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Gay Iconography: Was 'Mean Girls' Too Gay To Function?

Meangirls

The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but what does that really mean? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a new feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts. 

So far this series has focused on individuals that many consider gay icons. Sometimes that meant obvious standards (like Cher and Judy Garland), and sometimes it was introducing more contemporary figures (like Ben Cohen and Laverne Cox) that are still making their mark.

But sometimes there are classic works that become iconic more than their individual creators or stars. (Films like Paris Is Burning and Brokeback Mountain immediately come to mind.) However, this week, we were reminded of a (perhaps sillier) movie that happens to be celebrating 10 years since its initial release.

We're talking about Mean Girls. I get it, this isn't The Boys In the Band. But, for a certain generation, Mean Girls is the definitive portrayal of the high school experience. Hailed as one of the best high school films of all time, the film was a box office and critical success when it was released in 2004, and it has only grown in popularity -- especially in the gay community. Even if you've (somehow) never seen it, it's so often quoted, you've likely heard one of Mean Girls' many one-liners.

Treat yourself to some Friday afternoon LOLs with the groolest moments that have endeared the film to those of us just too gay to function, AFTER THE JUMP

 

When it comes to portrayals of gay teens, the original Mean Girls' Damien is an interesting case. He's what some would describe as "queeny" without being waifish. He's picked on, but never a victim. In fact, he and fellow outcast Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) likely take the constant reminders that they don't fit in with the rest of their suburban teen peers as something of a compliment. Whether it's a witty retort or sneaker to the face, Damien could dish out just as well as he could take it.

 

 

Of course, Mean Girls wouldn't be the enduring cult favorite it's become today if it wasn't funny. Written by the hysterical Tina Fey and featuring performances by fellow SNL alums Ana Gasteyer, Tim Meadows and Amy Poehler, the film overflows with Fey's signature blend of humor.

 

 

Fey couldn't skew early-aughts teen life so sharply without some keen insight. Not only did she accurately nail relics like three-way calling blitzes, but she smartly shined a spotlight on the kind of gossip and "girl-on-girl crime" that's evolved into the social media-fueled cyberbullying we see today. She was inspired by the book Queen Bees and Wannabes, and the authentic-sounding dialog in the film owes a debt to the teens profiled in the book, as well as interviews Fey conducted.

 

 

Adoration for the film still permeates pop culture today. During season 12 of American Idol, judges (and arguably gay icons in their own rights) Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj got in a diva spat over a Mean Girls reference. (Carey's song Obsessed even starts with a quote from the film.)

 

 

This week, American Idol-contestant-turned-YouTube-star Todrick Hall paid homage to the teen comedy with a parody featuring famous gay personalities Colby Melvin, Chris Crocker and Willam Belli.

Does Mean Girls belong in the gay film canon? What are your favorite moments? Sound off in the comments.

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Comments

  1. This movie is everything!Lines are up there with 1939s The Women for their crispness and take on modern culture right then and there. My favorite, "Stop trying to make Fetch happen." Reminds me of a girl I went to high school with who was forever trying to be cool by inventing awful dances and telling us everyone in Budapest or somewhere was already doing them. "Boo you whore" and pretty much every line that comes out of the mouths of Damien and Janis mouths. By the way,their names are brilliant if you love movies or 70s culture.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Jan 10, 2014 2:30:21 PM


  2. As a big fan of this movie (and a 25 year old white gay guy), I wish we could find something else to endlessly quote.

    Try Girls Will Be Girls. Great flick!

    Posted by: Mikey | Jan 10, 2014 2:52:19 PM


  3. While I do enjoy Mean Girls, it is a HEAVILY watered down version of Heathers.

    Posted by: Sam | Jan 10, 2014 3:16:29 PM


  4. @SAM

    Amen.

    I'm too old for Mean Girls, but Heathers was my JAM.

    Posted by: Jerry | Jan 10, 2014 3:43:31 PM


  5. Next week's questions: Has the "Gay Iconography" 'feature' on Towleroad become a gay icon?

    Has Bobby Wilkinson become a gay icon?

    Posted by: Gaye Eikahn | Jan 10, 2014 5:24:23 PM


  6. Next week's questions: Has the "Gay Iconography" 'feature' on Towleroad become a gay icon?

    Has Bobby Wilkinson become a gay icon?

    Posted by: Gaye Eikahn | Jan 10, 2014 5:24:59 PM


  7. I was in a drama class with Tina Fey in college, and it's very easy to see how she came up with the Janis character. And I've never even seen Mean Girls aside from the clips above.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 10, 2014 6:20:54 PM


  8. Jerry's right. I refer "Heathers"

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 10, 2014 6:51:24 PM


  9. Stop trying to make the column happen.

    Posted by: Bastian | Jan 10, 2014 6:53:37 PM


  10. this column*

    Posted by: Bastian | Jan 10, 2014 6:53:55 PM


  11. ooh nice burn, bastian. way to correct yourself and look like a total nerd.

    Posted by: Dexter | Jan 10, 2014 7:12:43 PM


  12. Thanks, dawg.

    Posted by: Bastian | Jan 10, 2014 7:15:27 PM


  13. Too Gay? Mean people? Would I be mean if I asked these two questions?

    That is, Doesn't the medical community recommend that you, "Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom."?

    Yet, now there are some in the medical community that now say it's OK to "Sleep with the waste that gets flushed down in the toilet?" and that it's possible to live a perfectly normal life.

    Twitter Handle: AhContraire

    Posted by: AhContraire | Jan 11, 2014 2:11:56 AM


  14. I have children and I told them that Mean Girls was just a less dark version of Heathers. However, I learned that if you see Mean Girls first then that isn't so. Both of my kids said, upon seeing Heathers, "This isn't anything like Mean Girls". I saw what they meant. The obvious set up is the same but it veers off course. Heathers becomes a violent thriller and in some ways it is a comedy of the absurd. I grew up on Heathers, but in retrospect Mean Girls is a better film, if not as biting social commentary. Mean Girls really does have a quote for all occasions. I do love both movies however.

    Posted by: Donny | Jan 11, 2014 12:18:11 PM


  15. "so if you're from africa, then why are you white? oh my god karen you can't just ask people why they're white." I will always love this movie. very much similar to my highschool experience.

    Posted by: alexander | Jan 11, 2014 12:27:50 PM


  16. "so if you're from africa, then why are you white? oh my god karen you can't just ask people why they're white." I will always love this movie. very much similar to my highschool experience.

    Posted by: alexander | Jan 11, 2014 12:28:11 PM


  17. "so if you're from africa, then why are you white? oh my god karen you can't just ask people why they're white." I will always love this movie. very much similar to my highschool experience.

    Posted by: alexander | Jan 11, 2014 12:29:35 PM


  18. Whle I still think Heathers was better, this is a classic already at only 10 years old.

    Posted by: leprechaunvict | Jan 12, 2014 7:20:54 AM


  19. Huge fan of this film . It IS part of gay pop culture.

    Posted by: Two Dads | Jan 12, 2014 8:26:44 AM


  20. I loved this film as a gay man because it helped so many bullied gay teens turn to it for laughter, entertainment and feeling like they belonged.

    Posted by: Klien | Jan 12, 2014 8:27:23 AM


  21. aww this was a great read. Loved this movie

    Posted by: Jordan | Jan 12, 2014 8:42:31 AM


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