10 major differences (and 12 minor ones) between Mean Girls 2004 and 2024

How does the new Mean Girls musical movie compare to the iconic original? Here are 22 differences to pay attention.

"Mean Girls" - LA Photocall
"Mean Girls" - LA Photocall / Vivien Killilea/GettyImages

For those who were teenagers or young adults in the early 2000s, some movie moments will always be engrained in our minds. You can't wash your hair after getting a perm, and cerulean will always be more than just blue. Perhaps one of the most significant movies was Mean Girls (2004), which has few moments that weren't iconic.

The entertainment industry seems determined to see if lightning can strike twice, which led to the announcement that a remake of Mean Girls was on its way. The new movie, which blended the original film, the Broadway musical, and TikTok conventions, released in theaters on January 12, 2024.

In addition to the quality, many fans want to know how much has been changed from the original movie. While there are some scenes that are beat-for-beat copies of the 2004 version, there have been many changes as well. The most significant of these are listed below.

Warning: Major spoilers for both versions of Mean Girls ahead!

Mean Girls (2024) is a musical

First and foremost, the 2024 version of Mean Girls is a musical, though it doesn't have a clear structure for how and why characters are singing. There are 12 main songs added to the movie, though reprises or minor musical tags of "Stupid With Love" and "What Ifs" also play on occasion.

The majority of musical interludes come as a way for Cady (Angourie Rice) to express her perspective on events without relying on voiceover narration. Most other songs are staged as TikTok performances. The outliers to these methods include Regina (Reneé Rapp) performing music videos and Gretchen (Bebe Wood) awkwardly singing to a music box in Regina's closet.

Auli'i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey
"Mean Girls" - LA Photocall / Vivien Killilea/GettyImages

Cady isn't the narrator anymore

Throughout 2004's Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan provides Cady's perspective on the events surrounding her. However, Cady no longer provides her thoughts outside of musical interludes in the 2024 version.

Instead, Janis (Auliʻi Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey) occasionally provide narration. They start off the movie with a rendition of "A Cautionary Tale," mirroring the musical's structure, as well as providing a brief update after Regina got hit by a bus. Otherwise, the movie doesn't provide any narration.

Angourie Rice, Lindsay Lohan
"Mean Girls" - Global Premiere / Jason Mendez/GettyImages

Cady wanted to leave Africa

In the original version of Mean Girls, Cady seems hesitant to leave Africa, only moving because her mom had a chance to get tenure. She seemed to genuinely enjoy living in Africa and mentioned having a lot of friends there, in contrast to her first few days at North Shore.

However, the new movie pushes the idea that Cady hated living in Africa. She forces her mother to accept the tenure position, and her song "What If" (written by Renee Rapp) includes the line "my heart is dying to leave / 'Cause I know there's more to me." Because of this change, Cady seems much more eager to climb the social ladder at school than she was in the original movie.

Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp
"Mean Girls" - Atlanta LGBTQ+ Tastemaker Screening / Derek White/GettyImages

Many scenes and lines were sanitized

The 2004 version of Mean Girls was a product of its time, which included the use of slurs, racial jokes, and relationships between teenagers and adults that were staged for comedy. These have all been eliminated in the updated version.

All uses of "r******d" and "d**e" have been removed, along with the entire plot about Coach Carr dating two underage girls. In addition, a joke about Principal Duvall "leav[ing] the Southside" was changed to "go[ing] to grad school."

While this is largely a good choice, removing the idea of bigotry as humor, it does occasionally minimize how brutal Regina and the other plastics can be. Rather than calling Janis a "d**e" or a "space d**e," as it was changed in the musical, the Burn Book calls her a "pyro les," which doesn't have the same impact.

Reneé Rapp
"Mean Girls" - LA Photocall / Vivien Killilea/GettyImages

Regina's downfall goes in a different order

The plot to destroy Regina follows most of the same tactics as in the 2024 version, but it did rearrange several scenes and make some minor changes. To begin with, Janis never actually defines the three elements of Regina's life that they were going to steal from her. That scene was replaced by the relatively vague encouragement to destroy her in "Revenge Party."

Many of the scenes showing Cady's attempts at sabotage were moved or cut down for pace. For example, Cady got Gretchen to turn on Regina much faster than the original movie, and she tells Aaron about Regina cheating on him immediately, rather than trying to get him to stumble onto them himself. All of this happens before the winter talent show, making that (and her being kicked out of the lunch group) her lowest points.

In addition, minor events were changed. Rather than cutting Regina's tank top to show her bra, Cady and Janis set off the sprinklers at a homecoming event to make Regina's makeup run. In addition, they replaced Regina's face cream with lard, rather than foot cream.

The talent show scene goes much worse for Regina

In the original version of Mean Girls, the Plastics perform "Jingle Bell Rock" at the school talent show. Things go wrong when the track skips and Gretchen sends the CD player flying into Jason, but Cady manages to save the day. This serves to show Cady gaining in popularity while Gretchen's relationship with Regina deteriorates.

