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The article discusses two films, "Heathers" and "Mean Girls," and how they represented how women were perceived at the time of their release as well as the function of the media in the advancement of women. The 1988 film "Heathers" stars three adolescent girls named Heather, who are the most popular students in their high school, and Veronica, an ordinary kid who struggles with the decision of whether to join the clique or stick with her old pals. When Veronica starts dating Jason Dean, they tragically kill one of the Heathers. As a result, they must cover it up by writing a suicide note. After some time, Veronica realizes that her lover is a psychopath who intentionally kills the students he does not like and tries to stop him. “Mean Girls” was released in 2004 and is about a teenage girl, Cady, who moves into Chicago and meet some characters at her new school. She then joins a clique of three girls called the “Plastics” lead by Regina. Janis had a grudge against Regina and used Cady to execute a revenge plan. When Regina finds out about Cady’s actions, she banishes her from the group, and Cady becomes a social outcast. At the end of the movie, the “Plastics” break up and a new version of them comprised of junior students come up.
The two movies portray women as individuals who can have friends, but these friendships are not real in that there is a lot of jealousy involved since they constantly plot against one another. They can be friends, but one party has to be on top of the hierarchy; the group of friends always has a leader who makes decisions on behalf of the others. The competition among the “Heathers” was so toxic that they either attempted to or ended up killing their friends. They even thanked God when their leader, Heather Chandler, died; this shows that women might be friends on the outside but may despise each other to the point of celebrating the death of their friends (Smilth). The film also depicts the rampant violence and murderous acts in the 1980s that extended to high schools. The leader, Heather Chandler wore a red “scrunchie” to set her apart from the other “Heathers.” In the “Mean Girls,” Cady pretended to be friends with the “Plastics” but ended up betraying their leader, Regina. Instead of protecting her group members, she conspired with Regina’s enemy to bring her down. Cady made Regina consume a substance that made her gain weight while lying to her that it was a weight loss regimen.
Men are a vital part of female friendships. In “Heathers,” Veronica finds herself dating a psychopath who kills the people he does not like. She tries to balance between being his lover and trying to convince him to change his ways, but Dean is resistant to change. They also accidentally kill Veronica’s friend and cover it up. The movie reveals the effect of relationships on women in the 1980s. Women often found themselves with individuals of poor character and tried to change their behavior instead of leaving and reporting them to the police. Veronica committed crimes in the name of love since failing to report a criminal act is a felony in the court of law; if law enforcement agencies found out about Veronica’s knowledge of Dean’s crimes, she would be an accessory to murder and imprisoned. In “Mean Girls,” Cady develops an interest in Regina’s ex-boyfriend, and they even date. Regina becomes jealous and tries to take him away from her. This situation sparks a rivalry between the two friends. The movie shows that female friendships can turn sour because of competition over men; it shows that in the 2000s many women valued attention from men more than their friendship. Cady and Veronica were both part of the “Plastics” but turned into rivals because they wanted an intimate relationship with the same man.
Individuality in female friendships is not always possible. In both films, there was a uniform way of dressing to fit into the clique. The “Heathers” wore big hair, boxy shoulder pads, and oversized blazers; the group members could wear opaque tights, plaids, and solids to show their individuality. The “Plastics” only wore pink clothes on Wednesdays; track-pants and jeans were only acceptable on Fridays. A group member could not wear tank tops on two consecutive days or wear their hair in ponytails more than once a week. Only the group leader, Regina, could wear gold hoop earrings. In both films, the media shows that women are not independent in their friendships but have a fixed set of rules to follow so they can fit into the group. An individual who cannot follow silly rules such as dress-codes cannot join a certain group. The friendships are not about women caring about each other but being recognized as the most popular people who stand out.
