Shouted by the “too gay to function” Damian (played by Daniel Franzese) in what is supposed to be an intimate moment of truth and reconciliation between the high school’s female students, it remains one of the most frequently quoted lines in a movie that is perhaps more frequently quoted than any other from the past 20 years. What’s more, is it’s hard to hear or say the line without invoking the precise delivery of Franzese himself.
Adapted from the non-fiction book Queen Bees And Wannabes by then Saturday Night Live (1975–present) cast member and writer Tina Fey, part of Mean Girls lasting appeal was the clever screenplay. Namely, Fey’s injection of sketch comedy tools into the story’s overall narrative helped elevate scenes that might have otherwise become heady, just like this one. As the scene of ‘sharing and caring’ rises to a crescendo with the character known only as Crying Girl (Jill Morrison) talking about how she wishes “she could bake a cake out rainbow and smiles and we’d all eat it and be happy”, Damian’s holler from the back of the hall where he’s disguised in a hoodie and sunglasses undercuts the moment with humour. It’s a needle scratch, giving the viewers a reprieve as they let off tension with a laugh and a chuckle.
It’s also one of the few jokes in the film that isn’t situational (something that has been built, up like the school talent show or the “fetch” saga), character-based (Karen’s lack of intelligence) or slapstick (Cady falling into the bin, Ms Norbury’s undershirt getting stuck to her sweater etc.). It’s a line that could have been said by anyone, in truth, yet the fact that it’s said by Damian – who himself shouldn’t be there – gives it that added oomph, along with the cutaway to his semi-hidden face. In the years since Mean Girls went on to become an international box-office hit with a $130M haul on a $17M budget, it’s this line and this scene that has been turned into more t-shirts, mugs, wall posters, fan Tumblrs, TikToks, every form of Mean Girls physical and digital memorabilia than any other from the teen comedy.
– Maria Lewis
This essay was written for Edit Line
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