Saturday, June 22, 2024

Unbreakable MEAN GIRLS: A Study of Tina Fey’s Portrayal of (Self) Sexualized Teens (Part 1)

Before Tina Fey created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Mr. Mayor and wrote the Mean Girls oeuvre, she was a cast member and writer for Saturday Night Live. A study of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Mean Girls, and Mr. Mayor revealed that Fey's works included a number of portrayals of self-sexualized teens. In other words, Fey's teens freely and openly engaged in alluring sexual activity. For example, 16-year-old Karen of Mean Girls had consensual sex with eleven different partners. When Karen was 13, she sexted nudes to a boy, which were posted on And Karen wore skirts that barely covered her "perky" heinie. What follows is a study of Fey's portrayal of self-sexualized teens. 

In 2021, a Gen Z-er, with whom I share a common sense of humor, suggested that I watch Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015). Here’s James Hake’s IMDB storyline of the comedy series:

After being rescued from an underground bunker in which she lived the past fifteen years, Kimmy Schmidt decides to move to New York City to have a normal life. She makes friends with her new roommate Titus, and works as a babysitter for Jacqueline Voorhees, the wife of a billionaire with many issues. Even though many obstacles are thrown her way, Kimmy makes the best of her new life while adapting to the new world around her.

On the second episode of the premiere season, "Kimmy Gets a Job!" (2015), which was co-written by Fey, 15-year-old Xanthippe Voorhees and Simone, Xanthippe's bestie, were playing "vodka shotzee" when Simone, a modelesque (honey) blond, got alcohol poisoning. 

Xanthippe warned that they couldn't have Simone's stomach pumped at the hospital, because Simone's dad was running for Congress. Consequently. Kimmy made a vomit inducing concoction, but she advised Simone to see a doctor to which Xanthippe replied, "Her boyfriend's an ophthalmologist, but he's on vacation with his wife." That’s correct. Simone, who streamers could confidently infer was 15 too, had a boyfriend who was a married ophthalmologist!

Later in the episode, Simone shared, "You guys, I was showering [post sex] with Dr. Jerry, and he told me he hates his wife,” to which Xanthippe exclaimed, "You're so lucky!"

Not to be outdone, Xanthippe shared, to Kimmy's utter surprise, that she had sex with a blond surfer on a California beach while visiting her grandparents to which Simone related, "I have sex when I visit my grandparents too." However, Xanthippe and Simone did not clarify if they were having age-gap (outdoor) sex while visiting their grandparents. 

On “Kimmy's in a Love Triangle!” (season 01 episode 10), which was co-written by Fey, Xanthippe was informed that, due to an impending divorce, she had to move back to Connecticut with her birth mother since Jacqueline was her step-mother. Consequently, Xanthippe pleaded with Kimmy to help her find a way to remain in New York City. Xanthippe said that her entire life would be taken away by moving to Connecticut. For example, she would lose her school and friends. And she would lose her dad’s friend whom gave her jewelry in exchange for her old retainers. Xanthippe implored, "Imagine you're 15. One day your whole life gets taken from you. Your school. Your friends. Your dad's friend who buys you jewelry when you send him your old retainers."  

And later in the episode, Xanthippe shared that she “made out with Cheshire a couple times” but then she suddenly came to the realization that Cheshire was using her to conceal his incestuous relationship. Xanthippe, “Oh, my God. He doesn’t like me. He’s just using me so his parents don’t find out he’s hooking up with his sister.”

About a year after I streamed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmid, I read Jake Viswanath’s post on Bustle: "Amanda Seyfried Reflects On Mean Girls [2004] & 'Gross' Remarks That Men Made After It" (May 11, 2022) For some context, in the film, that was co-written by Fey, 16-year-old Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) could tell when it was going to rain due to a feeling in her fountains.

While squeezing her teen breasts, Karen shared with Cady, "My breasts can always tell when it's gonna rain." Consequently, Karen was given the role of North Shore High School’s weatherwoman, and she reported, "Hi. This is Karen Smith. It's 68 degrees." And as she massaged her right and then left breast, she reported, "And there's a 30 percent chance that it's already raining."

Viswanath wrote that Seyfried said that some male fans took the joke that Fey wrote "too far in real life" and that some fans “crossed a line into catcalling”. (Note that Seyfried implied that if she were not a nymphet, the catcalling would not have been gross.) Viswanath wrote:

Karen Smith from Mean Girls is a bonafide meteorologist icon, but sometimes, fans took the joke too far in real life. Amanda Seyfried, who played Karen, just revealed how male fans would often ask her if it was raining after the premiere of Mean Girls in 2004 [...] Fans’ references to the joke often crossed a line into catcalling, especially given Seyfried’s age at the time. “I always felt really grossed out by that,” Seyfried told Marie Claire in an interview published on May 11. “I was, like, 18 years old. It was just gross.”

However, Seyfried had nothing but nice words to say about Mark Waters, whom directed Seyfried to massage her teen breasts, and Tina Fey, whom wrote Seyfried's lascivious lines. Seyfried said that Waters made her "look good", she said that Fey "[...] wrote the coolest script of all time.", and she referred to her performance in the film as her “best work”. Viswanath wrote:

Despite the gross comments she received, Seyfried has only positive memories from filming Mean Girls, the movie that put her on the map, even calling it her “best work” in 2013 [...] it was written so well and so wonderfully directed. Mark Waters (the director) made me look good, he made me funny. And Tina Fey wrote the coolest script of all time. I’m so grateful for every experience.”

But it wasn’t until I saw the trailer on YouTube for Mean Girls (2018), the Broadway musical, that I began to see a pattern in Fey's writing and the portrayal of a self-sexualized teen. In the trailer for the musical, which Fey wrote the book for, Karen opened her jacket in the high school's cafeteria and jumped up and down in a suggestive manner, which drew the attention of the potential theatergoers to her bouncing teen breasts.

Thus, intrigued by Fey’s work, I decided to view the Broadway musical and read Fey's libretto, which were based on the 2004 film. I streamed Mean Girls (2004). And I watched Mean Girls (2024) - a film that was, of course, co-written by Fey and based on Fey’s Broadway musical. Below, before discussing Fey’s Mr. Mayor (2021), I profiled Karen and Regina. And I covered a number of motifs of the theme of self-sexualized teens such as teens in age-gap relationships, teen Girls Gone Wild, and what I refer to as teen lipstick lesbianism (i.e., seemingly heterosexual teens participating in girl-on-girl sexual situations).

Unbreakable MEAN GIRLS: A Study of Tina Fey’s Portrayal of (Self) Sexualized Teens (Part 2 and Part 3)

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