‘Mean Girls’ remake clarifies the queer storylines muddled by the original

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the new “Mean Girls” movie. 

The highly anticipated “Mean Girls” remake brings the original story of “the plastics” back to the big screen with the soundtrack of its Broadway run and some significant changes to its cast and storylines. While queen bee Regina George (Renée Rapp) remains a vicious blonde, the supporting cast around her has notably diversified. 

Among the new faces is Auli’i Cravalho, known for her voice role in “Moana,” who plays Janis, a school outcast who befriends new girl Cady (Angourie Rice) as she navigates the social hierarchy of North Shore High. In the original film, Janis (played by Lizzy Caplan) was rumored to be a lesbian and was the target of a homophobic slur, though her sexuality was never clarified. 

In the new adaptation, Cravalho revealed, Janis is a “loud and proud” lesbian. Her character’s last name was also changed from Ian to ‘Imi’ike to correspond with Cravalho’s own native Hawaiian identity. 

Avantika as Karen Shetty, Renee Rapp as Regina George, Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners and Angourie Rice as Cady Heron in "Mean Girls."
Avantika as Karen Shetty, Renee Rapp as Regina George, Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners and Angourie Rice as Cady Heron in “Mean Girls.”Jojo Whilden / Paramount Pictures

“Previously, in our [2004] version, ‘lesbian’ for Janis was used kind of as a slur, and we’re taking that back,” Cravalho recently told ScreenRant. 

While Janis is confident in her identity, her sexuality remains central to her middle school friendship breakup with Regina. Janis’ best friend, Damian (Jaquel Spivey), explains to Cady that she had given Regina a stuffed animal with a Pride pin attached as a way of coming out to her friend. Later, Regina used it to make fun of Janis, who torched the plush over a Bunsen burner during science class, leading to the nickname “pyro-les.” The nickname is used to describe Janis in the infamous “burn book” that Regina and her friends wrote to make fun of other girls at school.

While Regina is not explicitly identified as queer, she is described as having kissed Janis during a game of “Spin the Bottle” and taunting Janis about it later. Rapp, who is a queer woman herself, said in an interview with Them, Conde Nast’s LGBTQ outlet, that she believes Regina is a lesbian, even if “it might not be other people’s” interpretation. In the end credits song, “Not My Fault,” performed by Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion, Rapp sings “Can a gay girl get an amen?” prompting excited reactions and speculation from fans.

Jaquel Spivey as Damian, Angourie Rice as Cady and Auli'i Cravalho as Janis in "Mean Girls."
Jaquel Spivey as Damian, Angourie Rice as Cady and Auli’i Cravalho as Janis in “Mean Girls.”Jojo Whilden / Paramount Pictures

Another prominent queer character in the film is Damian (originally played by out gay actor Daniel Franzese), who delivers some of the most iconic lines in both versions of the film, like, “She doesn’t even go here” and “You go, Glen Coco.” 

“For a long time, Damian was the only plus size queer character that boys like me had,” Spivey said in an interview with Fandango. “Most of the queer men on, you know, film or on stage are very buff … to get to play him, especially as a Black man, was very special.” 

Other new faces in the movie musical include South Asian actor Avantika Vandanapu as Karen, who was originally played by Amanda Seyfried. The beloved character of Kevin Gnapoor also makes an appearance, this time played by Mahi Alam.

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