same time inviting others to appreciate how willing the film is to let its female characters be so emotionally ugly. (Male characters get away with it constantly.) It won’t be so iconic as Mean Girls, but maybe you and your friends are just a few shades too dark to be Plastics. Maybe you have more in common with Bachelorette’s self-loathing, drug-abusing “B-Faces” instead. That’s okay — no one needs to know. Just secretly know that when you claim you’re “a Regina,” what you really mean is that you’re a Regan instead.

Bachelorette contains a few quotably bitchy lines (like Kirsten Dunst interrupting Rebel Wilson’s announcement of her engagement with: “Can I say something?”), a supporting cast featuring Andrew Rannells (so everywhere all of a sudden!) as a stripper cop and James Marsden as a slutty groomsman, plus copious indulgence in booze, cocaine, and meaningless sex. It’s a bitter pill, but a funny one, with strong performances by Dunst and Caplan especially. You won’t be disappointed — except in all the ways the film wants you to feel disappointed. And dejected. On down on the human race at large.

And, for those of us who glorify those high school mean girls, maybe it’s a necessary example of how we actually don’t want to be just like them when we grow up.

(And yet, deep down, maybe some of us still do.)

Either way, it’s grool.mean-girls-cast

Thoughts?

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