clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This Isn’t Your Mother’s ‘Mean Girls’ ... What Does That Mean?

There’s a new ‘Mean Girls’ coming out soon, and six words from its trailer are personally attacking an entire generation

Paramount/Ringer illustration

It’s been weeks—months, actually—since the 2024 Mean Girls official trailer dropped like a musicless, Lohan-less, “huh”-shaped bomb. And I still can’t stop thinking about it.

Why does the trailer for this film adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical Mean Girls, based on the 2004 film Mean Girls (which, not for nothing, is based on the 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes), feature precisely no music from the musical? Why is this movie, which is based on Mean Girls the musical … not called Mean Girls: The Musical for clarity? Why is one single music note inside the A in the title frame the only evidence that this film is, in fact, a whole-ass musical, and not simply a remake of a movie that came out just shy of 20 years ago? Why have Renée Rapp sing in your movie and not have Renée Rapp sing in the trailer for your movie? Renée Rapp has a perfect voice—let Renée Rapp sing! And one more thing, as a quick follow-up: Why is the guy from that teen show about the brothers who won’t stop making out with the same girl who is kind of like their cousin … staring at me like that?!

Two months later, Mean Girls: The Musical (not called that) is now just days from premiering, and most of these curious questions have been explored by fans and journalists alike. Many have even been answered: Studios don’t think audiences will show up for a musical; musical adaptations have been flopping at the box office in a post-Hamilton world; and that’s just how that guy’s face looks when he stares at you. Respectively.

But there’s one question—actually, it’s not even a question, just a statement, too strange and unknowable to even frame into a query—that continues to rise from the depths of this trailer, onto the existential surface of reality …

Excuse me, what did you say about my mother? Do you wanna fight, Mean Girls nonmusical trailer?

Or wait … am I the mother here? I couldn’t be! I don’t have children; I am not someone who calls my pets my children; I did buy a new couch recently, which felt like a lot of responsibility, but I’m not sure it warrants this kind of accusation.

Dropped six seconds into the official trailer to the sounds of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Get Him Back”—which isn’t a song from the Mean Girls musical, and which doesn’t even resemble the plot of Mean Girls—“This isn’t your mother’s Mean Girls” felt a bit like an attack on the original audience that made Mean Girls a hit, that never stops rooting for Lindsay Lohan, and that, for better or millennial worse, religiously celebrates October 3. It wasn’t exactly an attack just because it posited the notion that we could be parents of teens now—but, I mean, it was a little bit. There’s really no need to remind anyone of the unrelenting march of time while Jon Hamm is talking about choking and I’m trying to figure out whether Cady Heron is still canonically a redhead or not.

But mostly, it seemed like the Mean Girls (2024) trailer was swiftly but also not entirely clearly saying that this newest adaptation of the movie isn’t for me—a childless mom in her 30s just trying to see a maybe musical at the movies …

Which would be fine! Not everything has to be for me! I genuinely want younger generations to have a wonderful time watching that aforementioned brother-lover show, even if my fully developed prefrontal cortex just can’t take the future familial implications of such a love triangle. Excluding me and my kind (ahem, olds) from this narrative would be fine. Except …

Shouldn’t millennials and our never-ending well of nostalgia be kind of a prime market for this Mean Girls redux?! Why would this trailer want to alienate one of its target demographics? We have jobs now—we can buy movie tickets. Are they mad that we probably sneaked into Mean Girls the first go-round? Are they mad that we know it’s a secret musical, and that we’re going to millennialsplain that to Gen Z and maybe even to our theoretical Gen Alpha children? Or maybe it’s all some huge misunderstanding. Maybe everyone is welcome at Mean Girls: The Musical (not called that). That was certainly the final message of my Mean Girls … or was it my mother’s Mean Girls? Ugh. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by the Mean Girls trailer. (Then call your mom and tell her to raise her hand, too.)

There has to be some other explanation. And as a huge Renée Rapp fan (again, I am but a 20-something 30-something) and—possibly a hot take—a pretty big fan of the Mean Girls musical, I’m open to other interpretations of the trailer’s confusing maternal statement. So let’s explore the other possible implications of the sentence “Not your mother’s Mean Girls” ahead of the movie’s premiere on Friday.

“This isn’t your mother’s Mean Girls.”

Let’s get the most literal interpretation out of the way first: In the year 2024, the original target demographic for Mean Girls (2004) may have spawned progeny who are in the target demographic for Mean Girls (2024). Do the math: If the target demographic for Mean Girls (2004) was the same age as the main characters—around 16 to 18—and they had children soon after watching the original film … those children could be somewhere between 16 and 18 years old now … which would presumably be the perfect age to watch and enjoy Mean Girls (2024) ...

