image: glitzandgrammar.co.za

Strong Female Characters: Regina George

How do I even begin to explain Regina George?

For those of you that don’t know, Regina George is the main antagonist of the 2004 movie, Mean Girls. The plot revolves around a home-schooled student, Cady Heron, who joins a normal high school and starts trying to take down the resident beauty queen, Regina George. The film became an instant classic, winning several awards and catapulting its actresses to stardom. It’s been praised for both its humour and its portrayal of the way girls chip away at each other, and has been quoted pretty much constantly for over a decade. As for Regina herself, she’s seen as the definitive bitchy high schooler, and has been immortalised in thousands upon thousands of memes.

But is she in line with the rules of feminism? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

For the most part, Regina isn’t just in control of her own destiny, she also controls everyone else’s. She manipulates the people around her into giving her exactly what she wants – whether she’s persuading her parents to give her a bigger bedroom or breaking up other couples with a well-placed phone call. For most of the film, she’s pulling all the strings in a way that would give Littlefinger a run for his money. This control doesn’t last for the whole film – it’s all tied up in her social status, and once that starts slipping away her power does too. However, while she may lose her control over other people’s lives, she still keeps control of her own – even after she gets hit by a bus.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Regina’s hobbies are fairly typical of a teenage girl: she likes shopping, makeovers, parties and gossiping about other people. We don’t know if she came up with these on her own or not, but they’re still very well-established. Her goals and beliefs are much more interesting. She’s ruthlessly determined to make sure that she stays at the very top of the social ladder and will use anything she has at her disposal to stay there. As far as her beliefs go, the only thing she really seems to believe in is herself; she has an unshakeable confidence and seems utterly ignorant of the possibility that she’s even capable of doing wrong. It’s implied that both her beliefs and goals are the product of her spoiled upbringing, but I think they’re also influenced by Regina’s ruthless ambition, so she passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Regina’s personality is pretty consistent, but she does change over the course of the film. At the beginning of the film she’s a cunning, cold-hearted manipulator who thrives on her own social status, but as the film goes on we start to see  more of her charisma and underlying aggression. By the time the film’s over, the aggression is still there, but Regina’s found a healthy outlet for it.

This is healthy?? (image: tumblr.com)
This is healthy?? (image: tumblr.com)

Her skills take a bit of a back seat. Most of Regina’s talents lie in her charisma and ability to manipulate people, and these start to slip away as her social status slowly diminishes. However, they are nevertheless still present – she’s got her parents wrapped around her little finger right up until the end of the film – so she can pass this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A ruthlessly ambitious high school girl, who will use anything and everything she can in order to stay popular.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Regina does have a love life, but it doesn’t really seem to matter to her that much. During the film she dates two people – Aaron Samuels and Shane Oman – but she never expresses any real affection for them. She only starts dating Aaron because Cady told her she liked him, and cheats on him with Shane for the entirety of their relationship. Other characters refer to Regina’s boyfriends as ‘man-candy’ and that’s all they seem to be; someone she can be seen with, rather than someone she actually cares about.

The upshot of all this is that while Regina does have a very active love life, it doesn’t really factor into her decisions all that much. Her love life is a means to an end: it’s a way of demonstrating to everyone else that she’s still popular and reinforcing her own superiority. What’s really motivating her is her desire to stay at the top of the social ladder, so she passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

As the movie progresses, Regina’s character does develop, but we don’t actually see the most significant development take place. As she begins losing her social status, we see her lashing out at her friends and family much more frequently, and she loses her cool in ways she hadn’t done earlier in the film. By the time the film ends, she’s renounced her bitchy ways for good, has found a healthy outlet for her aggression in the form of competitive sport, and has forgiven Cady for her role in bringing her down. This last part of her character development is definitely the most significant, but we don’t actually see any of it taking place, although it is discussed in a believable way. This does take the shine off her development a little, but as we do see some of the other changes she goes through I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

One of the real strengths of Regina’s character is just how much people love to hate her. In some ways, she’s all weaknesses, depending on how you look at her. She’s got a lot of negative character traits, but put them together and they make her strong, rather than making her weak.

That said, there are some aspects of her personality that directly contribute to her downfall. She’s either incapable or unwilling to form meaningful relationships with people, takes out all her frustrations on her family and friends, and is so deluded that she thinks everyone loves her.

