The new Mean Girls movie is proof of the gaping chasm between teenagers then and now

If you’re reading this, it’s too late: 20 years of Mean Girls has flown by and any semblance of our youth has gone with it. The film, created by and starring Tina Fey alongside a young Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Lizzy Caplan, set the tone of an entire generation. More importantly, my generation, one which would forever associate Wednesdays with pink and acknowledge 3 October as a national holiday.

Why? Because despite the glaring differences between the fictional pupils of North Shore (sports cars, red cups, sex education) and us (Dream Matte Mousse, WKD, Nuts magazine), Fey managed to capture the car crash that is the teen experience with the piercing precision of Boris Johnson’s little swimmers. What’s more, she made it entertaining. To us, Mean Girls was the Y2K equivalent of the mini skirt or Rebel Without a Cause, changing the way we spoke, socialised and saw the world forever.

Now, to celebrate the anniversary Fey has concocted a musical remake of the original, which the trailer claims is ‘Not your mother’s Mean Girls’ (as someone who can barely keep hold of a pen, I find this incredibly rude). This version, starring Angourie Rice as Cady and Reneé Rapp as Regina, alongside Fey in her original role, however, is far from the pre-iPhone, pre-Instagram version we know and love. Instead, it’s been Gen Z-ified with a dose of the digital age, showcasing both the brilliance and baggage that comes with it.

Does it satiate millennial fans’ desire for a sequel? No. Is its target audience enjoying it as much as we did the first? Also no. But – spoiler alert – what it does do is emphasise the gaping chasm that separates the teenage experience of the original Mean Girls fans (me, and likely you) and Fey’s new, much younger target audience (them).

And, honestly? As someone who still believes it’s 2011 somewhere, it’s pretty frightening. Because, to state the obvious, the internet really has changed everything. While yes, being between the ages of 13 and 19 has always been a horrific experience (thanks, puberty), the youths of today (urgh) have devices in their back pockets primed to exacerbate their every emotion. With access to everything and everyone faster than you can ask "is butter a carb?", there’s no room for error.

We, with our foundation lines, Jane Norman carrier bags and flimsy human memories, were sheltered. Obsessed with a boy? In 2004 we had a three-hour window to change our status on MSN Messenger to the lyrics of Mr Brightside; they can post selfie after selfie at any time of day in the hope of a reaction. Let one off in biology class? Then, 30 people giggled for a week; now, a stranger in Antarctica is roasting you because it was captured on TikTok.

Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert and Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls (Shutterstock)
Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert and Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls (Shutterstock)

Can’t dance? We could hide behind big fish, little fish, cardboard box; they’ve got TikTok routines to master just to fit in. Got body dysmorphia? We can blame Tyra Banks and Tumblr, they can thank a constant stream of bikini selfies and bum implants. Jealous of a girl’s Bang on the Door pencil case? We’d forget about it; they’ve got targeted ads reminding them they need North West’s new line of slogan tees every waking moment.

Alright, so there are some good bits about being a teenager today. Access to a never-ending supply of people and information means that anyone can be your pen pal. You’ll always be able to find another person who thinks Timothée Chalamet’s elbows are his best feature, and you don’t have to trek to Woolworths to listen to Kylie’s new album.

Now, we have body positivity, better inclusivity and all-round increased self-awareness. But therein also lies the problem: today, teenagers would never make the mistake of thinking Crazy Frog was cool, and I wouldn’t erase that part of my experience for the world. But would I take back the incident in Biology? Most definitely.

Mean Girls is in cinemas now