It’s not impossible. But it is the plot of beloved television show Gilmore Girls, which was so beloved for its novel premise. Teen pregnancy has also steadily declined since the original film premiered in 2004, so the new trailer would be speaking only to a very specific set of Rory-esque progeny, who are probably too busy reading Ayn Rand and listening to the Shins anyway. But like I said: Yeah, sure, it’s mathematically possible.


“This isn’t YOUR mother’s Mean Girls.”

Perhaps the less literal but more likely implication of the trailer’s statement is that, theoretically, we are all more progressive versions of our mothers—and so this isn’t anyone’s mother’s Mean Girls, because it is simply the current generation’s most progressive possible Mean Girls.

But here’s the thing … the original Mean Girls was pretty edgy! There was definitely some casual racism that no one would include 20 years later, but in terms of satire—that shit holds up. So if we’re determining exactly whose movie is whose, I’d say Mean Girls (2004) at least belongs to the cool aunts of the world, in which case, we can surely still enjoy our nieces’ and nephews’ Mean Girls (2024), right?

“This isn’t your MOTHER’S Mean Girls.”

Maybe the most illogical interpretation—and yet one that is still very possible given the trailer’s use of vernacular—is that Mean Girls (2024) isn’t for mothers, in the most classic sense of the word. Instead, it is for “mothers,” a term originally derived from LGBTQ+ communities that Urban Dictionary now defines as “a woman who’s iconic and constantly serves cunt.”

Y’know, like … Regina George? Who, as played by Gen Z triple threat Renée Rapp (likely with queer overtones this time), is guaranteed to be mothering so very hard in Mean Girls 2K24? Because while the trailer really muddied the waters with one six-word sentence, the rest of the press tour has made it clear: This Mean Girls really is about the massive deal herself, Regina George.

So while, yes, it seems unlikely that a trailer meant for the masses used a slang word that only 30 percent of the population understands, nothing is impossible when you’re constantly serving cunt.

“This isn’t YOUR MOTHER’S Mean Girls.”

So sorry again, but what did this trailer say about my sweet mother? There technically is the possibility that the original Mean Girls demographic remains the new Mean Girls demographic—just like how the old Taylor Swift demographic remains the new Taylor Swift demographic—and they really are just talking shit about our moms. In which case, we’ll have to dial them up on their Jitterbugs and tell them to boycott Mean Girls, and then we’ll explain what Mean Girls is and how it’s different from the movie that came out when we were being difficult in high school. And then we’ll give them our Amazon Prime passwords so that they can rent it anyway when the time comes.

But, y’know what, I’m sure the trailer didn’t mean it like that …

“These ARE your MEAN GIRLS’ MOTHERS.”

Maybe it was all just one big syntactical error? Since the trailer features no music anyway, maybe Mean Girls (2024) actually is just a regular ol’ remake of a 20-year-old movie with a brand-new twist. A twist like … it follows the mothers of Regina and Cady as they navigate raising frenemy daughters. Because this trailer actually did make a point or two when it revealed that Busy Philipps is playing Renée Rapp’s mother and Jenna Fischer is playing Angourie Rice’s mother …

Pound for pound, nose for nose, icon for icon, that’s perfect casting. So why not give this mother plot a little more room to grow?

“These ARE Mean Girl MOTHERS.”

Or! Or! Maybe it’s a movie about the titular Mean Girls 20 years after the original film, and they’ve spawned progeny who are now teenagers, and Busy Philipps is actually playing future Regina George, and Jenna Fischer is playing future Cady Heron—and they all named their daughters after themselves (this is how we topple the patriarchy at last!).

“This is YOUR MOTHER’S MEAN GIRLS.”

Honestly, if you were with me on that one, then you can go ahead and stay with me here: This is a movie about the people who were mean to my (or your, or her, or his) mother in high school. I can’t be sure, but I think when my (or your, or her, or his) mom went to high school, she was paying for lunch with limes, or doing whatever Amy March was doing in Little Women. And I don’t know exactly what Regina Georges in those days would have been like, but I would assume they were … well, a lot like Amy March in Little Women.

And when I think about my mother in high school … and my mother now … and this movie from when I was in high school … and this movie now … I can’t help but think that this is, in fact, my mother’s Mean Girls. That extra “n’t” in there is a typo! You know why? Because, trailer be damned, THIS IS A MUSICAL MEAN GIRLS. And moms love musicals. Moms! Love! Musicals! So thank goodness they finally made a movie for moms: Mean Girls: The Musical (not called that).