Let’s Break Down the Biggest Changes in the Mean Girls Musical Film

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Major spoilers below for Mean Girls.

This isn’t the Mean Girls you used to know—but it also kind of is.

The musical re-imagining of Tina Fey’s hit 2004 comedy, based on the actual stage production from 2018, stays quite true to the original sacred text. Fey is, after all, behind all three versions. Original jokes and bits like the October 3rd line, Glen Coco, “She doesn’t even go here,” and the famous “heavy flow and wide-set vagina” remain. (There are also some surprises I won’t share here.) But there are some noticeable changes, too, that go beyond the inclusion of big, flamboyant musical numbers and more diverse casting. Jokes that have not aged well have been changed. And, because this film takes place 20 years after the original, social media is an essential part of the story.

This version stars Angourie Rice in Lindsay Lohan’s famous role, and Reneé Rapp, Avantika, and Bebe Wood star as The Plastics, originated by Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert. It doesn’t have the unhinged, out of pocket humor of the early 2000s but Gretchen Wieners would argue it is still fetch.

Below, we dive deeper into the changes in the new film. Again, be warned of spoilers!

Janis and Damian’s POV

Whereas the original film was mostly told from Cady’s point of view, often featuring Lohan’s voiceover to convey the character’s inner thoughts, the musical version is mostly told from the perspective of Janis and Damian. They introduce the story as a cautionary tale and send us off with a moral lesson when it’s done.

This time around, Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) is openly gay and still an artist, but more into cross stitching and textiles. Damian, sadly, doesn’t get to belt “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera (with Tony-nominated Jaquel Spivey in the role, it would’ve been more earnestly moving than funny), but he does perform the iCarly theme song in French.

Janis and Regina’s backstory is altered too, with an elaborate saga about Regina (Reneé Rapp) copying her plushie toy that resulted in a distasteful nickname when they were kids. Either way, they still used to be friends, and the drama propelled Regina into popularity and turned Janis into an outcast.

jaquel spivey plays damian, angourie rice plays cady and auli'i cravalho plays janis in mean girls from paramount pictures photo jojo whildenparamount 2023 paramount pictures

JoJo Whilden//Paramount

Cady and Her Mom, Mrs. Heron

Both of Cady’s parents were in the original film, played by Neil Flynn and Ana Gasteyer, but in the musical, it’s just her mom, played by The Office’s Jenna Fischer. This version fleshes out their relationship a bit more, especially with a scene when Mrs. Heron comforts Cady (Angourie Rice) after the whole school turns on her.

Less Slut-Shaming

When Fey’s Ms. Norbury gives a lecture about bullying in the 2004 film, she tells the girls, “You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores; it just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” And it seems she took that to heart for the remake.

Some of the insults are softened to avoid slut-shaming. For example, Regina George’s Burn Book insult reads “fugly cow” (which was also in the musical) instead of “fugly slut.” And she doesn’t spew “Boo, you whore” at Karen during the girls’ three-way phone call. (Also, since we are in the year 2024, there is no three-way calling nor landline phone in the film.)

Other problematic things, like Coach Carr’s relationship with an underage student, and racially insensitive lines are taken out or altered. When Principal Duvall breaks up the school-wide brawl after the Burn Book goes public, he says, “I did not leave graduate school for this” instead of “the South side.”

Fey discussed making these changes in an interview with the New York Times. “I was writing in the early 2000s very much based on my experience as a teen in the late ’80s. It’s come to no one’s surprise that jokes have changed. You don’t poke in the way that you used to poke. Even if your intention was always the same, it’s just not how you do it anymore, which is fine. I very much believe that you can find new ways to do jokes with less accidental shrapnel sideways.”

She added, “If we really had people speak to each other the way they spoke to each other in 1990, everyone would go to the hospital.”

mean girls

CBS Photo Archive//Getty Images

Though part of her bullying speech was cut out in the new film, Fey told the Times: “Some of that was just needing to go faster to make room for songs. That one is not necessarily a moral edit.”

Other cut lines include: “One time she punched me in the face. It was awesome.” “Danny DeVito I love your work!” and “You could try Sears,” but then again, kids aren’t hanging out at the mall as much these days.

Not all the songs from the musical made the cut, either. Numbers like “It Roars,” “Where Do You Belong?,“ “Fearless,“ “Stop,” “Whose House Is This?,” “More Is Better,” and “Do This Thing“ aren’t in the soundtrack, according to Broadway World.

