Stereotypes in “Mean Girls”: Implications for Young Audiences

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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The media shapes the way women identify themselves and the way women are viewed by others. I’m writing to you, the Director of Mean Girls, because you have the power to change the media in a positive way. The movie has a negative portrayal of young women. However, I hope to drive and inspire you to change the way the media depicts women in your future films.

The Damaging Impact of Mean Girls on Young Women

On April 30, 2004, the movie industry came out with a banger: the classic comedy Mean Girls was released to the world.

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This film has been played over and over again throughout the nation, impacting the lives of many. Mean Girls has won awards such as the MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance, the Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Breakout Star (Female), the MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo, and more. Would you give these awards to a movie that depicts women as objects? Would you give these awards to a movie that shows young women “slut shaming” one another? Would you give these awards to a movie that makes young women believe that they must change the way they look just to satisfy men?

Sexualization and Objectification of Women in the Film

“Is your muffin buttered?.. Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” This is a quote from Mean Girls that Jason asked Cady, the main character. This quote demonstrates the way that young men in this movie sexualize and objectify women. This is due to the fact that the quote is a reference that can be interpreted to mean “to no longer be a virgin,” according to the urban dictionary. This reference is not only sexualizing Cady, a young high schooler, but also embarrassing her. She is degraded in front of all of her classmates, and she is seen as an object by her male classmates. The purpose behind this quote comes from the sexual desires of these high school boys and is simply for the amusement of embarrassing the “new girl.”

To make matters worse, the movie intensifies the sexualization of women. This is done by having Coach Carr sleep with two students. In one scene, he is found making out with Trang Pak in the projection room. This issue demonstrates the sexualization of the female student body as a whole, and it characterizes the girls in this movie as victims of men’s sexual desires. This shows how men are completely dominant over women due to the fact that these young girls have now become accessible to male teachers.

Stereotypes and Self-Image: The Pressures Girls Face to Conform

The females in this movie have been shaped to believe that they must satisfy the desires of their male classmates. They’re so caught up in this issue that they don’t even realize it. “In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girls can say anything about it.” This quote displays how the girls have become numb and blind to the effects that come from the objectification of their own peers. They demonstrate this blindness by dressing seductively and exposing their midriffs, chests, and legs. This causes the female actors to appear as “sex objects” to male students at the Halloween party.

In addition to the objectification and sexualization of women, another issue brought up in this film is the way that young women treat each other in high school according to stereotypes. Throughout this movie, the girls are constantly trying to outdo one another, they “slut shame” one another, and they put each other down based on their appearance.

These issues have all derived from the idea that they must meet the standards that are set by society, as well as the stereotypes that are formed about high school girls. “We only carry sizes one, three, and five. You could try Sears.” The following line from Mean Girls confirms the way the movie portrays the stereotypes of society. A stereotype would be that high school girls care immensely about the way they are viewed. This quote would be hurtful and offensive to one of the main characters due to the fact that they’re trying to meet the standards set by society. They want to have the perfect, thin hourglass shape. Therefore, being above sizes 1–5 wouldn’t support the ideological femininity appearance.

The high school girls in this movie see it as the norm to “slut shame” one another. You can find that in the majority of the movie, the characters critique one another by using the words “slut” or “whore”. For example, whenever Regina is on the phone with Cady, she says, “The Spring Fling Queen is always pretty. And the crazy thing is that it should be Karen, but people forget about her because she’s such a slut.” This demonstrates Regina judging Karen based on her sexuality. This also shows how society has trained them to believe that girls should be sexually “innocent” in order to be “appropriately feminine.”

A Call for Positive Change in the Media

Someone’s daughter, granddaughter, sister, or friend is watching this movie or a movie similar to this one and believing that these issues are fine. These women are being shaped by society to have a negative view of themselves and others. These women are being forced to believe that they’re slaves to men’s desires. These women believe they must alter their appearance to meet the standards society sets.

Approximately 80% of U.S. women don’t like how they look. This is due to the media and society. However, you, as a successful director, have the ability to change these statistics. You can impact society’s perceptions by providing positive and meaningful messages for future generations. 


  1. Brown, L. (2018). Media portrayal of women and societal impacts. Sage Publications.
  2. Chen, M., & Smith, J. (2019). The impact of media on female self-esteem. Journal of Youth Studies, 22(5), 655-673. 
  3. Davis, K. (2016). The role of filmmakers in shaping social narratives. Film and Society Journal, 29(3), 215-230.
  4. Mean Girls. (2004). [Film]. Directed by M. Waters. Paramount Pictures.
  5. Richards, E. (2020, August 18). How Hollywood shapes perceptions of women: A historical perspective. The Film Review. 
  6. Smith, T. (2015). Changing the narrative: Women in film and television. Random House.
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Stereotypes in “Mean Girls”: Implications for Young Audiences. (2023, Aug 18). Retrieved from