Susin Nielsen’s ‘We Are All Made of Molecules’ sees Stewart fall prey to his “already over it” step-sister Ashley, and faces aggro from her as well as his new classmates.
But interestingly we do get a glimpse at what motivates her to such drama and meanness. Do we accept it? Maybe not. But it’s not completely without reason. But what exactly goes into making a mean girl?
It’s easy to fall back on the “Queen Bee” trope. That age-old cliche of a girl being the head of a power-clique at school and generally ruling the roost at home too, has become too easy to brush-off.
In fact, some might say that the “mean girl” has grown tired and boring.
But what if we looked a bit closer at the reasons WHY she’s such a bitch. They say bullies were bullied themselves. So were mean girls subject to other mean girls?
Case Study 1: Regina George, ‘Mean Girls’
Where better place to start? We all love to hate her a little. She’s a total cow right up to the end, really. You have to respect her for standing by her morals! Did she deserve the treatment she got from Cady et al?
Maybe. But ultimately, Regina is fuelled by a need to be in control. Of others, and more importantly, herself. What is she targeting for? Her boyfriend, her skin, her body.
The scene in the clothes shop says a lot.
And it’s clear her home life is financially secure. In fact, it’s fair to say she’s pretty well off. Moving in those kinds of circles will also come with its own pressures. To look expensive, to get into expensive college, to marry expensive… We’d rather have Cady’s home life, that’s for sure.
Case Study 2: Chanel Oberlin ‘Scream Queens’.
Similar to Regina, but her Queen Bee status has developed further. Again, a need to control, to be the best, to be the most everything, drives her. She even names her lackeys after her.
And sure there’s a psycho serial killing maniac on the loose…
But Chanel is very much the product of an institution and a culture that breeds this kind of behaviour. Not on such an extreme scale perhaps, however Chanel has an “all or nothing” mentality.
And despite the glimmers of warmth and “normality” in her…
…(it’s in there somewhere, honest!) it’s actually quite a sad way to live your life, with no room for failure or second place.
Case Study 3: Beth Cassidy from ‘Dare Me’ by Megan Abbott
Is is too cliche for a cheerleader to be a mean girl?
Not when she’s pushed out of her top spot and feels alienated from the rest of the team, especially the new coach.
The themes the story itself exposes are quite gritty; there’s not ‘Bring It On’ style pom pom popping or finger clicking…
…these girls really do work it out. And it’s this focus and drive and PASSION that, perhaps, motivates Beth down a path of, uh, destruction?
Case Study 4: Blair Waldorf ‘Gossip Girl’.
Oh go on, *eye roll* at another rich bitch. Blair is the OG of mean girls though, true? And for the next point no one else would make it more clear.
It must be exhausting being a total dick to the world 100% of the time. That level of shrewd intensity and careful planning of everything…
…it’s tiring just to think about. The stress of being at the top is constant. Does that mean we should feel sorry for these grim goddesses? Nope. They are, however, living their own nightmares every single day if they want to keep their position.
Remember what Gretchen Weiners said about Caesar?
Case Study 5: Ashley, ‘We Are All Made of Molecules’ by Susin Nielsen.
A disrupted home life. A lack of control. A need to establish some kind of dominant position for herself. A desperate need to hold on to a secret. Ashley takes something from all of our mean girls above, but would you still put her on this list?
There is something about seeing it from her perspective that makes it harder to say for sure that she’s a mean girl. Her POV shows us her humanity and signs of the warm, kind person that’s lurking underneath.
We’ve all got it in us to be a mean girl. It’s ultimately a choice. To be mean, or not to mean? That, is the question.
Has this piqued your interest in ‘We Are All Made of Molecules’? Well, awesome! You can get your copy right here.
Who’s your favourite mean girl? It’s ok to be a Queen Bee fangirl. Tweet us @maximumpopbooks
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