Case in point. (image: tumblr.com)
Case in point. (image: tumblr.com)

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Regina never gets captured or killed in the movie, and remains a direct influence on the plot all the way through. She’s another one of those characters who can generate the plot simply by being who she is – as a spiteful yet inexplicably popular queen bee, the plot could proceed without her intervention as the other characters try to take her down – but this isn’t what happens. Regina doesn’t give up without a fight; she spends most of the movie trying to stop those who would bring her down and pretty much succeeds. The only thing that stops her from influencing the plot is getting hit by a bus, but having your spine broken would do that to most people, so I’m giving her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 8

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

In many ways, Regina George is the typical teenage girl. She’s superficial, she’s shallow, she gossips about her friends, she’s obsessed with looking good and being popular. This comes with a lot of negative connotations: her friendships don’t have any real depth to them and are easily swept aside, she’s unfaithful to her boyfriend (who she doesn’t really care about) and she takes her frustrations out on her family over unimportant things. She’s the archetypal teenage bitch, and the film doesn’t do a lot to dispel that image.

The only thing that prevents Regina from being a complete stereotype is just how far she’s willing to go to achieve her goals. She’s cold, calculating, and more than willing to create utter chaos if she thinks it’s going to benefit her. She has absolutely no empathy for other people and isn’t afraid to be ruthless. She can think on her feet and plan her next move even when she’s so angry she can’t stop screaming. None of these are traits traditionally associated with teenage girls, who are often encouraged to value empathy and other people’s feelings above their own. Regina may have conventional goals for a teenage girl, but she uses unconventional methods to get them. For that, I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 8.5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Regina has a lot of relationships with a range of different female characters, but these all tend to take the same tone. Her mother and younger sister look up to her, as do her two best friends, Karen and Gretchen. She’s dismissive and manipulative towards everyone in her life, to the extent that in some scenes you could swap the characters she interacts with and barely notice the difference. The most interesting relationship she has is with Cady, who eventually usurps her position as ‘queen bee’. They start as friends, then Cady realises how manipulative Regina is, and they develop into rivals – but all the while Cady is becoming more like Regina and starts craving her approval. However, this relationship is pretty one-sided, as all of the intricacy and depth comes from Cady rather than Regina. I’ll give her half a point for quantity, but the quality is lacking.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

 

Regina is a ruthlessly ambitious character who’s firmly in control of her own life, has plenty of weaknesses and drives the plot forward at every turn. She has relationships with a wide range of other female characters, has her own goals, beliefs and hobbies and develops into a much more mature character by the time the film’s over. She may be a stereotypical teenage girl in many respects, but who says that teenage girls can’t be strong?

Next week, I’ll be looking at the Marvel universe and examining the character who first gave me the idea for this blog. Black Widow, I’m coming for you.

 

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

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4 thoughts on “Strong Female Characters: Regina George”

    1. Well, I’m trying to keep this blog focused on how well the characters are constructed from a writing point of view – that way I’ll be able to look at it a bit more objectively, and it’ll also mean that it won’t only be a certain type of character who passes my test. I don’t think Regina is a superficial character – I think she’s been given a lot of development which really offsets the more shallow aspects of her personality.

  1. She’s cruel and manipulative and a bully. You award her points because she’s in control of her own life but in this case it’s all for the wrong reasons, such a nasty twist.
    I thought SFCs would be people we could look up to but Regina’s behavior is for the most part inexcusable and yet she gets a 9?! This just rubs me the wrong way.

    1. I want to look at the widest range of characters possible – and that is going to include some villains in the mix. I’m actually thinking about doing a whole month where I look exclusively at villains, but that’s beside the point.

      My test isn’t an endorsement of any characters’ behaviour – it’s simply a look at how well the characters are constructed from a writing point of view. In my opinion, a Strong Female Character isn’t necessarily someone the readers can look up to – it’s a character that has been fleshed out, a character that develops, a character that has strengths and weaknesses alike. As I’m sure you’ll agree, these aren’t traits that are unique to the characters we look up to.

      You’re right, Regina is cruel, manipulative and a bully – but a lot of time is spent on establishing her character, she has a real impact on the plot and she grows throughout the story – so in that respect, she passes. She’s a well-written character, even if she isn’t always a likeable one.

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