High School: Real-Life Mean Girls?
This is the first post in our new series, High School Survival Guide. Created by teen blogger and media intern Kyra, the series candidly presents perspective and advice for getting through some of high school’s toughest stressors..
This next school year I will be entering my third year of high school. Despite my worries about high school in general, I survived my underclassman years. It was a huge change from what I expected, and parts of it seemed impossible. From Girl Drama to academic troubles to balancing everything I wanted to do and everything in between, there were points in which I fully considered dropping out. Dropping out obviously would not have worked out, so here I am, two years away from graduating, congratulating myself on surviving. That’s great and all, but what can I do to help people who end up in situations that I was in?
There’s so much I learned that I wish I had known before starting high school, so I’m going to do my best to help you with the unknown.
Girl Drama is one of the most clichéd high school problems. It’s flawlessly outlined in the movie Mean Girls, in which Cady, a new student from Africa with no experience in the Girl Drama of a representative American high school, gets thrown into this world. The queen bees of the school, called the “Plastics,” adopt her into their friend group, soon encouraging her to change the way she looks and acts to fit in. From complicated friendships to competition for a boy to nasty rumors, this movie, written by Tina Fey, sums up what it’s like to be part of a dramatic high school experience.
I’d love to say that I skipped over this in my own life, but, unfortunately, it was one of the biggest struggles for me this past year. Of course, I dealt with drama in middle school, so I thought I was invincible. I had taken care of my own problems, as well as my friends’ problems, so I was prepared for whatever might come. Right?
My experience of Girl Drama ended up being so complicated that it’s hard to keep track of without actually living the drama. Below I reveal my experience. But first, in the interest of helping you survive high school, let me outline the great lessons to take away from Mean Girls.
Five Lessons to Learn from Mean Girls
1. It’s Okay to Be Wrong.
Being wrong is part of growing up. How else would we grow? As in my first example below, “The Green-Eyed Monster,” I was so wrong to complain and talk behind my friends’ backs. Talking behind their backs did nothing but make us feel awful and escalate problems that were already growing in all of our minds.
By the end of Mean Girls, Cady, played by Lindsay Lohan, has apologized to everyone she has hurt, and people help her out once they see that she is mature and sincere. Though it can be hard to admit that you are wrong and apologizing can be embarrassing, it’s the right thing to do.
Apologies will not fix all wrongs, but they can save your relationships. I still have problems apologizing for what I do wrong, but it’s important to remember that it’s never too late. As long as the apology reflects what’s in your heart, it will always be welcome. And if it’s not, at least you covered your half of the street.
2. Trash Talking and Rumors Are Easier to Believe, but the Truth Always, Eventually Comes Out.
There have been rumors about me, and I have heard so many rumors about other people. I don’t even know if the majority of what I’ve heard is real enough to remember. Rumors are vindictive and unhealthy for everyone involved, but also spread like wildfire.
In Mean Girls, “The Burn Book” is full of rumors and nasty assumptions, making the entire school fall into chaos before any truth comes out. The backlash is incredible and proves, in a social sense, Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Rumors are spread in part because they make us feel better; focusing on the bad parts of other people help distract us from the bad things about ourselves. But the truth will come out, and people who start rumors won’t enjoy the distrust of others and the rumors that eventually turn on them.
What we do comes back to us, hence the Golden Rule: treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
3. You Become Who You Hang Out With.
Hanging out with the girls in my second example below, “Change Is Good (Supposedly),” caused so many problems, one being that now I was seen as mean and cliquey. The worst part is, I might have been. In Mean Girls, Cady begins acting like the group of Plastics that she is hanging out with, to the point that she starts being mean to her original friends. Everyone is unique and beautiful in their own way, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t change to fit our environment. That’s just basic evolution. We change to survive in a new situation. This can be good, but also bad in so many ways.
Usually people begin reflecting the practices of whomever they’re around, so surround yourself with who you want to be.
4. Don’t Change Yourself for ANYONE.
In the movie, Cady pretends to not be good at math in order to hang out with a boy in her math class. Even though she could have just asked to hang out, she jumps through hoops, which eventually collapse and make him mad at her.
In my own life, I wanted to fit in so badly that I pretended to like bad things and to dislike school and other things that I had always loved. I didn’t change myself to the point that I made any bad choices or ruined my options in the future, but I still thought I had to change to be part of a good, fulfilling friend group.
It may seem like you need to become someone new in order to fit in, but if your new group is made up of the right people for you, they will accept you for who you are. A much bigger problem comes as soon as you pretend to be someone you’re not and end up in situations that you never wanted to be in in the first place. Plus, if you ever decide to not be this person that you pretend to be, then you could easily make your friends mad at you, since you essentially lied to them for the duration of your friendship.