However, the 2024 version didn't need to put in much effort to get Gretchen to spill all of Regina's secrets. Instead, they use the talent show to ruin Regina's life. While performing "Rockin' Around the Pole," Regina attempts a cartwheel and ends up crashing on her head and ruining the performance. Once again, Cady's popularity soars, but this time it's at Regina's expense.

Reneé Rapp
"Mean Girls" - Global Premiere / John Nacion/GettyImages

Regina's weight is handled more sensitively

One of the major attacks made against Regina in the 2004 movie is done by messing with her weight. After Regina repeatedly mentions needing to lose three pounds, Cady gives her nutrition bars that help a person gain weight. This leads to humiliation when her every day clothes and intended Spring Fling dress don't fit.

While this plot is still in the new version, it's played more sympathetically. This is likely due, in part, to Reneé Rapp's openness about her experience having an eating disorder and comments that were made about her body while she was in the Broadway production. The new version of "Meet the Plastics" removed a line about how Regina "never weighed more than 115," and audiences get a glimpse of how Regina uses exercise as a way to try to regain control of her body and sense of self.

Avantika, Bebe Wood, Jaquel Spivey, Christopher Briney, Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Tina Fey, Auli'i Cravalho
"Mean Girls" - LA Photocall / Vivien Killilea/GettyImages

Regina betrayed Janis in the worst way

In both versions of Mean Girls, Regina and Janis were once close friends. However, the betrayal that broke them apart is much harsher than the original. In the original movie, Regina refused to invite Janis to her birthday party and spread rumors that Janis was a lesbian. While this clearly hurt her, it didn't seem to have widespread impacts on Janis's life.

Rapp's Regina did something much worse. In the new version of Mean Girls, Janis is interested in women, and she shared that with her closest friend. Regina then made out with Janis to get a guy's attention and proceeded to out her to the school. This goes far beyond spreading rumors, and gives audiences more of a reason to accept Janis's desire for vengeance.

Reneé Rapp, Angourie Rice
"Mean Girls" - Global Premiere Post Reception / Jason Mendez/GettyImages

Regina and Cady have a heart-to-heart at the Spring Fling

After everything that goes down between Cady and Regina, they are still the forerunners for Spring Fling Queen. However, the new movie gives them a chance to talk about what they've done before Cady's grand speech. This lets the audience see a more sympathetic side of Regina, as well as showing Cady be accountable for her actions.

This is based on a deleted scene from the original movie, which many viewers haven't seen before. It was brought back for the Broadway musical, which likely helped establish it as a key part of the plot. The cut version from the original film can be seen below:

Adult relationship dynamics have been altered

One big change to the Heron household is that Cady doesn't have a father. This is based on the musical, which cut the character to streamline the story. While it doesn't impact the plot much, it does eliminate Cady's grounding and force her mother to play both good cop and bad cop.

In addition, Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows) and Mrs. Norbury (Tina Fey) had a pretty major change in their relationship dynamic. In the 2004 version, Principal Duvall was interested in starting a relationship with Mrs. Norbury, which she largely rejected. However, the 2024 movie reveals that the two are actually married, with comments about swapping chores and a kiss between the pair.

Reneé Rapp, Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels, Avantika Vandanapu, Lindsay Lohan, Angourie Rice, Bebe Wood, Christopher Briney, Brian Robbins, Marc Weistock, Busy Philipps Bebe Wood, Arturo Perez Jr., Samantha Jayne, Jaquel Spivey, Daria Cercek
"Mean Girls" - Global Premiere / John Nacion/GettyImages

Minor changes

In addition to the major changes to the plot and characters in Mean Girls, there were several minor details that were changed or added in the 2024 version. Many of these seemed to be done either to reference the original film's most iconic moments or try to make new ones. While these elements didn't have a significant impact on the story as a whole, they are deviations that de-hard fans are likely to either love or hate.

These changes include:

  • Adding moments that break the 4th wall, including references to songs that theoretically only happened in the characters' heads
  • Technology has been updated, with social media as a method of attack, rather than three-way phone calls
  • Rather than performing "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, Damian sang the iCarly theme song in French at the talent show
  • Damian and Janis didn't have to rig the Spring Fling election
  • Regina's mom tells her about the Kälteen Bars, rather than Shane
  • Regina drops the Burn Book off in the hallway, rather than showering the school with copies
  • The line "How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?" was removed
  • Cady asks her mom to homeschool her again, instead of rejecting the idea after her fall from grace
  • Kevin Ganatra gets his own version of "fetch"
  • Karen uses grilled cheese as highlighter instead of putting rhinestones on backward
  • Cady monologues about feminism out loud at the math competition
  • Gretchen stands up for herself against Jason

Mean Girls is now playing in theaters. The original 2004 movie is streaming on Paramount+.

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