Whether you call them cliches, tropes, or pop culture stereotypes, we rely on them for literally every piece of media we consume. It could be the jock and cheerleader combo in a high school romance, or a cop-with-questionable-ethics-but-a-heart-of-gold in a crime drama, these characteristics provide some sense of familiarity in a given piece of fiction, from movies, to TV shows, to music videos, books, and everything in-between. Some of these characterizations can get a little old, or they’re low key offensive, and some are so entertaining no matter how many times we’re bombarded with them. A good example of the latter is a key to almost every teen drama or comedy ever: Mean girls.
You know, the popular clique, the queen bee, the group of shallow girls who delight in making the lives of their “lesser” peers a little hellish. Sure, they’re not always The Worst–Cher Horowitz from Clueless fits into the stereotype in almost every way despite having a good heart–but for the most part…they’re not the sort of people you want to be friends with.
It’s hard to find any teen fiction without at least one mean girl, and I’m pretty sure that’s never going to change. But as entertaining as the mean girl trope can be–who doesn’t have love for the Regina George (Mean Girls) or a Courtney Shayne (Jawbreaker)?–they can definitely get so predictable that it’s almost funny. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, check out these nine of the biggest mean girl cliches you see all the time. From the rule that there must be at least one blonde in the mean girl crew, to the ever so common fall from grace, you’re going to find all of these tropes beyond familiar.
There's Always A BlondeI think it's rule number one that a popular girl squad always has to have at least two blondes and at least one brunette. I mean, think about it: Almost every queen bee in TV shows and movies is a blonde. Cher from Clueless? Blonde. Half of the Heathers from Heathers? Blonde. Regina George from Mean Girls? Blonde. Benny from Pretty In Pink? Blonde. Kate from Lizzie McGuire? Blonde. The Pretties from Some Girls? All of them are blonde, likely from the bottle. One of the few exceptions where the head of a mean girl squad wasn't blonde is Jawbreaker, where Courtney was the HBIC and had ultra dark hair. And it's worth pointing out that not a single person in The Fashion Club on Daria were blonde. The more you know! Heathers
Must Wear Mini SkirtsGet real: Have you ever seen a mean girl in the history of pop culture not wear a mini skirt (or dress) at some point? The mini skirt is like the ultimate symbol of the mean girl, the ultimate uniform. Bonus points if it is paired with a crop top and heels. Mean Girls
The Queen Bee Always Creates A Minion, Who Ends Up Overshadowing Her PopularityYou know the drill: The queen bee performs a makeover on a nobody. She's taught how to act, how to dress, and who to date. Then, to the queen bee's chagrin, the former nobody becomes, well, the most monstrous version of a mean girl that one can devise. They straight up create their own Frankenstein's monster. We've seen this in Clueless when Cher's little experiment turns Tai from a sweet grungy girl into a mean prep who mocks Cher's v-card status (and her crap driving skills). It was also a big deal in Jawbreaker, when Courtney confronts Vylette; Courtney doesn't hesitate to remind Vylette that she made her, and she can break her too. Yikes. Clueless
One Of The Mean Girls Always Has A Temporary Fall From Grace And Has To Hang With The 'Normies'This happens all the time, especially in TV shows: Someone in the mean girl crew (maybe it's the ringleader, maybe it's a sidekick) has some sort of fall from grace and her popularity status is temporarily revoked. Out of desperation, she usually ends up befriending our protagonists. Of course, this usually doesn't last long. Maybe they realize that they really have been absolutely awful all along and even see the value of not being an absolute monster. But that's usually right before the popular squad somehow takes them back...and they're back to being The Worst again. Some Girls
There's Always One Mean Girl Who Is More Outspoken Than The OthersThe queen bee usually has a lackey or two, and at some point, one of them realizes that she's been bossed around for too long, and she lets the mean girl really have it...in some way. Some are more passive about it, like Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls. But others like Julie in Jawbreaker really put their social standing on the line to say enough is enough. Jawbreaker
They Always Have Rules That Must Be Adhered To Very StringentlyI remember seeing the mean girls in Wish Upon A Star having a rule against eating tuna, and they all had to shave every single day. Of course, you probably remember that the Plastics in Mean Girls had rules about what to wear. In Clueless, there the only acceptable boys to date belonged to the popular boy crew. So on, so forth. Look, I'm pretty sure that as awful as mean girls can be IRL, nobody has a written list of dos and don'ts. That's just too extra. Wish Upon A Star
They're Almost Always RichSure, there are a few exceptions to this rule (think Mini from Skins who was raised modestly by her single mom), but usually the Queen Bees come from some money. That means they've got the best clothes, shiniest jewelry, the coolest cars (often with an open roof), and the sweetest houses. It's as if poor or middle class mean girls just don't exist in the universe. The Breakfast Club
The Mean Girl Usually 'Gets Her's' At Some PointMaybe at the end of the movie, the mean girl gets in a lot of trouble, or she gets hit by a bus. Maybe in some episode, the mean girl's hair turns green. Either way, the pop culture gods can't just let the mean girl be a total monster without learning some kind of lesson at some point. Jawbreaker
The Mean Girls Are Either Super Biting Or Surprisingly LameThere's really no in-between if you think about it. Some of the meanest girls seem a lot more intimidating when they aren't hurling insults. Maybe this is a way for the audience to feel like the mean girl has less power than we think she does. Lizzie McGuire
What other cliches should be on this list? Do you think any of this is actually a realistic portrayal of mean girls IRL? Tell us in the comments!