Friday, April 19, 2013

The Mean Girl Stereotype


In my Top Ten Tuesday this week, I listed trends that I either want to see less or more of. One of those trends that I would happily love to not see again would be the mean girls. Not just any mean girl, mind you, but the stereotypical mean girl. While they can pop up anywhere, you can usually find this stereotype in YA contemporary fiction, specifically in the high school setting.

The Stereotype: 
  • Popular.
  • Is the source or an added conflict to the story.
  • Usually has minions of some sort.
  • Tends to be a cheerleader.
  • Blonde...although I have known them to be another hair color. 
  • For whatever reason, picks the protagonist out of the crowd to be the meanest to. Past together, feels threatened, sees weakness; take your pick. 
  • Known to be wealthy.
The first point is the absolute main point. This mean girl stereotype is always popular. She's known in school or the beach or wherever you are and makes sure that everyone knows her. If the protagonist is new to the school, you can bet on it that she will almost instantly meet, or at the very least hear of, the stereotype. If the protagonist is not new to school, you can still bet on it that the stereotype will be mentioned very soon. This is the one that makes me wonder the most, because why popular? If you were so popular and happy with your life (although some mean girls have familial issues so there's that...), then why go out of the way to pick on someone lower on the high school food chain? WHAT ABOUT THE BULLYING NORMAL PEOPLE? Or the depressed people who like to push their depression on others? Or the snotty geeks? 



There's a reason for that mean girl and it's most likely because she adds more draaaama. While authors may add unnecessary details to a story, placing a mean girl in there will probably have the same reason: to add conflict. What I find is that the protagonist is having trouble on her own, but then the stereotype shakes it up even more. That cute guy the main character likes, but is having family issues or other issues in her life? Oh, the stereotype will definitely be whispering something in the cute guy's ear or at the very least, messing with the main character's thinking about the cute guy. She might reveal something in the story or just bully in general, making the protagonist look like a fighting hero amidst all miserable high school odds. 

What I'm also wondering is if the popular girl wants to create drama and make the protagonist's life miserable AND they have a past together...what's the point? It usually seems that the storyline is that they used to be best friends until the mean girl becomes popular and shuns her old best friend. So then they magically become archenemies? Did the protagonist DO something that they are oblivious to or purposefully excluding out? Seriously. What. Is. The. POINT?! 



A mean girl stereotype is not a mean girl at all if she does not have her little friend accessories. She will have minions or airheads or the mean girl assistant right by her side...but a little behind (to not take away any spotlight, of course). These friends are her personal accessories and the protagonist better watch out. The minions will either cheer on their leader, laugh at the protagonist's fallings, or help create some evil plot. So my question is, what's up with the mean friends? I'm guessing they are drone-like because if they were as mean as our stereotype, they would be fighting for leadership. What about being equals? 



Oh, a cheerleader is not only popular, but always set out to be a mindless meanie. In this case, the cheerleader's favorite accessory would be her jock boyfriend. I really can't tell you how this creates the most frustration with me. I'm not, never have or will be, a cheerleader. However, I know cheerleaders and they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Cheerleaders are not all bad, you know. This actually coincides with what I think about the first point. WHY a cheerleader? Why not a geek or a normal student?



Blonde conveys a message of being an airhead along with being the mean top dog all at once. Or at least, that's what the authors seem to always want us to think. No, they're not an airhead when it comes to planning torture on our beloved protagonist, but the main character seems to mock their intelligence. Probably because the blonde is a fit cheerleader and they're jealous. Of course, this point is laughable since my best friend is blonde and I seriously have to encourage her to SPEAK UP because she can't be Ms. Nice Girl all the time. So many blondes out there are not airheads or mean or anything else except...human. 


The stereotype always seems to pick out the protagonist out to pick on the most out of lots and lots of others. Sure, the mean girl will pick on others. But the protagonist will most likely get the worst of it all. This one I don't get the logic to. The claim is usually that the mean girl feels jealous or threatened either by the protagonist's newness or looks or how well she seems to be fitting in or how she's catching the hot guy's attention. In reality, there are TONS of students in one school. Why is the popular mean girl making this one girl's life miserable? Oh yeah...the book is about that one girl and she has to be made a victim in some way, right? 



You can't be a popular blonde cheerleader with minions without being wealthy because that makes you cool. I mean, one of the reasons she is popular is probably the fact that she (or really, her parents) are loaded. Sometimes her friends are moochers while the rest of the school loves her parties. This really comes in handy when the protagonist is poor and the mean girl can tease or mock her and the protagonist can be all whiny. Poor people are bullies too! 



So if you haven't caught on yet, I am against and so over this trend/stereotype. Let's have some change! If a "mean girl" needs to be presented in the novel, I strongly suggest to maybe change it up and not have your mean girl be the stereotype. Imagination, it's a wonderful thing. If I read a book that's just "eh" for me, but has a non-stereotypical mean girl like a geek or *gasp!* normal girl, I will probably give it a bonus point just for not bringing in the stereotype.  

Now once again, being a lover of discussion posts, I would really love to hear your thoughts on it below!

What do you think about this stereotype? Does it annoy you? What's another typical attribute that's included with this stereotype?

31 comments:

  1. I totally agree with this post, but I'm here to comment on the GIFs. I hate them in general, but OMG MEAN GIRLS!!! :D :D :D

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  2. Yes! I've wanted someone to tackle this topic! I think mean girls are not needed. Being a cheerleader myself I don't really understand why cheering equals mean. I'm not blonde either so I guess that means I don't get to be top dog. I think if the mean girl plays an actual role in the story then it's kinda better. I would die to see a geek mean girl. Love all the gifs!

