Back in the 90’s, Cher ruled the Mall with her crew, Dionne and Tai; in the 00’s it was all about Queen Bee Regina and the plastics. ‘Mean Girls’ was released back in 2003 and was based on a book by Rosalind Wiseman called ‘Queen Bees and Wannabes’. Both movies are similar in their themes, but Cher seemed to be a slightly more benevolent overlord than the catty Regina, who has few redeeming features. That being said, one thing has stayed very much the same in the decade which separates the two films - the Mall is still the place to be. For the plastics, it had to be Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois.
Cady (Lindsay Lohan) grew up in ‘Africa’ (they are no more specific than that!), where her parents worked as research Zoologists. When her mom gets offered a tenured position at an American University, they all move back to the United States. This means that Cady must return to a High School after years of home-schooling. Unfortunately, she soon finds out that the African bush has nothing on the crazed animals to be found at a School campus. Not only are the various tribes of kids a nightmare, but she is also bombarded by rules and regulations set by untrusting, miserable teachers.
The exterior of the Mall is never seen in the actual film, but a deleted scene shows the outside of the Old Orchard Mall in Illinois
The plastics hanging out at the Mall - Wednesday is pink day!
Cady is having trouble finding her clique and ends up eating her lunch in the school toilets. The next day, sharp-tongued emo Janice and her best friend Damian, who is ‘almost too gay to function’, finally bring her into their small group. The three ditch a highly questionable sex education class to go and sit on the grass outside the school. During this time, Cady gets the lay of the land, and soon discovers a group of hot girls, known as the Plastics, run the school. Regina is the leader and her cohorts are the slutty rich-girl Gretchen, whose father invented the toaster-strudel, and the utter airhead Karen, who quite frankly is so dumb it’s a wonder how she finds her way out of her house in the mornings.
The next lunch break, Cady inexplicably ends up being invited to the Plastic’s table in the social mine-riddled cafeteria. Unsure at first, she eventually takes a seat with the most popular girls in school. Pretty much straight away, Regina’s mind-games begin, while Karen is trying to wrap her head around the idea of someone from Africa being white! They soon invite Cady into their clique. However, Janice and Damian realise this is a golden opportunity to have a mole within the plastics and hatch a plan to use Cady as their inside acquirer of gossip.
Thus begins Cady’s inner battle as she walks a tight-rope between groups, while at the same time getting pressure from Maths teacher Mrs Norbury (played by Tina Fey who, incidentally, also wrote the film’s screenplay, astoundingly her first!) to joint the school’s ‘north-shore mathletes' as well as falling in love with school hottie Aaron, who just happens to be Regina’s ex-boyfriend - what could possibly go wrong? Straight after school, the plastics head to the Mall to hang out and bond. While wandering around, Cady learns that both Janice and her teacher Mrs. Norbury work at the Mall.
Cady finds out that Janice works at the Mall, and Janice finds out that Cady is in with the plastics!
The Mean Girls head to the classic centre of all Mall activity - the atrium fountain
While in Old Orchard Shopping Centre, Cady puts her African upbringing and learned parents’ teaching of animal behaviour to use and draws many comparisons between the African veld and the teens in the Mall - the atrium fountain is the watering hole, where the groups of animals congregate, pick delicious bugs off each other and scope out the opposite sex; the females are pursued by hormonal males and territorial fights often break out. Uncanny!
World’s collide as her two cliques begin to bump up against one another and when Regina finds out that Cady has a thing for Aaron; she goes about poisoning the relationship before it even begins, unbeknownst to Cady. It all becomes very complicated, especially as Cady begins to drop the mathletes, despite having a natural talent, thinking that the plastics are genuinely nice people. Cady finally figures out who Regina really is and, with the help of Janice and Damian, moves to plot her revenge. Will Regina be easily played though? And can Cady resist the pull of the plastics? You will have to watch to find out!
The various tribes gather around the watering hole
The females preen each other while the males fight for dominance!
