10 years of Mean Girls: How the film defined a generation - and gave it a new language

Gillian Orr talks to one of the stars of 'Mean Girls' about its lasting appeal
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The Independent Culture

Tonight in Los Angeles, members of the cast and crew of Mean Girls will gather for a special screening to mark its 10th anniversary. It may not be Wednesday, but you can bet plenty of the guests will turn up wearing pink.

Mean Girls is the story of high-school cliques as told through the eyes of Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), a previously home-schooled teenager who joins Illinois's North Shore High only to become the latest plaything of the Plastics, three halter-top-wearing beauties who rule the school with an iron fist.

Written by Tina Fey who appears in the film, and based on Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees & Wannabes, the film was a surprise hit, making $130m (£77m) at the box office having had a modest budget of $17m (£10m).

Ten years on, and the film has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It is a sleepover staple, and an internet meme. Not only is it still discussed on Twitter and blogs, but on Tumblr you can find a photo of just about anything – from a reality-television star crying, to a meeting of world leaders – with a line from the film slapped across it. According to Tumblr, its users have created more than 10,000 posts and 477,000 notes related to the film in the past month alone. And its influence has even crept into academia, where a number of universities discuss it in their sociology classes.

Of course, much of the film's enduring appeal comes down to it being endlessly quotable. In one scene, fed up with Gretchen Wieners' attempts to start a new word for cool, the evil ringleader of the Plastics, Regina George (Rachel McAdams), snaps at her to "stop trying to make 'fetch' happen". Because of the film, though, fetch did happen, and became part of our vernacular. Last August, the White House uploaded on to its Twitter account a photo of the Obamas' dog, ball in mouth, with the caption, "Bo, stop trying to make fetch happen." Naturally, fans of the film made it one of the handle's most retweeted messages so far.

"It's a really clever, really smart film so it stands up to repeated viewing, which I think is key for something becoming a cult hit," says Empire magazine's deputy online editor, and Mean Girls fan Helen O'Hara. "You notice clever lines you didn't notice before. Little jokes that maybe didn't wow you first time around suddenly become the funniest thing in the world. 'You go, Glen Coco!' for example. I don't even remember that from the first time I saw it and now you can buy T-shirts and bags with it on."

Not that the cast had any clue that they were on to such a monster hit. Lacey Chabert, who played Gretchen Wieners (one of the Plastics and the daughter of the inventor of toaster strudel, no less), says that none of those involved could have predicted what an impact the film would still have 10 years later.

"Pretty much every day, someone stops me in real life and quotes some of the dialogue," Chabert tells me on the phone from Los Angeles. "And then on Twitter and Instagram, I get hundreds, if not thousands, of messages every single day. And on Wednesdays, people will send me pictures of themselves wearing pink. I had no idea when making the film that we would be talking about it as much as we are now."

With its enduring popularity, rumours of an official sequel are rife, if unfounded (and the less said about 2011's straight-to-video cash-in, Mean Girls 2, the better). However, two movies based on Wiseman's subsequent books are in the pipeline, including Mean Moms and another that will focus on boys' relationships. Even more exciting, though, is that Fey has confirmed that she's working on a musical version of the film.

But the real question is, do the Plastics still keep in touch with each other? "Not really, I haven't seen the girls for a few years," Chabert says. "Although I do often see Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels."

It makes sense that the frenemies would no longer be in contact. But one has to wonder what Regina George would have to say about her former flame hanging out with Gretchen. After all, as Gretchen herself would remark, "Ex-boyfriends are off-limits to friends. That's just, like, the rules of feminism."