It’s Oct. 3, which means it’s Mean Girls Day!
If you somehow missed on on this cinematic cornerstone of iconic high school comedy, allow me to fill you in. Mean Girls, which came out in 2004, was about a homeschooled girl named Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) and her first year enrolling in North Shore High School at 16 years old. There, she is more or less bombarded by high school cliques—which include teen royalty The Plastics, led by queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and comprised of Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried).
The film was written by Tina Fey, who also played the role of Cady’s math teacher, Ms. Sharon Norbury. It’s filled with memorable one-liners that range from the clever to the ridiculous (“That’s why her hair is so big it’s full of secrets.”)
Oct. 3 is significant because it is one of the first exchanges that Cady has with Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), the cute senior who sits in front of her in math that she falls for almost immediately .
When I first watched this movie, I found it infinitely bizarre. The stereotypes represented seemed too over-the-top, the metaphor-that-became-a-reality between the African safari animals and high schoolers too outlandish. But over the years, the simple brilliance of the movie has kept it fresh and contemporary, even 13 years later.
To celebrate Mean Girls Day, I’ve compiled all of the significant cars in the movie because upon my 183rd viewing last night, I realized how fitting and accurate they all are to the characters.
Cady’s parents, who have just returned from a 12-year research trip as zoologists in Africa, settle down in Evanston, Illinois. Cady mentions that the move was because her mother’s tenure with Northwestern University ran out, which meant that her parents (or, her mother, at least) were academics.
While many peg the Toyota Prius as the early start of the hybrid car movement, the Honda Insight actually beat it to U.S. shores by about seven months, making it the first hybrid car in North America. Worldly, progressive people like Mr. and Mrs. Heron would definitely choose this to be the family vehicle.
The Insight was never as successful as the Prius, which could be another reason why the Herons chose this model instead of the Prius: a used Insight could probably be had in 2004 for a pretty good deal. And also, the two-door aspect of the car is notable: their only daughter is a junior in high school. Before long, she’d be out of the house for college and they just won’t need all that space.
One of the first things you learn about glamorous North Shore High queen bee Regina George is that she has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus. Regina uses it to drive her friends to and from school and the mall.
Junior year in high school is about that time when kids start getting their driver’s licenses. Most are lucky if they get to drive the hand-me-down minivan. Not Regina, though. Shots of her McMansion, which Cady visits after school, is evidence of the fact that the Georges are goddamn loaded. Of course they bought their daughter a flashy Lexus SC 430—which retailed for about $61,000 when new—when she got her license.
Regina is the celebrity of NSH. Which means that she knows much of what she does and says will be talked about. That’s what a showy and expensive Lexus is good for. You drive around in it, ruining peoples’ lives because you’re a life-ruiner and you make sure they see you doing it.
Gretchen Wieners, one of the Plastics, rolls up to Cady’s house for an illicit party in a black, second-generation Cadillac Escalade. Like Regina, she’s totally rich because her dad invented Toaster Strudel. So, of course, this is her personal car as well.
The early 2000s was an interesting time for Cadillac. It was split decisively between the old man-vibe and the hip-hop scene. Arguably, the Escalade was what helped pull Cadillac toward a younger crowd. It’s likely that insecure Gretchen, influenced easily by whatever was trending at the time, decided on an Escalade based on what was on the radio.
And, like Regina, Gretchen wouldn’t have a lowly GMC. Oh, no. It had to be something from the luxury brand: when new, a 2002 Cadillac came to about $48,735.
This is the car that Cady’s real friends, Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese) appear in when they discover that she threw a party for the popular kids and failed to invite them.
With Damian shouting that he has a 1 a.m. curfew, it’s debatable that either the car belongs to him or that he’s borrowing it from his parents. Irregardless, the Ford Taurus will probably go down as one of the most meh rental car-grade cars one could own—and further affirm the socioeconomic differences between the Plastics and everyone else.
Parked outside of Aaron Samuels’ house, this Ford Ranger was most likely his car because no other cars were parked in the driveway, which meant that his parents were not home when he and Cady studied together.
The 1993 Ranger was a no-nonsense utility pickup truck—kind of like Aaron himself. In the film, Aaron was described as only caring about school, his mom and his friends. As a senior, he was a year older than Cady and the Plastics. But he appeared down-to-earth and genuine and nice, just like his old truck.
Regina and Aaron used to date, which made him “off-limits” to Cady because she was friends with Regina. They had broken up once before, but Regina started up the relationship again to make Cady jealous. This whole thing never made sense to me, as Regina doesn’t seem like she’s Aaron’s type at all?
Look, Regina is a mean girl! And all Aaron said to justify it was, “Look, there’s good and bad to everybody, right? She’s just more up-front about it.”
I mean, sure?
This Windstar minivan, driven by Cady’s NSH mathletes classmate Tim Pak (Wai Choy), is the team’s ride to the Illinois High School Mathletes State Championship. Blue-green in color, this was definitely a family car/hand-me-down from a decade ago, but excellent for driving your math friends to a math competition in!
Regina’s mother and self-proclaimed “Cool Mom,” Mrs. George (Amy Poehler), has a red BMW X5 (which you can catch another glimpse of here). Mrs. George seems like a mom who believes in letting her kids do whatever they want.
She’s loaded, too, so no doubt the BMW SUV was chosen to fit that image.
The chariot of math teacher Ms. Norbury, who serves as the mature voice of reason in the film, is a gunmetal gray Firebird. Ms. Norbury calls herself “a pusher”: one who pushes people to do their best: People like her ex-husband through law school (which was a bust) and Cady through her on-purpose bad grades.
Ms. Norbury is a financial tight spot from getting divorced the summer before Cady started at NSH and she tries to make ends meet by working as bartender at a place called TJ Calamity’s a couple nights a week. She’s smart and tough and driving an ‘80s muscle car like that is just perfect.
Yes, its image now is that of inexpensive blue-collar speed, but it’s something you definitely don’t expect a high school calculus teacher to drive. It implies that she has a fun side outside of work and school—because seeing a teacher out in public is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.
The good ol’, classic school bus. Used in Mean Girls not as a mode of transportation but as a breaking point (literally, Regina broke her spine after she got hit by a bus) of the school’s clique hysteria. The bus hitting someone is foreshadowed very early on, right before Cady’s first day at NSH where she almost gets hit by it herself.
After Regina gets hit by the bus, Cady realizes that the cliques have gotten out of hand and tries to resolve the problems that she helped create. And by the film’s end, Regina’s spine heals, the Plastics break up and Cady gets her guy.
All is well.