    Jasmine

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    1. Well, I'm glad I did then! Well, I think anyone besides a blonde can be top dog, but it seems as if blondes are always portrayed as the meanest. I really hope an author tackles this and thank you!

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  3. I don't understand why the mean girls are always wealthy cheerleaders either. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. great topic!

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  4. IKR, I just don't understand. What can I say, I agreed with everything you said! Great discussion, thanks for stopping by my blog :D

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  5. Ugh, so true. I think you see this in EVERY young adult, there is always a female antagonist (mean girl) who bullies the other female main character. You make some really excellent points, although I do have to argue sometimes means girls will pick on anyone for no real reason, at least in reality. Great post!

    Alise @ Readers In Wonderland

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  6. *Claps hands* So glad someone brought this topic up! The stereotypical mean girl is becoming as overdone as love triangles! The storyline with we-used-to-be-besties-but-grew-apart always has me wondering if the lead was partly at fault for ruining the friendship; and you're right, I don't understand how they magically become archenemies out to ruin each other. Something else you brought out that I loved was that why, out of allll the students in a school the mean girl singles the MC out for special torture (after all, the MC likely just told us that she wasn't a popular/pretty threat to the mean girl's boyfriend and stays under the radar instead of running in same circles as the mean girl). I actually have met one rich, popular-because-of-who-her-parents-were, mean girl who was mean to her "minions" who still worshiped her, but overall, I would LOVE to have a book where the mean girl wasn't so stereotypical. Like you said, I've met really nice cheerleaders and popular girls who are great to talk to, so I think it'd be neat to show a mean geek, emo, teacher's pet, next door neighbor, etc. One book I really liked was Don't Expect Magic because the popular, gorgeous cheerleader that the lead was prepared to dislike was actually really sweet and had some secrets of her own. It wasn't a big part of the storyline, but I still liked that the author had it that way! Great post! :)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

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    1. I love your comment! I just wonder if maybe we're not seeing the whole side and the MC has a mean streak but she thinks of herself as the victim so we really can't see that side of her! YES. If she's not pretty or popular or any real threat....why bother? That would be great. I think of Minkus when someone says a teacher's pet, but he's not really the mean guy, just annoying. Ooh, I'll have to read that one then!

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  7. I totally agree..it's lazy writing! Great post!

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  8. Hate hate hate the mean bitchy cheerleader stereotype. I was a cheerleader all through high school and that was not me in the slightest or 99% of the other girls. We always had such an array of girls from popular to less popular. We didn't ALL hang out outside of practice and games, but we were a team and had fun together. So it really bothers me when a cheerleader is always blonde and mean. :/

    (You comment on my blogoversary post made me smile. <333 I love coming to your blog too! You always do all these cool fun posts. )

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    1. Knowing you were a cheerleader makes me insanely happy just because like I said, you are incredibly nice and proves the stereotype wrong! I think of cheerleading teams as any other sports team in the way that there's a bond there but not every girl will like every girl.

      Aw <3 Thanks, Sara!

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  9. YES.

    This is one trope that I'm SO done with. Stereotypes are really good for only one thing: separating one group from another based on exaggerated (and often untrue) characteristics, and isn't that something we kind of want to avoid?! Plus, I hate that they take the stereotype to the extreme and tend to use EVERY SINGLE BIT OF ONE in a character. For the love of Pete.

    Fantastic post!

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    1. "Separating one group from another based on exaggerated (and often untrue) characteristics" is a line I want to post everywhere because it's so TRUE. Haha, yes! They seem to want to stuff every little thing in there and it's faker than a kid on Toddlers and Tiaras.

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  10. This stereotype is not okay with me! I understand the appeal of including a mean girl for conflict, but I would really like to see a different kind once in a while. Cheerleaders are often nice, bubbly people; they are giving up their time to encourage other people! And the we-used-to-be-besties ploy can be pretty annoying because I too always wonder what role the protagonist played in their breakup.

    This is one of those things that makes me want to yell at the author to go visit a high school for a day. Maybe things have changed since they went, but their books aren't always the best representation of the real world.

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    1. Exactly! Another KIND of mean girl would be much better.

      Haha, I think authors who are guilty of using this stereotype should be punished to go to high school for a day (or even better, a week) under disguise of course so that they know what REALLY happens.

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  11. Yes! I totally agree, such a great post! :)

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  12. This stereotype definitely annoys me. I remember growing up watching shows where the cheerleader was always the mean girl. (Lizzie McGuire). I wish authors would branch out a little more and not use the stereotype. I completely agree with everything you said. Amazing post! :)

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    1. Oh, I loved that show, but it really does show the stereotype so clearly. Thank you!

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  13. LOVE. THIS. Love these ranty discussions you do. AGREE. Honestly, I never went to school with a stereotypical mean girl, so I'm not even sure if this is a real thing? I mean there are bullies, but most of them don't look like this...except in books. Such great points.

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  14. Mean girls are AWFUL. And although a lot of times author put them there to be hated/to add drama, it's lazy. It's lazy because it's a lame form of external conflict, especially when as you pointed out, a lot of times the mean girl is there to try to steal away the guy. UGH. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. :(

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    1. Molli, I love you. I so agree. It's lazy, lazy, lazy.

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  15. I love that you point out how trite this character prop can be. You are TOTALLY right about so many of those characteristics showing up over and over in a stereotypical mean girl, and I was especially struck by your pointing out that they are always popular. It'd be good for authors to give about their secondary characters, especially the antagonists, more nuance. Great discussion post!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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