Internet mean girls target Reneé Rapp

This article discusses eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre can be reached at 1-416-340-4156.

Fans of Mean Girls criticizing the casting of Reneé Rapp in its musical remake missed the original movie’s message.

Actress and singer Reneé Rapp is portraying Regina George, the titular mean girl, in a musical version of the movie set to releasein 2024. Fans of the original movie are criticizing the casting of Rapp online, claiming she’s not pretty or thin enough to portray George.

Such attacks on Rapp are the latest in a trend of hating actresses for anything but their ability to act—the only attribute relevant to their casting and performance. Rachel Zegler’s casting as Snow White in the upcoming live-action remake came under fire because of the actress’s feminism. Internet users were up in arms over the casting of Halle Bailey, a Black actress, as Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

Protesting the selection of an actress because of her social advocacy or race is a blatant attempt to wield existing prejudices against women who don’t conform to outdated, racist perceptions of a correct world order.

Most complaints treat Regina George’s thinness in the original film as central to the plot. In reality, this was only a minor detail in a film with a primary message of the absurd and harmful nature of bullying. Fans of the movie now bullying Rapp for her size and appearance is a grotesque and ironic misinterpretation of the film.

Some internet critics deem it unrealistic for a mid-sized woman to be as popular and unchallenged in her meanness as Regina George. The belief that a woman larger than a size two couldn’t be popular implies a belief that bigger bodies are somehow inherently less likeable or beautiful than thin bodies.

Others cite conversations in the original film where George worries about gaining three pounds to justify their criticism—as though only a thin person would fear weight-gain. This belief further promotes the harmful and untrue message that disordered eating results exclusively in thinness or can only look one way.

Rapp has shared her real-life struggles with eating disorders and mental illness, both of which were exacerbated by criticism of her body online and from peers in the industry. Her disclosures should serve as a reminder that commenting on others’ bodies is always inappropriate.

Critics are mistaken in thinking thinness is crucial to the movie’s story or to George’s character but correct in attributing importance to her anxiety about gaining weight. Seeing the most popular girl in school express this fear proves insecurity can plague us all.

That said, Rapp is an attractive, able-bodied, cisgender white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. Her presence on screen should hardly be considered a show of radical inclusivity.

The ease with which so many internalized Rachel McAdams’ thinness as central to Regina George’s portrayal, and are now defending that belief, is telling of the extent to which fatphobia is ingrained in North American popular culture.

Hopefully, reinscribing this plot onto differently sized bodies will make it less damaging to the next generation of Mean Girls fans.

—Journal Editorial Board


body shaming, Eating Disorders, Inclusivity, Reneé Rapp, representation

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