Mean no more? Students reflect on ‘Mean Girls,’ 15 years later


Daily file photo by Sophie Mann

Downtown Evanston. Evanston high school students from the area were asked to rate and discuss ‘Mean Girls.’

Thea Showalter, Reporter

Evanston students were most likely not wearing pink last Wednesday — or any other Wednesday.

This week, as the movie “Mean Girls” turned 15, Evanston Township High School, New Trier High School and Northwestern students reflected on the accuracy of the famous flick, which, as true fans know, was set in Evanston.

The fictional North Shore High School, where Cady Heron stirred the pot, was inspired by New Trier High School, according to some students and Internet fan pages.

“I’d say it’s fairly common knowledge,” said Paul McAllester, a senior at New Trier, adding that people rarely talk about his school’s connection to the movie.

A lot has changed at New Trier since Fey’s feisty flick hit theatres, according to McAllester. For one, half of the high school has been remodeled, with renovations completed as recently as last year.

The new half has been constructed out of glass in a modern style, McAllester said. The rest of the building remains, but the renovations cost a total of $102.5 million — a far cry from the humble halls of the imagined North Shore High School.

But even without the recent changes to New Trier, “Mean Girls” wasn’t reflective of the New Trier campus from the start. New Trier High School has a freshman campus in Northfield and a campus for sophomores and upperclassmen three miles away in Winnetka, which the movie doesn’t include.

While New Trier students speak to inaccuracies in the film’s depiction of the infamous Winnetka high school, ETHS and Northwestern students assessed the movie’s interpretation of Evanston and brief references to Northwestern.

“Their Old Orchard Mall is fake,” ETHS senior Isabella Miller said. “All the mall scenes are supposed to take place at Old Orchard, which is false. Old Orchard is an outdoor mall and it’s an indoor mall in the movie.”

While the landscape of the movie may not be true to North Shore, Miller said the social relations depicted in the movie are much more accurate.

At ETHS, some students like Miller said the culture tends to be more friendly than in the movie, but “not by much,” especially when it comes to the cliques and divisions that the movie emphasizes.

“You can see those cliques fall into place, and while they’re over dramatic and stereotypical in the movie they’re not incorrect,” Miller said.

And while ETHS gym teachers don’t roar intimidating “facts” about sex while distributing “rubbers,” students at ETHS do spend time in their sex education courses writing poems about STIs, ETHS sophomore Sadie Sims said.

Sims said that for a class project, she and peers composed a “Gonorrhea Poem,” complete with symptoms, treatments and prevention information. Sexual education at ETHS is undoubtedly more progressive and informative than Coach Carr’s iconic approach.

ETHS junior Henry Eberhart said part of the disconnect between the movie and ETHS is that North Shore, just like the school where it was filmed, is considered to be “very cliquey, a lot richer, and very white,” while ETHS’s environment is more diverse but still segregated.

“In the movie, the big thing is that (North Shore) is like the rich white people school, which is also the reputation that (New Trier) has,” McAllester said. “If you look at the school, there are a ton of rich, spoiled, white kids, but I do think it’s super played up in the movie. I don’t remember any diversity in the movie, but we’ve got some. It’s low but it’s there.”

However, students like Miller expressed different experiences with social life at ETHS. Miller said she often describes ETHS as a “guest-list school,” where openness and inclusivity are not really prioritized.

Miller said the girls idolized in middle school continued to be idolized in high school, and that the kind of groups and hierarchies created contributed to “really problematic behavior.”

“If you walk into a student center, you’re going to see people in clusters, and they’re going to be racially divided, they’re going to be grade divided, and personality divided,” Miller said. “People stick to their own at ETHS.”

One of the largest points of contention, that apparently often annoys hardworking Northwestern students, is the fact that Cady’s love interest, Aaron Samuels, joined Northwestern’s incoming class of 2008 after apparently flunking his senior year of math.

But McCormick junior Upasana Pathak said she doesn’t think NU would have been out of reach for Samuels. She said Samuels seems like a “well-rounded person,” and if math was his only bad subject, then perhaps he was accepted on an athletic scholarship.

But ETHS students, like Miller, don’t think it’s too far-fetched. She said she heard that Northwestern doesn’t rescind offers to accepted students who receive Cs and Ds late in their senior year, and wouldn’t be surprised if Northwestern overlooked his failing grade in math.

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