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Teen Queen

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t
started with Valley Girl.
In 1984, I was Nicolas Cage’s Randy on the outside, Deborah Foreman’s Julie
on the inside. The previous year I had memorized Fast Times at Ridgemont
High
like every other guy in my class, but when I saw Valley Girl,
something happened inside my Spicoli-aspiring soul. I was transformed.

    Valley Girl‘s New Wave take on the Romeo and Juliet story
stirred my soul in ways I knew I shouldn’t talk about with my friends. Somewhere
between the opening credits and the final chords of Modern English’s "Melt With You," I had fallen under the spell of a love that dared not speak its name. Sure, I would watch Repo Man and Mad Max and all the other teen guy films of the day, but then I would sneak off by myself to watch teen girl movies like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink.


    Nearly ten years later, by the time Clueless rolled,
I was out of the closet as a fan of teen girl movies. I loved watching these
smart, sassy heroines overcome peer pressure and social obstacles to reach self-realization
and get the hottie. From Bring it On to Ten Things I Hate About You to Legally
Blonde
to Freaky Friday (the
new version), if there was a plucky teenage girl heroine, Hollywood could count
on me plunking down good money to sit in the theater and cheer her on. I could
identify. My inner sixteen-year-old girl was achingly lonely and needed some
encouragement. She was still waiting for someone to take off her glasses, give
her a makeover
and turn her from bookworm to prom queen.


    

promotion

And then came Mean Girls. Apparently, somewhere along the way, my
inner sixteen-year-old girl grew up into a guy. I sat in the theater on a
Saturday morning, surrounded by teen girls and their parents, and I suddenly
felt
like a dirty old man. Partly because a single man my age in a sea of underage
girls tends to look suspicious, and partially because, as I watched the movie,
I didn’t identify with Lindsay Lohan. I lusted after her.
I sat there thinking, "Damn, she’s hot," and not in my normal, "Damn
she’s hot in that fabulous outfit!" kind of way. After the movie ended
and the lights came up, I walked the streets trying to figure out what had
changed — the movies or me?

    Mean Girls is a significant milestone in the teen-girl
movie genre. First, it is a departure because of the way it treats its subjects.
In Valley
Girl
, the Teen Girl Group comprises mostly benevolent enforcers of social
conformity who gather primarily to talk about guys. From Heathers to Jawbreaker,
the Teen Girl Group is something to be feared and marveled at, but its power
is undercut by the essential vapidity of the members. In Mean Girls,
however, we not only see the importance of the Girl Group. But the ways
in which its power is constructed and wielded in the community at large. While
Tina Fey mocks the girls’ pettiness via the "Burn Book" (wherein
the girls rage against their peers and teachers), she reveals that these preoccupations
as only surface manifestations of deeper concerns. These are smart, powerful
girls. (Well, with the exception of Karen Smith, who feels her breasts to divine
the weather forecast.)

    The other major breakthrough in Mean Girls is
Lindsay Lohan’s interpretation of Cady Heron. She is much more "real" than
most
of
her
predecessors.
Where Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horwitz and
Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods were clever, Cady is
actually intelligent. And where Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink managed to
convince Andrew McCarthy to fall for her because of her quirkiness, Cady is the
first girl to be quirky, smart and hot. The kind of hot usually reserved
for the slutty archrival. Because of this unprecedented mixture of different
social types, Cady is a new heroine. She can choose how
she presents herself socially; she must live with the consequences of those choices.


    

I’ve been living as an out gay man for nearly
fifteen years, but watching Lindsay Lohan gave me a strange new erotic charge.

But let’s get back to how hot she is. Ah, Lindsay, light of my life, fire of
my loins. My sin, my soul. Lindsay Lohan. She stands alone among the current
crop of nubile nymphets (and I mean that in the full Nabokovian sense of the
word). Only Ms. Lohan has found a way to sit perfectly in the enigmatic middle
of the Madonna/whore spectrum. On one side we have the blatant, unthinking sluttiness
of Britney, Christina and Jessica; on the other we have the near-Mormon
purity of the Olsen Twins and Hillary Duff. And then there is Lindsay Lohan. Only
seventeen and already possessed of a stunning, adult beauty from another era,
akin to a young Ann-Margret. (Ann-Margret, by the way, went
to New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, which I believe is the model
for the high school in Mean Girls. She also went to Northwestern University,
also featured in the film. I’m not suggesting Tina Fey made any meta-meta-references
to Ann-Margret, but it is kind of eerie).

    Lohan’s Cady is a remarkable union of opposites. She
is a Mathlete, she is a vixen, she is a tomboy, she is a Plastic. She is simultaneously
voluptuous and awkward. I choose to believe this makes her more
real — and never before have I felt more like Humbert Humbert.

     While I have,
over the years, come to consider myself polymorphously perverse, never before
has the object of my lust made me a criminal. (Except, perhaps, once upon a time
in Georgia and/or Texas.) But watching Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls gave
me a strange new erotic charge. I’ve been living as an out gay man for nearly
fifteen years, and although I have, on occasion, had momentary
indiscretions with the fairer sex, I generally know where my predilections lie.
But in some
ways being gay is like being trapped in ninth grade for the rest of your life.
By and large, being in the company of adult gay men is like being in a teen girl
movie, complete with ogling dreamy guys and worrying about outfits. We are a
small, stateless tribe of Peter Pans, the embodiment of Jung’s archetype of the
puer aeternus. At the same time, we are men often devoted to a life of sexual
adventurousness. I have personally been around several blocks with many people
of both sexes in various permutations. Trust me, it’s exhausting.

    As I sat in the theater watching Mean Girls I
no longer wanted to be a sexually jaded Peter Pan. I wanted to be a grown-up.
I wanted to be innocent. I suppose this is the classic midlife crisis, only I’ve
never actually grown up. But I wanted Lindsay Lohan and all that she stands for.
I
flashed back to those first furtive fumblings of high school, when
two people
are poised at the edge of the unknown, when the geography of the body is still
uncharted.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
  Andy Horwitz is a writer and performer living in New York City. His monologues have been called everything from "high-octane, raucous comedy" to "inquisitive and insightful." His writing has appeared in Heeb, The Seattle Stranger and various anthologies. He edits the alternative performance blog Culturebot.org and in 2005 ran for Mayor of New York City, a performance project documented online at andyformayor.org.