In life, interpersonal communication is happening all around us. In high school, it is unavoidable. Whether walking the hallways or sitting in classrooms, people are constantly communicating with each other. Nowhere are interpersonal relationship concepts more apparent then the movie Mean Girls. This film shows countless examples of interpersonal conflicts and clearly displays forcing, gunny sacking and spirals within interpersonal relationships.
Mean Girls tells the story of Cady Heron, a previously home schooled girl thrown into high school in suburban Illinois. Right away she is shown the pecking order that makes up the different cliques in high school, the jocks, the stoners, the art freaks and the most popular girls in school, known as the The Plastics. Cady is befriended by two outcasts who warn her about the three popular girls led by Regina George.
The Plastics end up inviting Cady in to their group and soon she realizes that beneath their pretty faces and expensive clothes, these girls are manipulative and cutthroat. When Cady develops a crush on Regina’s ex boyfriend Aaron, she un-knowingly violates girl code and Cady and Regina use shady and devious means to get back at each other. The film follows Cady’s relationship with the Plastics, Aaron, and her two friends that warned her about Regina and her band of bimbos.
One of the very important interpersonal skills that people develop is how to manage interpersonal conflict. Conflict is when two people have incompatible goals, for example, Cady develops a crush on Aaron Samuels but once Regina finds out she decides she still wants to be with him. Regina says she will help Cady get Aaron to like her back and Cady can’t believe all the terrible things she’s heard about Regina could be true. Instead, Regina kisses Aaron and begins dating him again, which all happened as Cady watched in horror from across the room. Regina’s behavior is forcing, another concept, which means she put aside Cadys needs in order to fulfill her own. Cady is drawn into Regina’s games, which causes their relationship to take another bad turn.
A spiral is what happens when the behavior of one person escalates that of another. When Cady begins to like Aaron, it causes Regina to retaliate and show her “one up role” by kissing him in front of her. The “one up role” means that Regina has shown her dominance over Cady. Once Cady realizes she can’t openly confront Regina, she uses equally devious means of exacting revenge. Cady and her two friends Janice and Damien come up with a 3 step plan to ruin Regina George. First they plan to deprive Regina of her “Army of Skanks” aka Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith, the other two girls in the Plastics. Next they sabotage her “Hot Body” by giving her Kalteen bars, a bar used to help people gain weight for sports. Lastly they want to cause Regina to lose Aaron Samuels, and to that end, Cady tells him about Regina’s affair with Shane Omen.
While Regina and Cady’s behavior is spiraling out of control, Cady is also changing, and for the worse. In the beginning of the film, Cady’s math prowess is recognized and so the head of the Mathletes asks her about joining the team. Instead of telling him she is not interested, Cady just keeps avoiding him. She also begins to fail her math tests in order to get Aaron to talk to her and has to avoid her teacher, Mrs. Norbury, who knows Cady can do better. Avoiding conflict or postponing it is known as gunny sacking, and it’s exactly how Cady is choosing to deal with these conflicts, or rather not deal with them.
Mean Girls may just be another high school comedy, but its remarks on the petty and sometimes downright terrible ways we choose to interact with others really resonates with the interpersonal concepts found in this course. From spirals to forcing, Regina and Cady’s relationship is rife with conflict. This movie is not only a great example of these, but also a comment on the ways we treat our interpersonal relationships and the people in them.