5. It Gets Better!
High school is only four years of your life. The number of years may seem long or they may fly by, but either way, this too shall pass! Whatever you go through in high school, you will not be here for your entire life. It may seem like it, but things will change. Trust me.
By the end of Mean Girls, Cady and her entire class, with the help of their teacher Ms. Norbury (played by Tina Fey), make up and realize that all of them have done something wrong. Even though they go through a lot of rough patches together, eventually they get to a place where they are able to forgive and be forgiven, as well as to fall into friend groups that are healthy and fulfilling for all.
I personally may not be in the clear yet, but, as I said, my life has changed so much since all of this drama began. I may not be friends with some girls anymore, but we’ve forgiven each other and, without a doubt, we will be there for each other if we need something.
Girl Drama is not the end of the world, I swear. You can survive the drama: I’ve been there and I believe in you!
Real-Life Girl Drama I’ve Survived
Here are charts of everyone in the next three Girl Drama examples that I present. My first two examples are “The Green-Eyed Monster” and “Change Is Good (Supposedly).” Letters of the alphabet represent people’s real names. Arrows show who was friends with whom and how the relationships expanded, then divided.
The relationship between friends A, B, C, D and me changed from this:
And then to this:
The relationships in my third example, “Communication Is Key,” changed from this:
Enjoy the following drama. And don’t forget to check back to the charts if you get lost.
Situation #1: The Green-Eyed Monster
Freshman year, as I remember it, went pretty smoothly. I had amazing friends, did well in my classes, and found new, amazing people every day. My main group of friends consisted of four people. Let’s call them A, B, C, and D.
Friend A was my friend from elementary school, and we managed to stay friends throughout the dramatic change. I became friends with B through the swim team, and A became friends with D through one of her classes. Conveniently, B and D were already friends, so it was easy for us to all begin to hang out. C and D were friends as well, so C joined our little group, and we soon began doing nearly everything together. Other people came and went from our group, but we stuck together without fail.
Our friendship was an amazing set up. I felt loved and never ran out of people to hang out with.
Disaster struck halfway through summer when C and A found different friends.
I’m all for making friends and expanding connections and happiness, but the problem came when it felt like they started ditching us for a new friend group. I’m a huge fan of everyone in the other friend group, but they started stealing two of my best friends, which was eventually uncomfortable for all of us. (Before I continue, I’d like to offer a full disclaimer: This is my side of the story, so naturally, it’s not the full story. Also, I’m not trying to make anyone seem like they’re totally in the wrong. All of us messed up.)
One day, the five of us planned to hang out, and A cancelled at the last minute to hang out with new friends. Feeling particularly abandoned, B, D, and I complained to one another about the other friend group. Even though we were hurt and missed friend A, it was not okay for us to complain. C was there while we talked, told A what we said, and together they confronted us. In our group message exchange, they asked us to stop talking behind their backs and let them have other friends. I was the only one who responded. I explained that we felt like they were ditching us, but apologized for acting as we had. I said that it would never happen again and hoped that we could move on. They did not accept my apology and felt that I was blowing them off.
It made me worry that our happy little group would split up. But we didn’t.
Eventually, my apology did help our group forgive one another, but the others also ended up owing me an apology. Everything worked out and we stayed happy. Until a few months into sophomore year.
Situation #2: Change Is Good (Supposedly)
This time, the drama made me question having friends at all, especially girls. I still have great friends, so obviously I didn’t let my over-dramatic thinking take over my social life. A few weeks before the beginning of sophomore year, A, B, C, D and I had a sleepover. It was at B’s house, so she invited two new people, E and F. E had eaten lunch with us a few times in freshman year, and F was one of the girls in A and C’s other friend group. It was an amazing night. We all got along so well, and we became a friend group that was unbreakable . . . for a few months.
The seven of us became the “Plastics” of our grade. As a group, we were pretty, loyal, and mean in some instances. The first warning sign that the group was in trouble was when D, E, and F kicked B out of the friend group. They thought she had been talking behind their backs, so started being mean and getting A, C, and me to believe the nasty things that they were saying. B stopped hanging out with us, and it took me three weeks to figure out that she was not the awful person that they were portraying her to be.
I stayed in the friend group, where problems began happening. The problems were generally around stupid things, but a few times, A, C, and I started seeing D, E, and F making bad decisions, excluding us, and talking behind our backs. We confronted them about these things on a regular basis, but we always got shut down. One day, the three of us confronted the three of them on their bad decisions. In my memory, it was a calm and constructive confrontation, but they obviously felt attacked because they stopped wanting to be around us at all.
