It’s been exactly 15 years since The Plastics, Cady Heron, and Janis Ian sauntered their way into pop cultural relevance and, while Mean Girls didn’t make fetch happen—sorry Gretchen—it did introduce some memorable characters, especially in Rachel McAdams’ Regina George. And, as it turns out, the leader of The Plastics is, terrifyingly, a pitch-perfect study in what makes a dictator.
In a new video essay, “Mean Girls: Regina George, The Psychology of a Dictator,” The Take delves what makes Regina a dictator, how that fact is emphasized in the film, and the myriad stages of her reign, from its height to its “death.”
As the video states, the character of Regina George, along with the whole ecosystem of North Shore High, function as microcosms of real-life tyrants and the societies they’ve ruled over. Using the three pillars of dictatorship—legitimacy, co-option, and repression—as laid out by academics Johannes Gerschewski and Wolfgang Merkel, the video touches on how each unfolds in Mean Girls. Legitimacy, for example, manifests in her physical perfection and boy toy Aaron Samuels; co-option, meanwhile, can be seen in the way she keeps adversaries as her friends; and repression is seen in the cruel way she rules over her high school peers and punishes bad behavior.
The essay is fascinating, folding in the history of Caesar and themes of teenage girl expectation and behavior into some biting social commentary. If you loved political science in school or just want to peel away the many layers of Mean Girls, the video is worth the watch.