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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Mean Girls and the age of authenticity

The new Mean Girls film has hit streaming services.  

This musical remake of the iconic 2004 original follows Cady Heron, a new girl at a US high school, as she learns the complex rules that govern ‘girl world’. To win in this unruly jungle, you have to wear the right clothes, join the right clique, and, importantly, shun the right people. You must differentiate yourself from others by emphasising all the ways you are better than them. You have to be mean. 

In the 2004 film, Cady plays along but soon realises that the things she has been idolising – to be beautiful, popular, desirable – are in fact hollow. Just ‘cold, shiny, hard plastic.’ And the constant comparison game has no winner: ‘Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter.’ 

The 2024 iteration of this ‘cautionary tale’, with its sanitised storytelling and sing-along styling, provides the application of this message. It starts with the ultimate 21st-century moral imperative: you must be true to yourself. Authenticity is more important than relationships: ‘I’d rather be me / Than be with you.’ And the ultimate moral of the story is that, ‘even the people you really don’t like / are still people who just want to coexist.’ The advised behaviour? To stop hounding them and simply leave them alone. 

We might well agree that much of what we desire – to be desirable, popular, and attractive by our own culture’s standards – is ultimately empty and meaningless. We might applaud the nudge towards greater tolerance and authenticity.  

But Jesus calls us to something higher. To love our enemies. To bless those who curse us. To pray for those who abuse us. To do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27–36). 

Most of us don’t inhabit a hormone-fuelled high school. But we do lust after ‘shiny plastic.’ We compare ourselves to others and fall prey to self-love or self-loathing, arrogance, or jealousy. In thought, word, or deed, we are mean. 

This week, when you feel the impulse to compare yourself to someone, to mumble an unkind joke, or talk about someone behind their back, do more than merely hold your tongue and decide to leave them alone. Go beyond the ‘you do you’ dictum and reach out in love. Let’s do more than peacefully coexist. Let’s change the game. Let’s be radically, selflessly kind – and really mean it.  

 

Rachel Smith 
Rachel Smith is a part-time writer and a full-time mum. She attends King’s Church Durham.

Mean Girls | Official Trailer (2024 Movie)

 

Comments

  1. Huge thanks for this. It is the best article I have read for a long time and really made me think.

    By Colin Cox  -  1 Mar 2024

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