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New Teen Comedy <i>Mean Girls</i> Seeks to Amuse, Empower Young Women - 2004-05-07

A youth counselor's real-life experience with teenagers and high school social circles forms the basis of a wickedly witty new comedy film starring Lindsay Lohan and written by Tina Fey of the Saturday Night Live TV show. Alan Silverman has a look at Mean Girls.

Teenager Cady Heron really needs her vivid imagination when her wildlife biologist parents move back to the States from Africa and she has to learn survival in a much more hostile environment: a suburban high school

The 'plastics' - "teen royalty," as one student describes them -- are the super-sexy, glamour girls who dictate who (or what) is 'in' or 'out;' and getting 'in' with them means social success.

Being the center of attention is seductive, but Cady quickly learns that the duplicity and backstabbing are too high a price to pay; so while she pretends to be one of them, she sets out to teach a lesson to the Mean Girls. Seventeen-year-old Lindsay Lohan stars as Cady.

"Girls are mean, especially in high school," says Lohan. "You are kind of like in this bubble and all you have are your group of friends and all you have to talk about is what is going in high school; so that is all girls do and this movie really points that out and gets into detail with it.

I do have a 10-year-old sister who will want to see this with her friends and I want her to get something out of it," she adds. " I think it's the message of, in high school and life in general, don't change who you are just to be accepted by other people, because in the long run it is not going to help you. You are always going to be acting like a different person and no one will know you for you. I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but it's true."

Mean Girls. is based on Queen Bees And Wannabes, a parent's guide to adolescence written by youth counselor Rosalind Wiseman from experiences at her Washington D.C.-based "Empower Program."

"What I like about the movie is that for the first half you see what girls do that is so mean. It is real," she says. " It brings out all the ugliness of it and then it shows what the costs are, so at the very end when she says 'calling somebody stupid doesn't make me smarter or calling somebody fat doesn't make me thinner,' that is exactly what I'm talking about. That is why I like it. When you talk about the things that are not so great and talk about the costs and the consequences, I think that is good."

Tina Fey plays a teacher who tries to be a mentor to Cady; and she also adapted Wiseman's non-fiction book into the film's script. Fey says it was surprisingly different from her 'day job' as head writer for the popular TV sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Her goal was to make a funny movie; but Fey adds that it had to have some meaning too.

"It is sort beaten into me from Saturday Night Live and Second City to try to write about something that is actually going on in the world as opposed to just writing out of nothing. So I was more comfortable having some source material to write from that had what I thought was an interesting substance to it underneath the comedy. So I was happy to have the book as a resource. I would have been less interested in writing just a random teen comedy that wasn't really trying. You have to try to do something, because you will always fall short of what you try to do.

Mean Girls. a teen comedy with brains, also features Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan and several of writer Tina Fey's Saturday Night Live colleagues: including Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer and Tim Meadows.