The Allure of Mean Girls

What is it about mean girls that we are so attracted to? Do we crave their attention? Are we waiting to see a train wreck? Karma take place? Do we need them to validate us or make us feel like we’re better on the inside? Or do we really just find them boring and in need of a good romance novel?  Do we secretly hope karma leaves them balding by the age of 30?


If you follow me on Facebook you know that I had an interesting experience last month with three grown women, women in their 40’s, bullying me because I am a large-size woman.  They meant to be cruel, were cruel, but kind of missed the mark because they could not get me to care enough about their opinion for it get a reaction out of me.

But, it made me wonder why it is they felt that being mean was such entertainment.  Is it reality shows that reward people who are mean?  Is it because they felt the need to capture their high school selves in a time capsule of camaraderie?

Pop culture would have us believe that mean girls are fascinating.  And, let’s not forget those movies that show quiet, shy girls as unpopular until some handsome boy remakes them (Pygmalion anyone?) into some, before-unrealized beauty that can now be happy and popular?


I’m sure there must be books in which the mean girl wins (Dangerous Liaisons?), but for the most part, I like books because they teach a different way for women to see themselves.  And, yes, there are books where the heroine is a wimpy, too-stupid-to-live woman, but not so much anymore.  Just like the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, woman have evolved and continue to evolve into a force of nature.


Even when our heroine rides the edge of being a “mean girl” there are traits or moments that keep her from crossing that line, things a writer will NOT let her do, so that she doesn’t fall firmly into that category and we can watch her learn lessons in life so that she is redeemed or at least redeemable.

As a woman reading primarily books written by women, in my opinion, women authors know inherently where they can push the envelope and still have the female reader empathize with the heroine.  Men may be able to do that as well, I’ve just not read a book like that by a man yet.

What are some traits that you feel either redeem a heroine or are too mean to recover from?  Have you ever read a book where you thought a heroine was mean until you found out her motivation? And then were you willing to forgive her meanness?


About Sheila Clover English

International speaker, business woman, author, mother, wife and owner of seven dogs. I love people, am an advocate for animals and stay up too late at night reading books.
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4 Responses to The Allure of Mean Girls

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Sheila, I’ve never gotten mean girls. What do they get out of it? A sense of superiority?

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips wrote at least one book with a former mean girl way down on her luck. Because the heroine’s life had gone so badly, and now she was changed and actually had to face and interact the people she’d been mean to, as a reader I did like her. But I barely remember that book, so it must not have been one of my favs by her.

  2. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Sheila,

    Sorry to hear about those bullies. Glad you didn’t let their pettiness get to you.

    Mean doesn’t work for me either. Sometimes an author will show a heroine slashing out but out of pain. That is somewhat more forgivable. But absolutely Edie is right. The heroine has to make restitution.

    Or when a character is mean to get the job done. Even then he or she must make restitution or apology.

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