Freaks and Geeks redux
“Oy, Tina Fey! You think you’re so smart! Just because you’re on TV and wear glasses, you think you can do anything! Well, let me tell you something, Miss Tina Fey! As a screenwriter, you’re not so hot! And if you don’t watch out, someday you’re going to have to pay the piper!”
In fact, Tina Fey is pretty smart and pretty funny, and I seriously doubt that she’s going to have to pay the piper. But as a screenwriter, she is, in fact, not so hot. Despite its massive publicity, Mean Girls is as tame, predictable, and unadventurous a teen comedy as you’d want to see.1
To her credit, Fey (right, center) did learn the first rule of screenwriting, which is “never create when you can steal.” When adapting Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes to the screen, Tina started off by helping herself to a fat chunk of the late, lamented, sensitive TV show Freaks and Geeks. Like Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), Mean Girls heroine Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan, is a math wiz who’s wondering if there isn’t more to life than the Pythagorean triangle.
Cady’s supposed to be a nature girl, raised on the African veldt by her eight-ball naturalist sixties parents, suddenly set down in the seething caldron of back-stabbing and status-seeking known as high school U.S.A., so she doesn’t understand why freaks Damien (Daniel Franzese) and Janis (Lizzie Caplan) are the only ones who don’t treat her like shit. Damien and Janis (who are, naturally, gay and supposedly lesbo, respectively) sketch out the grim realities of life at North Shore High in snarky one-liners reminiscent of Tina’s cudgeling of her betters on SNL’s Weekend Update.
After this introduction, it’s anybody’s guess where Mean Girls was going to go, because it’s quickly waylaid by the Bitch Goddess Box Office. Virtually every chick in the film is a member of the C-Cup Sorority, a fact for which Fey was roughly taken to task by New York Times reporter Jennifer Senior.2 Fey generates half a dozen plot lines, none of which seems to go anywhere. Cady joins the cool girls, led by Queen Bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams).3 Kids play mean tricks on each other that backfire. Cady and her Mean Girl friends put on a cute dance number in shorty Santa outfits for the Winter Talent Show. Cady pretends to be bad at math, to impress TD&H older man Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett),4 whom she’s not supposed to date because he used to go out with Regina. Finally, we learn that Janis and Regina used to be best friends! So, has Regina really been in love with Janis all this time? Is that why she’s been so mean to her?
Well, no. In the flabby, punchless, after-school special, everyone is beautiful in their own way ending, it appears that Janis isn’t a lesbo after all. She’s got a boyfriend!5 Nobody hates anybody, nobody puts anybody down, and everything’s copacetic. One gets the sinking feeling here that Tina has turned out to be the girl she tells us not to be: the one who hides her intelligence in order to be popular.6
- Still, it’s not as bad as 13, Going on 30, which should have been called 10, Going on 12. Jennifer Garner, you owe me big time! [↩]
- The Bitch Goddess Box Office may have been nothing more than seventeen-year-old Bitch Goddess Lindsay Lohan, who, in her TV appearances promoting the film, has made it clear that she’s the new pair on the block. Goodbye, Britney! Adios, Christina! [↩]
- Even though Rachel is supposed to be the bad girl here I couldn’t help pulling for her, because she’s so darn cute. Besides, I loved her in the Canadian TV cult favorite, Shot Gun Love Dolls. [↩]
- Aaron tells Cady that he hates math. So why is he taking calculus? And when Cady and Aaron talk about math, why do they talk about eighth-grade algebra instead of calculus? [↩]
- Damien, however, is still fat, and still not Leo’s personal assistant. Everyone is beautiful, but life is not perfect. [↩]
- Just as in Freaks and Geeks, Cady shows no intellectual enthusiasm for math. It’s just something she can do, like whistling. As for the notion that mathematics might open a whole intellectual world for a young woman, or whole galaxies — hey! this is Hollywood! [↩]
- If you’re into e, or if you’d like to be, you can get some history on the little guy here. For e calculated to a million digits, go to here [↩]