Mean Girls is an American teen comedy that was released in 2004. It has developed an extensive cult following, and countless GIFs for the film can be found all across the web. 11 years after its release, quotes from Mean Girls (including “You can’t sit with us!” and “On Wednesdays we wear pink.”) are used on all forms of social media and in face-to-face conversations.
In Memes in Digital Culture, Shifman describes memes as “pieces of cultural information that pass along from person to person, but gradually scale into a shared phenomenon” (Shifman 18). A very popular way to generate and distribute memes is through the use of the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). Mean Girls GIFs incorporate all important elements of a meme, inspire a multitude of remixes and mimicries, and vary in semiotic function; their characteristics and usage create a social and cultural phenomenon that still resonates throughout the internet.
In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins describes 3 components of successful memes: longevity, fecundity, and copy fidelity. Mean Girls GIFs have all 3 of these components. For instance, in terms of longevity, Mean Girls GIFs are very successful. Despite the movie being over a decade old, new memes are still surfacing and older memes are still being spread throughout Tumblr, Facebook, discussion boards, and other parts of the web. These GIFs have a high level of fecundity, as they are quickly and widely distributed thanks to sharing tools offered by social media sites and other websites in general. Because of its digital format, these GIFs have strong copy fidelity (that is, they are very accurately distributed without deterioration of loss of information).
Mean Girls GIFs vary in terms of semiotic function. Some are used as reaction GIFs (like the first GIF listed, which can replace typing something like “I don’t care” or “I’m confident”), while others (like the meme directly above) simply serve as fond memories of the movie. Many Mean Girls GIFs pick out a favorite or memorable part of the film and can be applied in numerous situations. For instance, with a GIF, many people could invite a friend to go shopping by using a line like “Get in loser, we’re going shopping!” while incorporating a fun cultural reference (Mean Girls).
Due to its widespread popularity, Mean Girls has inspired many repackaged memes, including many examples of both mimicry and remixing. Countless Mean Girls fans have incorporated elements from other series (like Harry Potter) into their mimetic creations. Similarly, many fans have mimicked scenes from Mean Girls (as seen in the spinoff, “Mean Boyz”).
For my GIF, I picked a scene that I found particularly memorable: the “Plastics” dancing to the Jingle Bell Rock. The GIF wasn’t very difficult to make. First, I imported the video clip from YouTube into Photoshop using the “Video Frames to Layers” option. Then, I selected the portion of the clip I wanted for the GIF, added some text (only visible in certain frames), and saved the GIF using the “Save for Web…” option. I added in the text “*SMACK*” not only because I wanted to somehow make my GIF different from the many others found on the web, but I also wanted something general that could be applied to numerous situations. My GIF may be used when someone aces an impossibly hard test, insults somebody with a clever comeback, or does anything amazing in general.
GIFs are useful in a variety of situations online, and Mean Girls GIFs are no exception. Mean Girls GIFs have stood the test of time and vary greatly in their semiotic function. As a significant cultural identifier for our generation, they will continue to vary and appear in new mimetic forms.
Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.
Shifman, Limor. Memes In Digital Culture. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014. PDF.
GIF Sources (in order of use)
Tumblr user: mean-girls-quotes
Blogspot user: a bent piece of wire
Tumblr user: bokunosonzai (inactive account, found image on google search)
Tumblr user: locomootion
YouTube video source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=h81UOjlFmMs