In Mean Girls, Regina George’s social status is portrayed from the moment she first comes on screen, as she is carried on to the field by a group of teenage boys fawning over her. This action, along with Damian’s brief narration on Regina, separates Regina George from the rest of the girls in school instantly. Going forward with the movie, the viewer is expecting to see further into how Regina George and her “clique” fit into the school’s social hierarchy. One key detail that helps show the divide between social groups is the brand names that are identified with the “plastics.” There are also certain brand names that are identified with the rest of the school that portray the division as well. Not only were these brands placed in the Mean Girls to make an argument to the reader, they also serve to boost, or in one case, lower the image of the brands in the minds of the viewers.
One of the first mentions of products is when the camera flashes to girls who are sharing gossip about Regina. One girl is quoted saying, “She has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus.” This quote mentions two very expensive, upscale brands that are then related to Regina. The fact that girls were gossiping about Regina’s material items suggest envy for her lifestyle. In almost every scene she is seen with a small Louis Vuitton bag as well. Logically, the viewer can make the conclusion that these items help define her social status as “Queen Bee.” By using specific brands, producers are better able to communicate the idea of wealth as a means of separation in the social order. The target audience for the movie is preteens and teen girls that are easily persuaded. This is favorable for these brands because teens are more likely to become absorbed with the brands if they know they are highly regarded. The Louis Vuitton purse is also symbolic of Cady’s shift in character. She goes from being a naïve home-schooled girl to a part of the elite clique. As soon as she begins to identify with the elite, she is then seen carrying an almost identical bag as Regina. This give the message that if you own one of those bags- you are a step above the rest.
Another product that had multiple appearances in Mean Girls was Diet Coke. In almost every scene that took place in the cafeteria, Diet Coke was present on the “plastic’s” table. The lunch scenes are especially important because that’s where the ultimate division of the social hierarchy is broken down. Every table represents a different high school stereotype, and the fact that Diet Coke is on the table of the popular girls, speaks volumes. It not only tells the audience that Diet Coke is the beverage of choice for attractive girls, but it also adds to the credibility of the movie. “The big defense that marketing people use is that it’s more realistic to use real products rather than a generic package,” (Smith, par. 15). By using everyday brand names, viewers get a better sense of reality from the fictional film.
While Diet Coke and designer brands get linked to the popular clique- other brands are then associated with the unpopular choice. This is made apparent when all of the girls are dress shopping. The dress isn’t fitting Regina, so the saleswoman tells her “You should try Sears,” in a very condescending tone. Regina’s face after the lady utters the word Sears says it all. Her face shows disgust, as if they lady told her she had a disease. This plays into the viewer’s emotions, because, chances are, almost every average person has gotten something from Sears, or a comparable store. As Lunsford identifies, “A more obvious way to build an emotional tie is simply to help readers identify with the experiences,” (Lunsford p.34). Regina’s reaction to Sears shows that it’s not of value and not acceptable. This could offend many people watching the film considering most people can identify to a store similar to Sears.
The product placement for Lexus, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Diet Coke in Mean Girls was all promoted in a positive light. Producers made these items seem exclusive and a defining factor in the character’s social status. By playing into the viewer’s ethos, logos and pathos, they successfully add to the movie as a whole while still drawing attention to the specific brands featured. The placement was mutually beneficial in these cases, but not beneficial for Sears. By implying that Sears was a low class brand, Mean Girls lowered Sears image to the viewers. But as the saying goes, “All publicity is good publicity.”