The students considered to be of the highest social status at school do not have a good relationship with the rest of the school body. A scene in the school’s lunchroom proves this point and depicts the significant aspects of relational aggression that popular teenagers use to victimize fellow students. The scene shows the “Heathers” being mean to others discretely. In the 1980s, the society did not expect women to be indiscreetly aggressive. Heather Chandler is cruel, fake and emotionless; she controls her friends and has no regard for other people. She is asked whether she cares about what her fellow students think of her and says that she is a ‘piranha’ and that everyone at the school worships her (Cecil 266). Heather Chandler becomes cruel since the whole school adores her. At one point, the “Heathers” forge a letter to a student named Martha “Dump Truck” from a popular boy at their school. Martha becomes excited and asks the boy about the letter; “The Heather,” the boy and other students in the vicinity laugh at Martha, and she gets embarrassed to the point of attempting to commit suicide. This shows that popular girls utilize rumors and betrayal to intimidate their fellow students.
Relational aggression is also a major theme in “Mean Girls.” Regina spreads malicious rumors about Damian and Janis, and the two formulate a plan to attain revenge. In this film, girls mostly victimize one another through pranks, rumor, and backstabbing (Cecil 268). Damian and Janis's team use Cady to give Regina protein bars that make her gain weight and foot cream in place of face cream. Regina is obsessed with beauty and will use any product that enhances her physical appearance; the three use this fact against her. The two films show that women may not show emotions openly but constantly act out of anger; they exert vengeance on people who hurt them.
The relationship between Veronica and “The Heathers” is destroyed at a college party when she does not obey Heather Chandler’s orders. Heather Chandler tells Veronica that the success of her social life depended on her behavior at the party. Veronica does not follow her orders as she refuses to engage in sexual relations with a college boy then vomits as a result of consuming excess alcohol. Heather Chandler becomes angry and tells her friend that she was nothing before they met and their friendship would end on Monday morning (Cecil 267). Veronica feels betrayed by her friend and shares mixed feelings about the situation. That night she felt free in a world where Heather did not exist, but the following day she would be following her rules. This shows that female friendships involve cruelty among friends and pretense. Veronica does not like how Heather treats her and imagines a peaceful world without her, but she has to maintain the friendship for popularity. Heather Chandler also shows that women may not act aggressively in public but often seek vengeance as she banishes Veronica from the group due to her betrayal.
“Heathers” and “Mean Girls” also show the various stereotypic messages that the media sends about women. The two films show that beautiful women are mean, rich and well-dressed. In addition to this, they are slender and have clear skin. Regina from “Mean Girls” is slim but still on a diet and is gullible to products that will supposedly aid in weight-loss and get rid of pimples. This also shows that women struggle with their weight and the slender figure is considered the ideal body shape among women. “The Plastics” are the best-dressed teenagers at their school and beautiful; the same applies to “Heathers” (Cynthia 10). “Mean Girls” and “Heathers” show that body image is a key factor in deciding the popularity of an individual (especially women) in society. “The Plastics” and “Heathers” were both comprised of slender, beautiful girls and anyone who did not fit this description was not considered beautiful. The films also show that beautiful women were often worshipped by their colleagues. Heather Chandler felt that she did not have to be polite to anyone since the whole school adored her. When she pranked Martha, the other students enjoyed it instead of sympathizing with Martha. The entertainment industry portrays beautiful women as individuals who are incapable of showing mercy to other people; it depicts them as individuals who celebrate others’ demises in the 1980s and 2000s.
In conclusion, the film and entertainment industries take cruelty in girls as a comedy, but we should focus on the relational aggression and how it influences viewers and represents women in society. Understanding the messages and themes of these films will make it easier to look into female friendships and how the media portrays women in society during the release of “Heathers” and “Mean Girls.” Both films present women as cruel beings who often resort to revenge instead of forgiveness when people treat them unfairly. Women rarely engage in physical confrontations but prey on their rivals’ weaknesses to attain vengeance. They also lose their individuality in their cliques since they have to follow the rules set by their leaders and may face the consequences in case of disobedience. Power is evident in female friendships since the leader dictates the rules and enjoys special privileges.
Cecil, Dawn K. "From Heathers to Mean Girls: An Examination of Relational Aggression in Film." Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 15.3 (2008): 263-276.
Cynthia. "Heathers: A Mean Girl Stereotype." 2012.
Smith, Hortense. "Jezebel Faceoff: The Heathers Vs. The Plastics." Jezebel (2009).
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