The Shopping Centre, called the Old Orchard Mall in the film, is actually the Sherway Gardens Mall and it is not in the United States at all, but rather in Ontario Canada. The Mall originally opened in 1971 as a 2-level Shopping Centre. Almost 50 years later, it has grown into a massive Mall, the 18th largest in Canada. In true 70’s style, the Mall features a stunning atrium fountain as seen in the film, as well as multiple benches and tropical trees, seemingly untouched since the Mall’s opening, which is something we love. The Mall is stuffed with over 200 stores and services, anchored by four huge major stores - Hudson’s Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Harry Rosen.
At the beginning of this month, Sherway Gardens re-opened its fifth major refurbishment - opening its brand new south wing, which was previously hidden behind a giant black curtain during construction. New stores in this upmarket wing include Zara, Saje, Loding, Squish, BonLook, L’Intervalle, MAC and The Danish Pastry House. Regina would truly love it! At the centre of the new build is the stunning, functioning pastel pink and white carousel. The whole Mall has a luxury feel, with muted marble tile floors and beautiful sculptures dotted around the Centre. Of course the beautiful fountain is still there for you to see if you want to visit the filming location, but the space around it, once sunken into the ground and stepped towards the water feature, has opened up into a stunningly large, airy space surrounded by stores such as Saks and Forever 21 - it is a stunning atrium.
Outside of this large open space, the Mall’s many hallways are low ceilinged and intimate, with soft, luxurious lighting and multiple ‘mini-lounges’, where one can sit, take a load off and people-watch. It is a glorious warren of paths, and I could happily lose myself in this Mall for a week before I would even begin to miss the outside world! Dotted around the Mall are small oases of greenery which add a lovely touch.
Gretchen and Karen having one of their many deep, meaningful conversations (!)
The moment that Cady begins to think that Regina is perhaps not the benevolent leader as she originally thought
An interesting point is that The Old Orchard Mall really does exist, in the form of the Westfield West Orchid in Skokie Illinois, where the film is actually set. For whatever reason, the actual Old Orchard Mall wasn’t used (likely filming costs!) and production headed up to the Great White North to film the Mall scenes, as well as a handful of others. However, to remain authentic they didn’t change the name. The exterior of the Mall is never seen, but as a part of the bonus features of the original home release of ‘Mean Girls’, there is a deleted scene featuring the outside of the Shopping Centre.
The film was received extremely well by both critics and film-goers, but what happened afterwards is even greater - to this day people of all ages know the film and it is now both a cult masterpiece and a pop-culture phenomenon. Mean Girl memes festoon social media and October 3rd has even been dubbed ‘Mean Girls Day’, because that was the day Cady decided things were really hotting up between her and Aaron because he asked her what day it was. She replied: October 3rd! A mere two years ago, an IOS game called ‘Episodes’ was released based on the film - a series of interactive stories.
The inseperable duo of Janice and Damian
Mrs. Norbury is always trying to get Cady to join the school 'mathletes'
I absolutely love this film. It is yet again another fantastic snap-shot of youth and Mall culture in the early to mid-naughties. It is also one of the most quotable movies out there; after Wayne’s World, Spaceballs and the Three Amigos of course! Adults love the film because they can laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and kids can enjoy it as a kind of reality show - the themes of Mean Girls will never stop being relevant. The cast is phenomenal - being produced by Lorne Michaels, he of course got the likes of Saturday Night Live stalwarts Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Tim Meadows, and they all hit it out of the park, particularly Poehler, who plays Regina’s mom; she is trying so hard to be ‘one of the gang’ that she is both hilarious and achingly embarrassing.
The younger cast members are also brilliant. Lohan at the time had a great future ahead of her before some ‘questionable’ life choices made her fodder for the tabloid media. She never really recovered her career, which is such a shame. Rachel McAdams, who plays Regina, was a different story altogether; she has become a hugely acclaimed actress, and her roles in films such as ‘Spotlight’ have shown her to be one of the best in her field. Amanda Seyfried, who plays airhead Karen, also went on to star in huge hit films such as the Abba-licious ‘Mamma Mia’ and of course Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted’.
If you haven’t already seen this film, what are you waiting for? I had such fun digging this classic out and watching it again for the millionth time. It is a glorious mixture of pure evil and lip gloss, and we definitely suggest you watch ‘Clueless’ along with it for maximum Mall-based teen comedy goodness. It's, like, totally fetch!
All images: Paramount Pictures