The Burn Book Reveal, and Social Media

There’s something devilishly satisfying about the way Regina litters the hallways with photocopies of the Burn Book pages. She makes it rain, papers fluttering around her, and watches as the madness unfolds. But what teenager is using a copy machine in 2024? Rapp’s Regina instead drops the book in full in the school hall, knowing that her classmates will spread it around for her by posting its contents to TikTok and Instagram.

In fact, the presence of social media is a big difference in the remake. For reference, the original film was released the same year that Facebook launched. TikTok becomes instrumental in everything from the Halloween costumes, to Regina’s popularity, to the infamous school bus accident. The teens at North Shore comment on and share the happenings at school through videos that inevitably go viral (even Megan Thee Stallion sees them), expanding the Plastics’ reach far beyond school. For example, when Janis, Cady, and Damian try to sabotage Regina by “accidentally” hosing her down in the football field, Regina’s streaked mascara becomes its own beauty trend. This prank replaces the cutout tank tops, but there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference in Karen’s closet.

tim meadows plays mr duvall in mean girls from paramount pictures photo jojo whildenparamount 2023 paramount pictures

JoJo Whilden//Paramount

Gretchen Wiener’s Insecurities

Gretchen’s (Bebe Wood) hair is still full of secrets and she’s still trying to make “fetch” happen, but her song “What’s Wrong with Me?” delves deeper into her insecurities about her appearance, comparisons with Regina, and desperate need for approval. Perhaps her contemplative musical number makes up for cutting her line, “We should totally just stab Caesar!” monologue, which Lacey Chabert delivered ferociously in the original film. But any deeper exploration ends there.

Cady and Regina’s Fallout and Confrontation

In the new film, tables begin turning between Cady and Regina during the Plastics’ performance to “Rockin’ Around the Pole” (instead of “Jingle Bell Rock”). The set goes awry when Regina falls during a stunt, which her fellow students record and spread like wildfire online. This is the beginning of Regina’s downfall, but Cady, the standout of the show, rises as a new supreme.

In the original film, Cady tries to seal the deal with her crush Aaron by throwing a party at her house. When Regina finds out, she crashes the party. Regina then finds Cady with Aaron (Christopher Briney) in her room, and Cady ends up throwing up on him. Her new boyfriend Shane famously tells her about the true purpose of those Kalteen bars. In the remake, she stays home on the treadmill, and it’s her mother (Busy Philipps) who reveals the Kalteen bars’ weight-gaining properties, sending Regina into a spiral.

There’s also an exchange that doesn’t happen in the original, in which Cady and Regina (now in a neck brace, post-accident) run into each other in the girls’ room during the Spring Fling dance. Instead of attacking each other, they forgive each other and agree to start fresh. It helps that Regina is uncharacteristically friendly due to the painkillers.

bebe wood plays gretchen, renee rapp plays regina and avantika plays karen in mean girls from paramount pictures photo jojo whildenparamount 2023 paramount pictures

JoJo Whilden//Paramount

Sexist Double-Standards

The first film alluded to the theme, but the new one puts the message in more obvious terms: the real enemy is misogyny. In her song “I’d Rather Be Me,” Janis calls out how women and young girls are expected to behave, whereas men aren’t held to the same crippling standard.

“We’re supposed to all be ladies
And be nurturing and care
Is that really fair?
Boys get to fight, we have to share
Here’s the way that that turns out
We always understand
How to slap someone down
With our underhand

So here’s my right finger
To how girls should behave
‘Cause sometimes what’s meant to break you
Makes you brave”

On a similar note Regina asks Cady in the bathroom, “Do you know what they would call me if I was a boy?” hinting that her toxic behavior would’ve been excused if she were male. Instead she follows up with “Reginald,” as in what her mom literally would’ve called her if she were a boy. Man, those drugs are strong.

Ms. Norbury and Mr. Duvall

…are a couple! In the first movie, the teacher (played by Tina Fey) and principal (played by Tim Meadows) exchange some flirtations as she’s going through a divorce. This time, they’re a full-fledged pair and even trade dog-walking duties in exchange for giving the girls at school a pep talk.

Mean Girls is now playing in theaters. The original is streaming on Paramount+. Watch Now

Headshot of Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now. 

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