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Mean Girls: Self-perception and Interpersonal Communication

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Interpersonal communication is a dynamic form of communication between two (or more) people in which the messages exchanged significantly influence their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships (McCornack 11). A few concepts of interpersonal communication include the self- concept, self- perception, control, emotion experience, non- verbal communications, verbal communications, passive vs. direct aggression, family relationships, and conflicts. These are many of the few forms of interpersonal communication and there are plenty more. Mean girls is a film about a teenage girl named Cady Heron. She was homeschooled and spent majority of her life growing up in Africa. She is in for a big surprise when she moves the United States and experiences a public school for the first time. The first friends she meets at her new school are considered nerds/geeks. She then becomes friends with the popular group of girls who are known as the “plastics”. She becomes friends with them to get back at them for what they have done to her nerdy friends. After awhile she struggles to manage her two different type of friends until she finds herself losing her real friends by spending too much time with the plastics and becoming one of them.

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There are many different interpersonal situations in this movie and only a few will be discussed in this essay. The aspects that were obvious when watching this movie were non-verbal communication, stereotyping, conflict management, control, interpersonal power, social support, self-perception and passive aggression vs. direct aggression. The first concept that stood out the most in this movie is nonverbal communication. This is the intentional or unintentional transmission of meaning through an individual’s non spoken physical and behavioral cues. (Mccormack 223). The first scene where non-verbal communication was played out is when Cady was invited to a costume party by Aaron. Regina and Aaron had dated before and Regina still had feelings for Aaron so she felt like Cady was a threat to her since her ex-boyfriend invited Cady to the Halloween party. At the party Regina said she would go ask if Aaron like Cady but instead she started making out Aaron him to make Cady jealous. At that moment Cady got the message that Regina was not her real friend and she just stabbed her in the back. Once she saw Regina making out with Aaron that’s when she decided to plot her revenege. This is an example of non-verbal communication because Regina told Cady that their friendship meant nothing to her and she didn’t care about her feeling by making out with Aaron which she knew that Cady liked him but she did it to make her jealous. This is the perfect example because you can show someone how much you do or don’t care about them just by your actions. In this scene she didn’t have to say anything to prove how horrible of a friend she was.

Self-perception was used by the main character in this film which is Cady Haron. Self-perception is how someone views themselves. They see their traits and skills as their own and are unchangeable no matter what the situation may be. That is the first aspect which is called independent self percetption. The second form of self- perception is called interdependent self-perception and this is when one changes their views, thoughts and traits of oneself depending on the situation. In the beginning of the movie Cady had independent self-perception but as time went on she slowly started to posses interdependent self-perception because of who she surrounded herself with made her second guess who she really was. This is what caused her to start acting the way people wanted her to act. She also said things that they wanted to hear. Basically she became deceptive and cunning. It was easy to tell that her personality changed based on the people she was with. When she was around the plastics she started to act like them which is very self-centered and mean. When she was around her family and her nerdy friends she was able to be her normal self. The person she has always been. Throughout the movie she showed different sides of her personality.

Conflict management and responsiveness is another concept seen in the movie of mean girls. Responsiveness is when you react quickly and positively to any given situation. This is a very important aspect towards the people you care about. It is one of the most important part that makes a healthy relationship. It is hard to see this trait in mean girls because the girls in this movie are fake and self-centered. This is why their ‘friendship’ was never a real friendship to begin with and it was destined to end very quickly. Conflict management is a significant aspect not only in the movie but also in real life. This is because everyone will have conflicts and disagreements in every friendship and relationship. It is completely normal to have conflict in a relationship but its all about how you handle the conflict in order to save the relationship with the person you are disagreeing with. The ‘plastics’ in mean girls have poor conflict managements skills and that is why they are always fighting with each other and put their friendships in jeopardy. When Cady gets into a big argument with the ‘plastics’ she then learns who her real friends are and resolves her indifferences with her true friends which are knowns as the geeks and becomes friends with them again at the end of the film.

