The New Mean Girls vs. the Old

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the new Mean Girls movie

Directors Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne knew they were taking on a colossal task by remaking Mean Girls: Not only were they working with the beloved classic 2004 movie, but the Broadway musical as well. They had to take elements from each to create the new, reworked Mean Girls movie musical, written by original screenwriter Tina Fey and in theaters Jan. 12. “As a cynical millennial myself, I know there are gonna be girls asking, ‘Why are they touching my Mean Girls?’ And [recreating Mean Girls] is about understanding that audience,” Jayne tells TIME.

Viewers familiar with the original text will certainly clock several small changes: some iconic Regina George lines were cut, such as “I can’t go to Taco Bell. I’m on an all-carb diet. God, Karen, you are so stupid!” Or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when the new Gretchen Wieners mentions having an abuelito. And Karen gets some fun new lines to add to her ever-expanding well of fantastic one-liners. There were also some more considerable changes. For one, the ending is reworked, and some big numbers from the stage show get cut, including “It Roars” and the Damian-led number “Stop.”

Also noticeably absent from the new movie are jokes from the original that could be seen as offensive, or that poke fun at things that today’s audiences wouldn’t consider acceptable to joke about today. 

“You’re gonna get a different experience with every iteration of this story,” says Jayne. The directing duo knew what they were up against, not only in terms of the passionate Mean Girls fandom, but also with the studio. They had a tight budget, needed to stay within a PG-13 rating, and couldn’t make the film too long despite the musical’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime. (The movie keeps to a swift 1 hour and 52 minutes.) But all of the changes that were made, Perez says, were done with care. “Tina [Fey] is so open to ideas and suggestions, and we all knew that for these characters to be different than the original, they had to be personal.”

Here are all of the major differences between the past iterations of Mean Girls and the new movie—as well as a few key features that remain largely the same across the versions.

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Iconic lines from the original make it into the movie

Those concerned about how closely the new movie hews to the source material can breathe a sigh of relief. If you’re looking for the essence of the original movie, you’ll find it here—which is, perhaps, unsurprising, given that they share a writer. The new movie is steadfast to all of the key original plot points, with very few updates. We get the lines, “On Wednesdays, we wear pink,” “Get in loser,” “Too gay to function,” and “You’re never going to make ‘fetch’ happen.” We get “grool,” the student with “a heavy flow,” and “the limit does not exist.”

But there are few key lines and scenes that are absent or replaced with something else in this new adaptation. After the Burn Book is discovered, Ms. Norbury doesn’t instruct the emergency assembly of junior girls to “Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George.” Instead, she asks a more general version of the question that doesn’t name names—an update which is probably closer to how a real authority figure would behave in such a situation. We also lose the witty banter between her and Principal Duvall at the beginning, where she reveals she got divorced and he says he got carpal tunnel over the summer, although we do get a key development in their relationship: they are now a (secret) couple.

Major songs from the Broadway musical don’t make the cut

There are a few songs from the show that don’t make it in the movie. “It Roars,” “Where Do You Belong?,” “Fearless,” “Stop,” “What’s Wrong With Me? (Reprise),” “Whose House Is This?,” “More Is Better,” and “Do This Thing” do not appear in the film.

“We had a very limited budget, it couldn’t be too long, and there were already 13 songs,” Perez explains. One of the hardest songs to let go was “Stop,” the directors agreed. It’s a tap number that Damian does when Cady looks for advice, contemplating whether or not she should text her crush, Aaron. “With Jaquel [Spivey, who plays Damian in the movie] coming from Broadway, being the vocal powerhouse that he is, he would’ve eaten that song for breakfast, it would’ve been so good,” Jayne says. There were multiple conversations about what to cut and what to keep, and Perez adds that they ultimately had to make some tough choices.

The incorporation of social media

One of the biggest updates to the movie is modernizing the high school environment in which these characters exist, which meant acknowledging the way in which technology has evolved since 2004. The Broadway show incorporated social media as Regina’s mom also tries to be a cool mom by telling her daughter’s friends to follow her on Instagram. The new movie maintains that part, with Mrs. George (Busy Phillips) adding that her handle is “@coolmom with six Os.” 

Another significant change to the script came in the aftermath of the recognizable Christmas-themed talent show number. In the original 2004 movie, the music cuts out, and Cady saves the day by singing the song a cappella. However, in the new movie, Regina attempts an acrobatic move and falls flat on her face. This prompts everyone to take photos, make fun of her, and question her place at the top of the school’s social order. People begin talking about it on social media and it spawns a viral challenge; that’s where we get two fun cameos, and see how social media is an integral part of high schoolers’ social lives.

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The directors wanted the audience to understand what it feels like to be “hit by this waterfall of bullsh-t, coming at you from all different directions at rapid speed” on social media, Jayne tells TIME.

Social media is also incorporated into a scene in which Janis, Damian, and Cady try and fail to take down Regina. In this part, the trio tries to ruin her look by turning on the sprinklers when she’s accepting her award as Homecoming Queen. She gets soaked, but she manages to make a moment out of it, slicking her hair back and rocking the makeup-running-down-her-face look. As Damian puts it, they only made her hotter and revived the wet look. Regina’s look becomes a trend at the school, with students and even a teacher both replicating it in real life and by using filters on TikTok.

“We wanted to talk the way kids talk now,” Jayne says.

The big changes to the end of the movie

In the original movie, everyone gets a reinvention: Regina joins the women’s lacrosse team, Karen becomes a weatherperson (delivering the hilarious line: “There’s a 30% chance that it’s already raining”), and Gretchen joins the Cool Asians clique. At the end of the new movie, we see the characters party together at the Spring Fling dance, but we are not offered these individual notes on each one. We can assume the girls have grown from these experiences because they’re all hanging out and having a good time with their classmates. “Seeing everyone ball out together at Spring Fling and that people are coexisting together gets that point across,” Jayne says. “It’s that same sentiment but told in a different way.”

The New Mean Girls vs. the Old

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