Mean Girls — the quintessential gem of the 2000s cinematic era, bestowed upon us an immortal tapestry of unforgettable lines, a plethora of Halloween costumes that have transcended mere fashion, and, not to forget, the iconic ‘Mean Girls Day’. Two decades since its debut, with a fervent following akin to a cultural rhapsody, it was but inevitable that this cinematic marvel would come alive on screen again, either through a remake or a dazzling adaptation for the stage.
“Mean Girls: The Musical” opened in theatres back in 2017, moved to Broadway in 2018, and is set to come to London’s West End in 2024. Following the play's success, it was announced that this theatrical rendition would be adapted into a film for release in January 2024.
Apart from Angourie Rice, Busy Phillips and a small role played by the original Cady Heron, Lindsay Lohan, the cast includes Renne Rapp, who played Regina George on Broadway from 2019 to 2020.
In the wake of Rapp’s stellar performances as Regina — seamlessly capturing the essence of the character — a disconcerting narrative has unfolded. She opened up about the body shaming she endured and the personal struggle with an eating disorder that paralleled her time on stage as Regina. Unfortunately, the online sphere has not been a sanctuary from scrutiny — as many individuals feel compelled to dissect and comment on Rapp’s physique, questioning its alignment with societal expectations for the role. The dichotomy — where triumph meets unwarranted critique — underscores the complex interplay between talent, personal challenges, and the persistent societal fixation on physical appearance within the realm of theatrical performance.
Commenters have taken to social media to voice how Renne is supposedly “too fat” for the role of Regina George — pointing out the idea that the character, originally played by Rachel McAdams in the 2004 film, is smaller than Rapp’s very average and healthy-looking physique.
The 24-year-old singer and actress has long been subjected to cruel comments about her body — with many even coming from the production crew working on the stage musical of Mean Girls. But she and others have responded to these comments with the same sentiment: Renne is not fat, she's just not the same size as the majority of women in Hollywood.
In 2024, a chorus of women and devoted fans passionately advocated against body-centric commentary — particularly when steeped in negativity. They emphasised the need for a societal shift away from scrutinising others’ bodies. In response to the perplexing criticism aimed at Renne, many expressed bewilderment — highlighting the irony of labelling her as “fat” while she effortlessly fits into straight-sized clothing and maintains an indisputably average and healthy physique.
While the display of solidarity among women is heartening, it calls for attention on the disconcerting trend of subjecting celebrities to unwarranted scrutiny regarding their weight, size, or body type. The overshadowing of aspects like the singer’s remarkable vocal performance and acting prowess in the film by a discourse fixated on physical appearance signals the need to shift the narrative towards recognising and meriting talent beyond the superficial.
It seems, as a society, that we struggle to see these characters we love played by those not fitting into the stereotypical ideal body type, despite it having very little to do with the requirements of the role. We are happy to see curvier women in Hollywood and on our screens, but only when they play a character who acknowledges her weight or fuller figure. Regina — originally played by the slim and small Rachel McAdams — was never really supposed to be incredibly slim and is just defined by her ‘hot body’, which Rapp still sports in a slightly curvier version.
But beyond individual bodies, the discourse around women's figures is still incredibly damaging. The internet continues to be rife with weight loss inspiration, stars are still accused of looking pregnant the second they don’t have washboard abs, and we still exist in a world where the mum bod is something to exercise away, and the dad bod is considered attractive. Women, Hollywood stars, and the average individual get picked apart and ridiculed for their bodies every day. We are pushed to exist in smaller bodies and told our natural figures are not acceptable.
The National Eating Disorder Association states that in the United States, 20 million women will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. And yet, trolls, magazines, kith and kin, and diverse pop culture elements will throw cruel and unnecessary comments on the weight, size or figure of a woman. Spend a few minutes on social media and you will find re-touched images, body shaming episodes, and generally accepted conversation around disordered eating, showing women consuming the amount of calories suitable for a toddler and promoting this to other women.
This normalisation of crash diets and conventional discourse surrounding bodies impacts our own ideas about our bodies. Cliona Byrne, a body confidence coach, calls this “body image culture” and stresses, “It's the conversations our loved ones have about bodies…how they discuss the bodies of others, that is negative”. She points out how this culture is then just reinforced, normalised, and internalised when we see our loved ones comment on or disdain a celebrity's body — whether in person or behind the anonymity of a keyboard and computer screen.
We are accustomed to seeing small, thin, chiselled bodies everywhere we turn. Social media is flocked with heavily filtered images that hide away blemishes, scars, pimples, and every other intruder in the vicious cycle of adhering to unrealistic beauty standards. Even the runways — which parade as hotbeds for the democratisation of the definition of beauty by featuring under-represented bodies — perpetually normalise and glorify unattainable figures.
The depiction of Regina George’s physique in the narrative remains deliberately ambiguous, with no explicit mention of a model-like figure or adherence to specific dress sizes prevalent in classic fashion campaigns. The crux of the matter does not hinge on moulding her character to fit predetermined physical standards. Rather, it centres on the skilful portrayal that brings the character to life. Her size, proportions, and body have no impact on how exemplary a job she delivers as Regina George, so shouldn’t we stop fixating on it?
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