In 2004, when “Mean Girls” was first released, Tina Fey snuck into the audience of a cinema hall to get a sense of how people were reacting to it. She saw the crowd appreciate it with an intensity that warmed her heart. She knew she had created a classic. What she did not know was that it would soon become a cult.
Emmy Award winner Tina Fey had wanted to make a movie that put women on equal footing with men. She did not want to talk down to the girls or crack jokes at their expense. Most movies of the time used these tropes to earn popularity. Tina was taking a risk of trying to subvert a strong tradition of comedy.
Her efforts paid and her only screenplay was given such a stellar performance by Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Amanda Seyfried, the iconic high school movie became a barometer for the genre hereafter.
What makes “Mean Girls” even more memorable is its stage musical adaptation. Most musical adaptations of films retell the same plot with the use of song and dance. Fey did not want to simply duplicate her film on stage so she wrote in a new script, especially for the stage. She packed it with surprises best suited for the stage. The show premiered on Broadway in 2018 and bagged 12 Tony nominations. Like its film counterpart, the show too garnered a massive fan base among young adults.
The stage adaptation of the film allowed several characters to show more complex emotional growth. This endeared the adaptation to the young audience. Fey says, “Girls at that age have big feelings, and these are definitely big emotions. So they make sense onstage.” No wonder she sought to give the characters their own space on the stage adaptation.
Herself a fan of high school classics like Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink, Fey sought inspiration in work that was already done to give shape and character to her Mean Girls both for the screen and the stage.
She also used her own past as a model for her plotline. Everyone has bad behaviors and Fey admittedly tapped into hers to show that realistically in her story. In several interviews, she reveals she had a side of the bully in her as well when she was growing up. However, growing up makes one realize what one feels is right and empowering is not always actually so.
Those that worked with Tina Fey, like Benjamin, the stage show’s lyricist, admire Fey for her professionalism, As he puts it, Fey knew how to respectfully disagree and was a great person to work on collaborations with.
As for Fey, she believes that she tries to practice what she attempted to show young women in her movie, and later in the stage -adaptation of the same. To call another stupid is not girl-empowering. Looking down on others is pointless and ultimately toxic to oneself.
Fey created a cult in “Mean Girls” and lives by it herself.