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Janis Ian, the Fourth Mean Girl

Updated on April 27, 2020
Santi Salinas profile image

Santiago Salinas is a student at The College of New Jersey pursuing a degree in Public Health, Psychology and Social Justice.

Mean Girls Summary

Mean Girls is classic film that was released in 2004. It was written by the talented and hilarious Tina Fey. Mean Girls is a story about a girl named Cady Heron who transfers to North Shore High School after being home-schooled by her mother in Africa. There she befriends Janis Ian and her sidekick Damien. The two help Cady adjust to her new life as a high school student by teaching her who to associate with and who to avoid. Cady eventually learns that she must, at all times, steer clear of the Plastics. The Plastics are a trio composed of these ladies. Karen Smith, one of the dumbest girls you will ever meet. Gretchen Wieners, the daughter of the inventor of toaster strudels. And the worst, Regina George. According to Janis, Regina is the meanest of the three and the most popular. At first it is unclear why Janis dislikes Regina, but it would be revealed later in the movie.

After a chance encounter with the Plastics in the cafeteria, Regina invites Cady to join them as part of the group. This gives Janis the perfect opportunity to ruin Regina's life in a cruel yet hilarious way. At first, Cady is reluctant as Regina had never done anything wrong to her. However, she quickly agrees to the sabotage when Regina steals Aaron Samuels, Cady's crush in her calculus class and Regina's ex-boyfriend.

The rest of the film goes into how Cady ruins Regina's life by getting Aaron to break up with her, turning her own friends against her, and ruining her perfect figure. Eventually, Cady ultimately replaces Regina as the most popular girl in North Shore in the climax of the film which does not sit well with Janis. Janis accuses Cady of becoming Plastic and ditching her as a friend. Eventually, everyone turns against Cady because of her supposed creation of the iconic Burn Book, a book that has pictures of girls from the yearbook with embarrassing secrets about them.

Towards the end of the film, Cady is redeemed by her friends, Aaron and her math teacher Ms. Norbury. The film ends with Cady commenting on how "Girl World" was finally at peace, with the Plastics going their separate ways and Cady enjoying her new high school life.

While this is a good end to the film, I couldn't but wonder about Janis. Janis complains a lot about Regina because of how awful she is. However, if you watch the film with enough attention, you'll notice that Janis is just as mean as Regina and does not deserve her happy ending at the end because of her treatment towards Cady, Damien, and even Regina.

Janis Ian and Regina George are Twins

Mean Girls makes it obvious that Regina George is the villain. She's vicious, manipulative, and just down right mean. We see it in her treatment to everyone around her. First with her friends, Karen and Gretchen. Gretchen wants to be Regina's favorite and will stop at nothing to get her approval. Regina constantly puts down Gretchen's bright attitude as a reminder that she is the queen of the group. One example that everyone has seen is Gretchen's attempt to create a new slang word, "FETCH!" Regina constantly tells Gretchen that it's never going to catch on and Gretchen listens to her all the time and steps down to remain beneath Regina. With Karen, Regina constantly reminds her of how idiotic she can be. In the iconic phone scene, she talks about Karen behind her back calling her a slut. Regina is always ready to remind her friends and those around her that she is the queen bee and all must fall prey to her. Even though movie viewers see Janis as the hero to take down Regina through Cady, we tend to overlook that Janis is just like Regina.

Janis constantly criticizes Regina for how she acts towards others and how she presents herself to the world. She constantly calls her evil, manipulative, and cruel. However, Janis can be just as mean. In the beginning of the film when we are introduced to Janis, she is very mean to Cady. When she and Damien see Cady struggling on her first day, they join the crowd in laughing at her misfortunes and even give her a look that makes her feel unwelcome. It isn't until the second day that Janis befriends Cady, even then she preys on her vulnerability. An example is when she leads Cady away from her class in her way of getting her to cut a class. This manipulation only gets worse when Cady is invited to sit with the Plastics and Janis immediately hops on the opportunity to plot her revenge against Regina. Janis indirectly turns Cady into one of the Plastics regardless of Cady's protests to do so saying that Regina is not that bad. Janis then manipulates Cady to join her, just like Regina manipulates everyone around her to be able to maintain her social status. Like Regina, Janis constantly reminds Cady and at times Damien, that she is the one in charge and not to be challenged. Janis and Regina may as well have the same mother.

The Plastics walking around the mall with the most sass.
The Plastics walking around the mall with the most sass. | Source

Janis's Treatment of Cady

Janis is Cady's supposed friend. However, that is far from the truth. The only thing that bonds Cady to Janis is Regina. Both of them despise Regina and eventually that is all that connects them. It really forces the viewers of the movie to wonder, are Janis and Cady really friends?

Janis constantly picks on the Plastics because of the facade they put up, which is true. However, Janis does not seem to pick up on her own character flaws. One major one that is seen throughout the movie is how she treats Cady. From the beginning, Janis makes it clear to Cady that she is the new kid on the block and has a lot to learn. She takes it upon herself to teach Cady about the social hiearchy of her new school. This quickly puts Cady under Janis because she is her "mentor". While this may seem like Janis attempting to befriend Cady, it is actually an excuse for Janis to hate on every one of the school's groups. This can be scene when Janis gives Cady a map of the school saying that she and Damien are the greatest people Cady will ever meet. This line has a similar tone to Regina's overall narcissistic personality. The viewers often miss this fact about Janis, that she is a self-centered person only concerned with what she wants. She was even offended when Cady lied to her when she said that Janis was not in the Burn Book. It puts into focus the entire reason why Janis wanted to be so close with Cady in the first place, because Cady was in with the Plastics the moment they saw her. Janis doesn't even pronounce Cady's name the right way at all during the film. Janis then begins to treat Cady a lot worse than she did when they first met.

When Cady slowly becomes one of the Plastics, Janis does not hold back about making Cady feel bad about it. When she smells Cady wearing Regina's perfume, she quickly comments about how she smells like a "baby prostitute". When I saw this, I wondered to myself, why would Cady put up with a comment like that? True, Cady was home-schooled and most likely did socialize with other teenage girls, but even she should pick up on the mean comment. Another moment is when Janis seems to shame Cady for only wanting to talk about Regina, completely disregarding the fact that all she wanted to talk about was Regina. Finally, the worst moment in the film is when Janis outs Cady in front of the entire school saying that she was making Regina's life miserable. Even though in this moment Janis does take responsibility for her actions, she puts the blame on Cady more making it seem like she was the mastermind behind the entire thing. One thing that I cannot understand is, why is Janis so incapable of self-reflection?

Janis is quick to judge the Plastics making herself seem better
Janis is quick to judge the Plastics making herself seem better | Source

Does Janis Ian Deserve her Happy Ending?

Watching Mean Girls I began to wonder one thing, does Janis Ian deserve her happy ending? I mean, during the film everyone got a redemption arc of some sort. Regina got her redemption arc by dropping the queen bee act and being nicer to other girls by joining sports and stopped the spreading of rumors. Gretchen got her redemption arc when she stopped being a follower and became a leader in her own group, which was symbolized by her hoop earrings. Karen got her redemption arc by joining the schools news club and making her life activities more productive. The biggest redemption arc, however, is Cady's. Cady took it upon herself to come out as the author of the Burn Book in order to put an end to the suffering it was causing people. She also took it upon herself to apologize for what she had done to Regina in the director's cut of the film. And finally, Cady broke the plastic crown to symbolize that cliques are pointless and fragile saying that she does not want to have a piece of plastic, she would rather be a normal girl. Even though we see the antagonists and protagonist get their redemption, where does that leave Janis?

True that Janis is not the actual villain in the story, but that does not meant that she did not have her antagonist moments in the film. Janis made it clear that she was in a clear dislike to the Plastics and anyone who was in a clique. However, what the movie doesn't really explore is that Janis was actually a hater to the social world. She did not like the cliques that exists in her high school, especially the Plastics. The movie, however, does not aim to explore why Janis seems to hate social groups in general. It could be that she secretly desires to be part of a group or she just seems to dislike people who act the same as each other. Whatever the reason, Janis seems to not like the fact that cliques exist. Her character flaw is never really explored and she never seems to struggle with it at any point in the movie unlike Cady when she struggles with finding a balance with being popular and being a normal girl. In addition, unlike the other characters in the movie, Janis does not have any kind of redemption nor does she feel the need to say she's sorry for what she has done to Regina and the Plastics. In the end, she finds herself with a boyfriend and a new friendship with Cady while seemingly not being a villain at all. However, this seems to validate her behavior throughout the film. This type of ending just states that you can be against the mean girls in life and not be sorry for what you did to them and you'll have this kind of ending in life. Janis Ian, in my opinion at least, does not deserve her happy ending.

© 2020 Santiago Salinas


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