The Big Picture
- Mean Girls almost received an R rating due to its original jokes, but altering them made them more outlandish and comical, making it suitable for a broader audience.
- The film faced challenges discussing female anatomy while keeping a PG-13 rating, but director Mark Waters stood up to the MPAA, arguing against their sexist biases, and the scene stayed in the movie.
- Waters’ stand against the MPAA sets an important precedent for filmmakers to prioritize integral content over censorship, fostering progress in pushing the limits of film and challenging Hollywood’s misogyny.
Get in, loser; we’re going to talk about Mean Girls. This cult classic was well received when it hit theaters in 2004 and remains beloved almost 20 years later. Basically, we’re like totally obsessed with it. And why not? It’s one of those movies that stays in style. It is a coming-of-age story filled with high school cliques, finding out where you belong, navigating the hierarchy in high school, and desperately trying to fit in. Fans are obsessed with the behind-the-scenes trivia, too — I mean, it’s full of secrets (which is why their hair is so big). But one bit of trivia that many fans may not know is that Mean Girls was almost rated R by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Let’s talk about some of the dialogue they cut from the film to make it suitable for more audiences.
Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George.
- Release Date
- April 30, 2004
- Mark Waters
- Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer
What Was Cut From the ‘Mean Girls’ R-Rated Version?
During an interview with Vulture, the director of the feature film, Mark Waters, had some light to shed on the fact and discussed how some of the original jokes were one of the main reasons the film was almost rated R. In altering the jokes to make it more appropriate for more viewers, they became more outlandish, which actually made them more comical. An example Waters gave of an original joke that was later changed was, “Amber D’Alessio gave a blow job to a hot dog,” which was reworked to “Amber D’Alessio made out with a hot dog.” The change makes the joke sound more sordid and boosts its comedic hilarity. So, even though it was less graphic for viewers, the change improved while making it more accessible to a broader audience. We can only imagine what other jokes they had to change since the rules from the MPAA are stricter than you might think.
Another problem the Mean Girls production team faced was trying to talk about female anatomy while still keeping the rating at PG-13, even if it wasn’t in a sexual context. One of the big things the MPAA wanted to cut was a line about a vagina. It’s the scene in the auditorium when everyone was talking about how they had been victimized by Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and one of the teenage girls said that it’s not her fault that she has “a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina.” But Waters was adamant that this part stay in the movie and eventually won by saying that the ratings board was being sexist. Even Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows) in the Mean Girls movie had to get Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey), the female teacher, to solve the problem between the teenage girls because it was out of his depth and knowledge. Suppose you look at other films, like Anchorman, which came out around the same time; it was only rated PG-13 and showed Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) having an erection in one scene. But since Mean Girls was talking about female anatomy — and in a non-sexual way no less! — the ratings board seemed to have a problem with some of the content. But again, Waters wouldn’t back down on this issue, and eventually, the board had to concede.
It’s an important win that the scene remained in the final cut of the film because the auditorium scene is one of the most masterfully written and depicts the teenagers opening up about the numerous ways they’d been victimized in this toxic environment, their insecurities, and a resolution for the problem at hand, all while being chock-full of laughs. Everyone gets the chance to open up about what’s bothering them or contest the rumors about them in the Burn Book. Subsequently, giving them all the opportunity to make amends or apologize for their actions makes the teenagers see that rumors don’t lead to anything good and popularity isn’t everything. In that setting, these young women are able to voice their opinions and insecurities.
‘Mean Girls’ Director Challenged the MPAA
Waters paved the way by standing up to the MPAA and was able to give the characters their voices. This motivates other producers or directors to stand up for what they think the movie needs or something integral for the film that the MPAA might disapprove of but that they believe should be in the production. People standing up to the misogyny of Hollywood is how we will move forward in pushing the limits of film, just like the teenagers who realized that empowering others by supporting them instead of tearing each other down is a much better way to live their lives.
Mean Girls isn’t the first movie Waters has been a part of with strong, layered female leads, and he has become known for films with formidable female protagonists. An example of this is The House Of Yes and Freaky Friday. Many of his movies have been able to pass the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test measures the representation of women in film and whether at least two women are able to have a conversation about something other than men. There are three main criteria for the test parameters: it has to have at least two named women in it who talk to each other and have a conversation about something other than a man. Of course, Mean Girls revolves around teenage rivalry and popularity amongst the young women of the high school, so it easily passes the test. That’s not to say they don’t talk about boys, especially the ones they are interested in with their hair pushed back. Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) is the teenage heartthrob, as Cady Haron (Lindsay Lohan) and Regina are fighting over him, but he’s by no means the main focus of the film. That’s, like, the rules of feminism.
Of course, having Mark Waters paired with the hilarious Tina Fey, who had a hand in writing the feature while also playing Ms. Norbury, how could it not be a comedic success? Fey has proved numerous times that she can delve into comedy while still showcasing traumatic events or serious situations like she did many times in 30 Rock, especially in regard to the treatment of women in the film industry. It’s almost like she has ESPN or something.
When Is ‘Mean Girls: The Musical’ Coming Out?
With the new adaptation of the Broadway musical coming out next year on January 12, audiences can’t wait to see what they will do. It will surely be another success, especially with the Broadway musical being such a hit even after the movie came out almost 20 years ago, and it is still very relevant. Some of the performers who were a part of the stage musical are even being brought over to star in the film. It’ll be interesting to see if they make any changes, but one thing is for sure: Mean Girls will always be the apex predator at the top of the food chain when it comes to high school comedies, just as Wednesdays will always be for wearing pink.
Mean Girls is available to stream on Paramount+.
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