In my Psychology 120 class on media and developmental psychology, we watched and discussed the movie Mean Girls. Now, you may think mean girls have nothing to do with Political Science 101, but Regina George should be able to convince you otherwise.
Mean Girls details the Machiavellian nature of girl world, and at North Shore High School, Regina George is the “prince,” or rather, “Queen Bee” of this world. (Click here for the trailer!) But would she live up to Machiavelli’s standards?
In Machiavelli’s The Prince, he notes: “never attempt to win by force what can be won with deception.” Regina George exemplifies this guidance almost perfectly; she is a master of deceit and duplicity. In the previously linked trailer, Regina shows her deceptive tactics in “talking” to a boy, Aaron Samuels, for Cady. Not only does Regina deceive others like this for personal gain, but when one of “The Plastics” sees an ex-boyfriend with another girl, Regina calls the girl’s mom, pretending to be a receptionist from a pregnancy clinic, with the “results of her daughter’s test.” The girl immediately receives a call from her mom, forcing her to leave and eliminating any threat to The Plastics and what they want. In exploiting these tactics of deceit, Regina also masters Machiavelli’s suggestion of exercising immoral action when necessary for the preservation of power. In The Prince, he states, “hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.”
Now all of these lies and tricks could leave someone facing a lot of angry people, right? Well it seems that Regina has also mastered another key element of being in control, according to Machiavelli: “a prince should guard himself, above all things, against being despised and hated.” As seen in this clip, Regina is anything but hated. She is revered among the students of North Shore High School.
Machiavelli does warn against being loved and not feared, however. Albeit, I believe fear is a proponent of the attention and power Regina commands. The aforementioned trickery she uses to get what she wants is not something that anyone in the school wants to go up against, not even her closest “Plastic” allies. When narrating Gretchen’s troubles with Regina, fellow “Plastic” member Cady says, “the meaner Regina was to her [Gretchen], the more Gretchen tried to win Regina back. She knew it was better to be in the plastics, hating life, than to not be in at all.” Machiavelli would approve of this type of influence Regina maintains.
However, Regina does present weaknesses that Machiavelli would critique as well. The most critical downfall of Regina is something that Machiavelli warns princes about: trusting advice from your closest allies. In The Prince, he cautions that advice should be taken carefully and only when asked for by a prince. When Cady, a fellow Plastic member, offers advice to try and sabotage Regina, Regina relatively unquestioningly takes the advice. She eats protein bars that Cady recommends for weight loss, not knowing anything about them. A couple weeks later, Regina can’t fit into her prom dress and claims to only be able to wear sweat pants, deeming her unfit to sit with the Plastics at the lunch table. Regina, in naively accepting advice from her council, fails to apply one of Machiavelli’s key tips for a successful dictatorship.
Despite this Machiavellian shortcoming, Regina generally exhibits many ways in which she is fit for Queen Bee. In Mean Girls, she is deceptive in proportion, admired, feared, and morally questionable when necessary. I guess all it takes is a little Machiavellianism to have to ask everyone: