Mean Girls = Math Fun

My fetch dress for school this past Wednesday, which coincided with October 3rd*.

I’ll admit it. I’m well over a decade late to this party.  Mean Girls (the movie) came out in April 2004.  At that time I was chasing around a toddler and never sat down for about five years.  The we had another kid and same thing — running after him too.  It was good on the waistline but created a non-removable discontinuity in the “movies I’ve seen” list.  Fast forward to May 2018, and my 2004 toddler, now teenager, commands me to not only sit and watch the movie, but also listen to the musical (October 2017 premier) soundtrack.

I really didn’t have a clue how great the movie was or how much I would love it else I would have watched it sooner (maybe?).  It’s not just that it’s the perfect intersection of calculus and high school, which I have been living and breathing for over 25 years now, but it is also an homage to John Hughes “Welcome to North Shore High,” à la Saturday Night Live.  Both Hughes films and SNL were a big part of my 1980s high school and college days.  Tina Fey even plays the part of the calculus teacher.  Naturally I knew the part in the movie about “The Limit Does Not Exist” because my students would always say, “You mean that’s really a thing?” when I taught limits.  But that was all I knew.

What’s the arc of the story?  The protagonist, Cady, is fresh out of homeschool and new to town.  She gets into the Mean Girls clique and simultaneously develops a crush on Aaron, a boy in her calculus class (calculust).  Cady doesn’t realize that the boy is the Queen Mean Girl’s old flame.  Cady, with the help of a few other fringe friends, must both outsmart Regina George (I just love that name for the Queen of the Mean Girls) and dumb herself down for Aaron to be attracted to her.

I have not seen the musical yet, but I know every song by heart.  “Stupid with Love” is one of my favorites.  It takes place in calculus class when Cady realizes what she needs to do to win Aaron.  She is smart with math but stupid with love — and she decides she needs to invert this.  Smart with love and stupid with math!  Yes!  That will work!  But of course this brilliant scheme backfires because to get the guy you don’t have to act dumb at all.  You just have to be yourself.

In the end, Cady abandons the clique, joins the mathletes (sponsored by no one) for their state level competition, and wins in the sudden death round.  Aaron tells her he likes her for who she was not for who she was trying to be.  And everyone goes into senior year pretty much repaired.  In a wonderfully periodic fashion, the movie’s last scene involves a new crop of young mean girls, and we all know how that story will go.

Tina Fey and Mean Girls basically got snubbed at the 2018 Tony Awards, because though they were nominated for a cart load, they won cosine(pi/2).  VERY MEAN! When I think of how Tina Fey must have felt at the Tony Awards — just like Gretchen Weiners when she didn’t get a candy cane gram and Cady and Glen Coco did — it is soul crushing. The silver lining is that you can purchase tickets for a fraction of the Hamilton ticket price!  Maybe we’ll get to see it in December.

*From the photo caption:

fetch – cool (from ‘fetching’, I assume)

on Wednesdays we wear pink – what the mean girls wear every Wednesday.

October 3rd – Cady’s new favorite day because it’s the day Aaron asked her what day it was.  Kind of like May 4th becoming Star Wars Day, October 3rd has become Mean Girls Day.