The ‘mean girl’ has evolved, but will never rule the school

I’ve been rewatching “Sex and the City” on my iPhone whenever I have spare minutes here and there. Don’t judge.

When the series first aired, I thought the New York City girls were modern, sophisticated, and faced well the rigors of dating and marriage.

Upon this recent re-watching, however, I realized that they weren’t as innocent in their romantic foibles as I had previously thought. In fact, they were sometimes just mean.

For example, one time Carrie was nitpicking her boyfriend about his clothes, and when he did it back to her, she flipped out. The men were actually way more considerate and patient than most men would be when dealing with a materialistic, easily offended gaggle of female Seinfelds. But while the “Seinfeld” gang was never meant to be heroes, these mean girls were supposed to be somewhat noble representatives of my gender.

I never got the whole “mean girl” thing. It has always been a thing – every generation had its brutal power clique of girls. From Greek goddesses to Real Housewives, the leader always amasses a gang of fellow mean girls to vie for position and rank amongst themselves in an effort to feel superior.

At Harding, we didn’t have a big mean girl problem. It seemed there weren’t enough rich girls or snobby girls to amass the requisite clique, and our marching band was actually cool to be in, so the nerd criteria was skewed somewhat. There was an incident or two, but nothing major.

Mean girls use their status of being pretty, or rich, or not caring about anyone but themselves, to torment other girls, who are just rungs on their ladder of domination. The victim may be hurt, or simply brush it off – either way, the mean girl just feeds off of the act of being a jerk.

They bully a girl with the usual insults or cruel remarks, in person or on Facebook. They set up cruel pranks. They spread rumors. They throw a Bible at you and call you a devil girl and make fun of your black makeup (Hey, I knew the risks when I put on the freak uniform).

I was a brush-it-off type. I knew there were jerks, and what they thought didn’t matter. Really, did high-school cliques matter 10 minutes after graduation? Once you rule the school, that power doesn’t really translate to the real world. All it gets you is maybe a reality show, and the rest of the world sees the mean girl for what she is – usually some plastic surgery disaster in 20 years.

Mean girl cinema taught us that the mean girls always had a neutralizer. “Carrie” had the one girl who chickened out of the blood-dumping prank. “Heathers” had Veronica, because Winona Ryder didn’t need to step on others to be cool in the ’80s – she didn’t have to try at all. “Jawbreaker” had that girl from the Noxzema commercials. “Mean Girls” had Lindsay Lohan, in her pre-tabloid glory.

It’s hard enough being a teenage girl – coming to terms with your identity, battling stereotypes, preserving self-esteem, and finding independence. Tearing each other down only makes it harder for girls of the next generation to be themselves.

So, be the other archetype in mean-girl cinema – cool one with the heart of gold. The Fonzie, the Ferris Bueller, the Veronica. No one remembers a mean girl’s conquests except herself, while she remains stuck in high school forever, like the Phantom Zone in “Superman II.” Let that be her punishment, and let your reward be a life well-lived, knowing you were never a jerk in high school.

Did your high school have mean girls? Tell me your stories at ssepanek@, or comment on this story at