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Project 1: Video/DVD Analysis

SOC 001

Trisha Cease

Whether we realize it or not, we as citizens of our society are exposed to the various aspects of

sociology since birth. We may not be able to label certain phenomena according to their sociological ter-

minology, but we have processed it in our own way. Our sociological imaginations have been developing

with each passing breath, and by taking a sociology course, we can connect these phenomena with their

proper terms.

A great example of a cesspool where we as individuals learn the norms and rules of our society is

our educational systems, especially high school. High school is a time where teenagers learn their places

in the social ladder and act accordingly. Cliques are formed, and every individual plays their social roles,

sticking to their groups. I have chosen to analyze the movie Mean Girls to explore and analyze this realm

from a sociological standpoint, using the three sociological perspectives to identify some interesting as-

pects of a common high school society.

The movie Mean Girls follows the sixteen-year-old protagonist Cady Heron, a homeschooled girl

who must acclimate to a life in the United States. Being born to zoologist parents, Cady was raised in Af-

rica for years as her parents pursued a scientific research project for the latter 12 years of Cadys life. At

the conclusion of the research project, Cady and her family move back to the States, a society in which

she is not used to. The movie focuses on the journey Cady faces as she is thrust into the world of cliques,

animosity, and foreign norms that is her high school.

For this project, I will be analyzing the first ten minutes of this movie, found on YouTube in a

video entitled Mean Girls Full Movie - Part 1. This video clip introduces Cady to the audience and her

background story. It follows her first day at Northshore High, the high school her parents put her in so

that she may be socialized. Immediately she realizes the consequences of her ignorance to the social

norms. The other students there also immediately pick her out as an outlier not knowing the ways of the

high school. Cady doesn't know the unspoken rules of student-to-student socialization. She talks to the
wrong people, says the wrong things, and does what is considered against the rules. It isn't until she meets

Janice and Damian that she is given a basic introduction of the social groups of the high school. Her new

friends give her the rundown of the most basic socialization center, the cafeteria, where all students sit

according to their membership in certain social groups - for example the jocks, nerds, and the plastics.

Renown sociologists Comte, Marx, and Durkheim each would view and interpret these same ten

minutes differently. These three sociologists have formed the basis of what we now call the interactionist,

conflict, and functionalist perspectives respectively. Each perspective provides a means to dissect and an-

alyze any sociological prompt from a different perspective.

French sociologist Auguste Comte advocated for the importance of the basic laws of society. An

interactionist perspective towards the video would focus on the interactions between the students in the

high school and the certain symbols common high schoolers take for granted. An interactionist view

would notice how every clique sticks to themselves and know not to venture it to other cliques. The jocks

don't sit with the nerds at lunch, for example. The students have fallen into a rhythm where their interac-

tions with one another have become routine. When Cady comes into the picture, she disrupts the routine.

Cady, not knowing her position in the society, goes out to anybody and everybody, but does not notice the

symbols present that are warning signs.

mile Durkheim focused his work on how social order is integral and that all participants must

work together to face societys challenges as a whole and work towards its betterment - the core of the

functionalist perspective of sociology. The functionalist aspects of the video clip from Mean Girls can be

readily seen. Every student in the high school has a role to play. If any one student steps out of line with

their social role, disruption occurs and it may be disastrous. The motions of the student life and the vari-

ous groups are predictable, almost routine. The jocks play their part in the social hierarchy just as much as

the band members do. If a band member decides to play football, the rhythm of the high school would not

Karl Marx is known for his extensive work on inequality, the struggle between social classes, and

alienation - the core of the conflict paradigm of sociology. I believe this paradigm is most dominantly rep-

resented in the video. The moment Cady steps into her new high school as a stranger, conflict arises. The

veteran students and even the teachers are not welcoming of a newcomer, especially one who is oblivious

of the most basic behaviors in that setting. When Cady is introduced to the groups of Northshore High,

the tension between the groups is apparent through the visuals. As Cadys friend Janice narrates brief in-

troductions of each clique, the viewers can tell that she herself bears animosity to all other groups, espe-

cially the plastics. Not all groups are considered equal, depending on your standard. When it comes to

popularity, the plastics are royalty and reign supreme. They own the school and all other groups re-

vere and are wary of them. The most valuable resource in the high school is popularity, and the plastics

control a monopoly over it. Tension also arises from the various groups that compete for this resource.

In conclusion, with the use of the sociological imagination, anyone can analyze and dissect any in-

stance of life sociologically. Any one event can be studied differently using the lenses provided by the

three sociological perspectives. The excerpt from Mean Girls exhibits qualities that can be noted by all

three paradigms, but the paradigm most prevalent is the conflict theory supported by Marx. As Cady is

thrust into a typical American high school, she is faced with the pressures and tensions that are created

between the various social groups of Northshore High.