When Mean Girls hit the theaters in 2004, it was immediately viewed as a sharp-witted, clever teen movie. But with Lindsay Lohan as the star, some critics still dismissed the cult classic as a giggly teen flick. Now, nine years later, scientists aren't seeing the idea as silly at all.
It turns out Tina Fey's take on young girls' social behavior may be truer than audiences realized. In fact, the Mean Girls world of cliques, feuds and backstabbing frenemies has been backed up in scientific studies.
Mean Girls portrays a high-school world dominated by social cliques including popular kids, band geeks, science nerds, jocks and goths. In the movie's world, these social cliques not only have an impact on how students are going to be viewed for those four years of their lives, but also how they can have profound emotional and physical effects on young girls.
Mean Girls shows young women criticizing each other's looks and weight, while gossiping about what one said or did. All of these practices have been recently studied by social scientists, who believe Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan's filt was extremely accurate.
"Women do compete, and they can compete quite frequently with one another," said Tracy Vaillancourt, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada. "The form it typically takes is indirect aggression, because it has a low cost: The person [making the attack] doesn't get injured. Oftentimes, the person's motives aren't detected, and yet it still inflicts harm against the person they're aggressing against."
According to Anne Campbell, an evolutionary psychologist at Durham University in the U.K., the same applies to men. "By the time you get to adulthood, particularly in work situations, men use this too," said Campbell.
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