The new “Mean Girls” trailer has its issues no doubt, but is the diversity of the cast really one of them? First off, the background music is jolting; rather than a song from the soundtrack, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Get Him Back” plays throughout the duration of the trailer. The costuming has its issues as well, namely that the girls look like a walking talking Shein ad. But despite rampant issues with the trailer, the thing that surprised me the most was the number of viewers upset that the film has gone too “woke.” My social media feeds, classrooms, and discussions among friends have been awash with overwhelmingly out-of-touch social commentary, made increasingly apparent by the new “Mean Girls” trailer of all things.
The early aughts were certainly a different climate for film and television, but it’s not as though the original “Mean Girls” was some conservative film emblematic of our peak of American society. It had a relatively diverse cast and crew, many of whom later came out as LGBTQ+ . The movie by some standards had already gone “woke,” though I doubt the phrase was in heavy use when it was released in 2004. It’s also important to note that this “Mean Girls” is a film adaptation of the “Mean Girls Musical” on Broadway. The musical already had a variety of different race swaps compared to the source material, so the current casting shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with the Broadway version.
A diverse cast of characters shouldn’t automatically deem a film liberal garbage. Often, a multi-racial cast is picked because those were the actors who performed the best. Minority casting has come a long way in the last decade, but roles still primarily go to white men. Any illusion of a “woke-fied” Hollywood is unfounded and predicates on the myth that white men are under attack, something as absurd and asinine as it is prevalent in today’s society.
Sure Karen is Indian, Damien is Black, and Regina is played by lesbian actress and musician Reneé Rapp. So what? None of these things signify that the movie will be bad or lack any of the biting humor that the original encompassed. If a movie’s humor is dependent on a straight white cast we shouldn’t be applauding it anyway. Nostalgia-induced blindness has caused an entire generation to be woefully incapable of critical thinking when it comes to near and dear childhood favorites. The same cultural discussions happened when “The Little Mermaid” was remade with a Black main character. But this time, instead of Boomers leading the anti-woke mob, it’s Gen Z — a group usually leaning far left on social issues.
Remakes and sequels are almost universally bad. So, based on the past and the past alone, a new “Mean Girls” will likely desecrate the legacy of its predecessor even more than the movie’s first sequel, “Mean Girls 2.” But writing it off before it even has the chance to hit the silver screen will give movie studios ammunition to release fewer films with POC and queer leads.
I thought we had progressed past the need for stunted lesbian jokes and rampant slut-shaming to keep audiences laughing. It seems that Paramount Pictures and I have made a sweeping misjudgment, and I’m grateful that unlike the Hollywood studio, I’ve invested nothing in the success of “Mean Girls the Musical.” Regardless, you will see me in all of my woke, sheeple glory, seated in pink when the musical comes out next year, and I sincerely hope I will not be alone.