Another big aspect that was found in mean girls is stereotyping. Stereotyping is a mistake idea or belief many people have about a thing or group of people that is based upon how they look on the outside, which may be untrue or only partly true. Stereotyping is a type of prejudice because what is on the outside is a small part of who a person is. An example of this is when Regina tells Cady that she believes Janis to be a lesbian because she was jealous of her having a boyfriend when they were in 8th grade. She also thought of her as a lesbian because she looks like a goth and shaved her hair. Regina stereotyped Janis based off of her looks and the way she dressed. She also based it off of her behaviors. When in reality she was not a lesbian. Stereotyping and assuming are very similar and when this happens it can be very damaging to a person especially when it is done more than once. People in high school love to make assumptions about other people and they go around spreading rumors about that person when it isn’t even true. This is what happened to Janis. Regina assumed that she was lesbian and went around calling her lesbian she wasn’t even lesbian. This film has a huge about of stereotyping and it makes the unpopular girls seen as unworthy while the popular girls are controlling, mean and backstabbing but the get a lot of good and bad attention. This has become very popular around middle school and high schools in America. Stereotypes are a huge thing around America and the movie mean girls shows just how much it is used.

Acceptance seems to be very important in mean girls because in Cady’s eyes it is very important to be accepted by everyone at school including the plastics. Acceptance is where one feels at home and he or she has been welcomed at a new place, with all of his or her faults. Cady was used to being homeschooled at home without having to worry about other people. So on her first day of school she felt very weird and out of place. The only person who accepted her on her first day was Janis. Other students noticed that she was the new girl and saw her behaving in a weird way. Janis made her feel welcomed by talking to her and even sharing some secrets with her. Cady felt happy to be accepted by someone and kept Janis as a friend even though she eventually became a plastic. Once Cady became friends with the plastics her and Janis stopped being friends because Janis hated to see her turn into one of them. At the end of the movie their friendship was renewed and that’s when Cady realized who her true friends were. She felt bad for the way she treated them. Despite everything she did to them they still accepted her back. This comes to show that when a person has good interpersonal communication skills they are able to be accepted even if they slip and make mistakes. Good and honest friendships are hard to find. Cady found that in Janis and she didn’t want to let that go. The girls in the plastics on the other hand try so hard to be accepted by the leader of the group, Regina George. They bend their back backwards and do anything she tells them to do. She hosts a party at her parents house without their permission just to be accepted by Regina. She even fails a math test just for Regina to think she is cool instead of being some kind of smart nerd who always gets good grades. Some people do whatever they can just to be accepted and the feeling of not being accepted in not a great feeling at all but people have to accept you for who you are because the struggles to be accepted for who you are not can be very damaging. Especially if your in a situation like Cady and have to act and dress a certain way in order to fit in. After everything Cady been through with the plastics she learned that she needed to stop faking who she was and eventually became her real self again. This is a lesson that faking to be someone your not will never work out in your favor and it never lasts.

The last concept I noticed in this movie was power. Power was used by many of the characters. Although it was mostly used by one main character which is Regina George. She loves having power over her friends and everyone around her. The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of other of the course of events. In a group of friends or even just a group of people there is always a leader who is leading the group. In this movie Regina happens to be the leader of the plastics. She makes the girls do whatever she says and they do whatever she says because she has power over them. She makes the rules for their dress code and if one of them does not follow the dress code then they can sit with them at lunch because they disobeyed her orders by not following the dress code. She also has all of the girls constantly in competion with each other just to try and be her favorite. They do whatever it takes to try and be her favorite. When one of them does something that she doesn’t like she starts to talk behind that person’s back and say mean things about them. To avoid that they all try their hardest to be her favorite and to be accepted by her. When a person is so used to having someone tell them what to do all the time they learn how to rely on being contolled and it prevents them from being able to think for themselves. It takes away their independence because they are relying on someone to tell them what to do. When someone knows all of the strong forms of interpersonal communication it will help them stay away from relationships that are dependent on power. These types of relationships are unhealthy and something you want to stay away from.

In conclusion, Mean girls closely relates to how many high school girls behave in todays’s modern day society. This movie gives so many different aspects/forms of interpersonal communication. In the end its all about how a person relates with the other person and other people. Whether that may be verbal or non-verbal communication there is always some form of communication that is happening between humans and we all use communication as a way to survive. The movie mean girls movie portrays the modes of interpersonal communication form the view of mean girls in today’s society or even just mean people in general. The overall moral of the story is to teach people on what to avoid in order to not hurt people. You cant keep friends or people in your life if your going to be a mean person. A lot of people can relate to this movie because they have been that popular mean girl or even that outcast who gets made fun of and bullied. Having good interpersonal communication skills is an important skill to have. Having these skills will help you form connections and establish relationships. It also allows us to influence the behavior, attitudes and opinions of other. It allows for more effective, efficient cooperation=, and can help us forge or maintain a social bond.  

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