A few weeks later, I started having a breakdown, so I texted E and asked for help. She texted me for a few minutes, but then stopped answering me. I started worrying about her and had a panic attack, worried something would happen to her. I later figured out that this was because she was at a party. This made me incredibly angry and sad and confused, so I started distancing myself from the group even more. They got mad, and started spreading rumors and starting fights with and because of us, especially me. At one point, I got in a huge fight with E and D, which did nothing but escalate the situation, even though I wanted it to make me feel better. Since I stopped being in that group, I’ve noticed some of our mutual friends pull away from me, and more people avoiding me in the halls. I can’t say for sure, but I think rumors are still flying around, targeted at me.
I’m now okay with all of them, but things will never go back to the way they were. I don’t want to be friends with them again, even though I miss how things were when we were true friends. Throughout this situation, I’ve tried to be civil and I’ve tried to be nice to them no matter what. I failed, but they did too. I hope this never escalates into another similar situation.
And I hope, more than anything, that no one else will have to experience what I have.
Situation #3: Communication Is Key
As I mentioned in my post from August 2016, I’m a part of the Student Council in my school. I have been since freshman year, and for the most part, it’s a group of people in my class who are similar. On average, we’re together five hours a week, not including any special events that happen outside of school hours. We’re all super close, and have gotten along in the past. I’ve met some of my best friends in Student Council, so emotionally I’m very invested. Part of the reason I love it so much is because it’s so inclusive and low drama. For the most part.
Lately, however, things have changed.
Two of my closest friends in StuCo are Z and Y, who were my first new friends in my new high school. Each year, we have an election week in which each class elects its representatives for the next school year. This election week, for some reason, rumors were flying around, and people in StuCo talked behind each other’s backs. Z was one of the people targeted with the rumors that spread the most. Though she wasn’t interested in any of the drama, Y, being one of the friendliest people in our class, heard the butt-end of what people were saying.
One night, things got so bad that she decided something needed to be done. She went to talk to the StuCo supervisor about everything that was going on. The intention was for him to talk to the entire class, but somewhere lines got crossed, and he only called out Z for everything that was being spread. Z got mad at Y for snitching on her and getting her in trouble, even though Y had very little to do with what was actually going on. Though the two had been close, Z stopped talking to Y, started spreading rumors about her, and was mean to her face. It’s understandable that Z was mad, but it seemed immature that she would intentionally hurt Y and would not learn the real story. Z ended up quitting Student Council because so many people were mad at her. She started taking out her anger on other people in StuCo, too, even ones who had nothing to do with the drama.
If Z had been willing to listen to Y, the majority of this problem could have been avoided and both of them would understand the story from each other’s eyes.
Communication is so important: even when you think you know the whole story, there is undoubtedly so much more to hear.
I wish my experience of drama was confined to these three examples, but it continues every day, spanning a huge web of reasons and causes. Each instance of Girl Drama is its own special situation, but they all have similar themes. Rumors, jealousy, misunderstandings, and insecurity seem to cause girls around the world to wish that relationships were as simple as they are in movies. Sadly, drama is unavoidable, but we can control how we deal with it.
The movie Mean Girls is a gross exaggeration of how high school works (thankfully!), but that doesn’t mean parts of it aren’t real. When I entered high school I expected a magical world in which everyone supported and got along with each other. Needless to say, that’s not what happened. In the same way, Cady came to high school from Africa expecting a school that would welcome her easily and work as a seamless machine. Both of us found a very different situation. Of course, many aspects of high school are better than those portrayed in Mean Girls, but we can still learn from this movie.
More Drama-Filled High School Movies
Mean Girls is a monumental movie loved for its humor, story line, and overall appreciation for high school.
It’s an amazing movie, but it’s always scary when movies come to life. Next time you watch this (or any) movie, be sure to learn from it, as those lessons could come in handy over the next few years of your life.
Is a single movie less than what you need to survive? Check out this list of drama-filled high school movies, but be sure to learn from them and let us know what you think! Always ask a parent for permission before you watch these. Enjoy!
- High School Musical
- The Breakfast Club
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- Legally Blondes
- Easy A
- The DUFF
- Odd Girl Out
If you know of other movies and books that accurately depict high school, let us know and we will add them to this list.
More About This Series
High school is a scary, brand new experience, so be sure to check back for the rest of my series, which includes, but is not limited to —
- What to expect in your first few weeks of school,
- How to overcome procrastination, and
- What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
I hope this post has helped! If you have any questions, comments, or requests for future posts, please let me know in the “Leave a Reply” section below!