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Identity Development in "Mean Girls"
Transcript of Identity Development in "Mean Girls"
Commitment without exploration - Committing to the goals, values, and lifestyles of others without exploring the range of possibilities for oneself.
Uncentredness; confusion about who one is and what one wants. No exploration, no commitment.
Identity crisis; suspension of choices because of struggle. Gradual exploration.
Using James Marcia's Adolescent Identity States
Cady has adopted the values and lifestyle of her parents. She has never had to question her identity due to her home schooling.
Throughout the movie, Regina displays identity foreclosure. Her identity isn't challenged until the end of the movie. She has adopted an identity based on social expectations of beauty and popularity.
Her identity as the Queen Bee of the Plastics, or the top of the social hierarchy is supported by school administration by rewarding the Spring Fling Queen with power over student social events.
Gretchen retains a state of identity foreclosure. Despite flirting with diffusion.
Her identity is fixed on being the second to the Queen Bee. Even in the closing scenes she is still adopting the culture and identity of another rather than exploring her own identity,
when we see her with the
Karen never explores her identity, most likely because she has accepted other peoples definition of her as "stupid".
Identified flaw: Marcia doesn't account for extraneous issues (such as cognitive development) which could potentially influence identity development.
Cady's Loss of Identity
Cady loses her sense of identity as she enters her new school. She hadn't encountered adults who didn't trust her. The exposure to the different cliques left her feeling lost, confused and alone.
The school's teachers did not take an active roll in introducing her to the school. When new students enroll, this must be an
awareness teachers maintain.
Gretchen is Replaced by Cady
Cady's attempt to turn Regina's friends against her causes Gretchen to lose her place as Regina's second. Regina lashes out against Gretchen. Gretchen feels she is losing her sense of identity.
Gretchen then begins stabbing Regina in the back, rebelling against her former identity foreclosure
once best friends. After she accuses her of being a lesbian she dissapears from school.
Regina mentions that
her and Janis were
While unseen in the movie, this is a prime example of identity diffusion. She withdraws and no longer attempts to claim an identity.
Cady: Homeschooler, Mathlete, Art Freak or Plastic?
Cady becomes torn about which identity she wishes to pursue. She experiments with all of them at the same time.
Cady dumbs herself down to impress Aaron Samuels.
She acts this way because she is doubting her commitment to the identitiy of an academic.
Ms. Norbury confronts Cady on
her identity moratorium. Warning her not to "dumb
herself down" for a boy.
A drop in performance does not mean our students no longer understand the course. They may be in
a state of moratorium, and unsure of whether
to identify themselves as academics.
Though Ms. Norbury confronts Cady,
she does not follow through.
Whole Grade Identity Crisis
The Jr. Girls enter an identity moratorium when the "Burn Book" is released.
Jr. Girls Identity Foreclosure: Social hierarchy of cliques; Goal to emulate the Plastics.
School staff then intercede as the chaos resulting from this moratorium had to
Ms. Norbury is held up as a role model to her students during their identity moratorium.
Earlier in the movie she spoke of herself as a "pusher." She states that "pushing" resulted in her divorce.
She is therefore seen as a "successful intelligent, caring and graceful woman" who has moved through the stages of identity development to identity achievement.
And the Plastics?
Gretchen and Karen aren't seen to have an identity moratorium.
In fact, the Jr. Girls reject her when she holds onto her identity forclosure as "popular".
Strong sense of commitment to life choices after free consideration of alternatives.
Cady Becomes Herself
Cady achieves her identity once she
confesses to lying about Ms. Norbury selling drugs
When she becomes Spring Fling Queen Cady demonstrates this identity achievement by giving away the coveted crown. Later she claims that she has become an "actual human being".
Janis and Damian
Damian stand as those who have already achieved an identity. They know and accept who they are, and won't let anyone tell them differently. Damian is proudly "too gay to function"
Throughout the movie Janis and
Janis demonstrates this
when she tells Cady, "See, at least me and Regina George know we're mean! You try to act so innocent..."
The Happy Ever After
The Jr. Girls class enters a state of identity achievement after their crisis with the burn book. Rigid lines between cliques blur and identity is based on individual values.
... Except Gretchen
Marcia's theory is supported by this movie. All stages are represented
However, the theory cannot be held as universal. Some girls do not advance through all stages. Gretchen seems to maintain her identity foreclosure. Karen achieves an identity with her "unique talents", but is never seen to enter diffusion or a moratorium.
Karen's role as the "idiot" challenges the validity of the theory when we consider external factors, such as cognitive development and its effects on identity development.
Marcia's theory can inform
teachers about how they can better impact their students.
Ms. Norbury's understanding that Cady's drop in grades was due to an identity crisis, not a failure in learning, is a key example.
"Mean Girls" provides a warning to teachers to not take a passive role in student's identity development. Especially in the midst of intense social hierarchies.
Thereby rewarding identity foreclosure and hierarchy.
Administration must also be aware of policies that can adversly impact students development. Such as the Spring Queen being the head of the Student Social Committee