The Movie Mean Girls

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Mean Girls is a 2004 teen comedy directed by Mark Waters starring Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan. The movie is an adaptation of Rosalind Wiseman’s book called Queen Bees and Wannabes and it was written by Tina Fey. The film explores the lives of high school cliques and implicitly established the detrimental effects these group formations have on the lives of adolescent women (Waters, 2004). The following paper summarizes the movie, and its characters, it explores the different developmental concepts and concludes on proposed changes and new questions.

            The movie introduces Cady Heron who moved from Africa and now faces the challenge of integrating into the public-school system. Cady learns about “The Plastics,” a clique led by Regina George, with the help of her two friends Damien and Janis who were the first people that Cady met at her new school. Regina takes a quick interest on Cady and accepts her to join the group. Janis uses Cady to revenge against Regina, and the latter loses her personality in the quest to match that of Regina’s (Waters, 2004). Gretchen is another character who has a bipolar condition. Karen Smith is shown to be an easily influenced individual in the group and is termed as stupid. Karen believes that she has psychic powers. Other characters portrayed in the movie include Aaron Samuels who is Regina’s ex-boyfriend and Ms. Norbury who encourages Cady to pursue Math (Waters, 2004). The film uses the above figures to provide some essential developmental concepts in psychology.     



            The concept of egocentrism is explicit in the movie. The theory defines the inability of one individual to reason or understand from the perspective of another (considering others) (Harris & Westermann, 2014). Egocentric people perceive that the world revolves around their actions, a character that develops from childhood through adolescence. Egocentrism affects the developmental aspects of establishing positive relationships with peers (Crain, 2015). In the movie, egocentrism is demonstrated at the beginning where Cady enters the cafeteria during her first day in the school. Here, Cady perceives that she is the center of attention, a feeling that relates to egocentrism as explained in Piaget’s psychological analysis (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). From the above perspective, egocentrism can be defined as a phenomenon experienced by adolescents through cognitive development as they undergo their formal operational development (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). Overall, the movie demonstrates that the plastics perceive that they are the center of focus and attention from other students because of their glamorous looks and self-absorbed personalities (Waters, 2004). Therefore, the concept of egocentrism has been demonstrated as a perception where adolescents develop imaginary audience whom they think that it is concerned with their acts and looks at all times. 

Identity Crisis/Achievement

            Erickson’s theme of identity crisis has been portrayed in the film. Identity crisis describes a period of stress and intense worry that often occurs during adolescence as individuals attempt to define their image (Harris & Westermann, 2014). The teenage years are characterized by a developmental stage whereby a person is between childhood and adulthood people make many decisions that formulate the foundation of their identity at this stage of life (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). In the above period, individuals tend to worry about what their peers perceive of them. Cady Herron is an example of a person who is facing an identity crisis in the movie (Waters, 2004).

At the beginning scenes, Cady is presented as an innocent girl, but as the play progresses, she is demonstrated to be struggling with her identity as she joins The Plastics and changes her dressing styles and act like her group members with the aim of seeking approval from them (Waters, 2004). In the movie, it is noted that every aspect of Cady’s life changes despite her apparent worries about how other people view her behaviors. In the above instances, Cady is caught between commitment and crisis, the two variables explained by James Marcia who expounded on identity theories developed by Ericson (Harris & Westermann, 2014; Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). Self-knowledge often comes through facing an identity crisis or alienation. In the film, Cady, who is the protagonist, begins her public-school life in a state of innocence but is later confronted with a crisis. Consequently, Cady is forced to make difficult choices for self-knowledge.

The three situations can describe the developmental psychological theory of identity that Cady gets involved in, that is, the animal world, girl world, and the real word. Her quest to determine her fit in the teen culture enables her to interact with the three worlds. Cady’s role in the burn book where she writes terrible comments about her math teacher makes her alienation with the school and her friends. Later, she joins the math league as a restitution strategy (Waters, 2004). The above actions imply that accurate identification of oneself is intrinsic. Subsequently, the end of the movie shows that Cady reflects on her changes demonstrated by the constant transformations throughout the film (Waters, 2004).

Parenting Style

            The style of parenting can significantly influence adolescent development. There are two categories of parenting styles. The first one is authoritarian whereby parents establish limits and restrictions to encourage their children to develop a certain level of competence (Crain, 2015). Cady is an example that is led by authoritative parenthood. As she transitioned from home-schooling to public schooling where a burn book was released, her father recommended that she should resume to her former learning program, but Cady speaks with her father and makes a decision that she would return to school (Waters, 2004). The last type of parenting is permissive, and it has been demonstrated explicitly in the film by Regina’s family. The parents do not care about their children actions, and they outline that there are no defined rules for them to follow.

            Parenting style is pivotal in the establishing a relationship between the parent and the child which is crucial in adolescent development both in the aspects of relating to authority and self-identity as an adult. Characteristics of a permissive parenting style can be derived from the movie whereby, the adolescents tend to imitate aspects of lack of confidence, inconsistency, and disorganization (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). Regina’s mother is demonstrated as a permissive parent because she avoids confrontation with the child and does not require Regina to exhibit mature behavior (Waters, 2004). Therefore, the concept of parenting style has been demonstrated to be instrumental in eliciting specific types of behavior in adolescent development.


            The movie demonstrates various concepts and theories that help in the understanding of developmental psychology and how it affects the overall wellbeing of an adolescent’s development. Identity crisis, egocentrism, and the type of parenting style have been demonstrated explicitly and implicitly within the film. The movie was funny and substantially enlightened on the concepts of development. However, the movie could have shown ideas that are cast on every character in the film. Also, the film could showcase adolescent development from the view of the transition from childhood through teenage years to show unique concepts. The question that emerged from the ideas chosen from the movie is whether egocentrism and peer-pressure are linked to one another and how either of the two aspects affects the other. Nonetheless, the film enlightened on adolescent life and the dynamics of psychology that revolve around this developmental stage of life.


Crain, W. (2015). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications: Concepts and Applications. Psychology Press.

Harris, M., & Westermann, G. (2014). A Student’s Guide to Developmental Psychology. Psychology Press.

Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2013). Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. Cengage Learning.

Waters, M. (2004). Mean Girls 1 ’Full’Movie’2004’HD’Subtitles - YouTube. Retrieved from

September 25, 2023
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Development Adolescence

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