Alas, The True Villain Of The New ‘Mean Girls’ Got Away With It In The End

Sure, Regina George is a mean girl, but is she really the villain of the new Mean Girls musical?

We all know the plot to Mean Girls. Whether you’re a fellow elder Millennial who’s hopelessly stuck in the nostalgia and low-rise jeans of 2004 or a part of a new crop of die-hard fans, you likely have at least a few lines of dialog committed to memory. And now, with a new musical (surprise!) feature film of the classic tale ripped from the stage version, you’d think that there could be nothing new to talk about when it comes to the plot.

Sure, there are differences between the 2004 and 2024 versions of Tina Fey’s classic, chief among them the aforementioned musical numbers. We get a more diverse cast, dropped sub-plots (like the Coach Carr/student connection) and new language to fit our TikTok-heavy social media era. Yet still, as I walked away from the theater, several of the songs sticking in my mind like surprisingly catchy earworms, I was left with a new opinion of a fan favorite character. At the end of the new musical version of Mean Girls, there’s a villain who never has their redemption arc and is left taking zero responsibility for the chaos they wrought.

The Sentencing of Janis ‘Imi’ike

For most classic Mean Girls fans, Lizzy Caplin’s Janis Ian is the best character in the whole movie. Her sardonic wit, cool-again goth flair, and classic one-liners made her the film’s everywoman. You wanted to be her or be with her or be her best friend (Move over, Damian!). And while she did orchestrate the downfall of Regina George and the plastic-ification of Cady Heron, she had emotional growth at the end. She grew just as much as the rest of the cast. Her Mean Girls musical counterpart, Janis ‘Imi’ike? That’s another story.

Paramount Pictures

It’s undeniable that Janis ‘Imi’ike is a likeable character. Of course, she has almost all the same one-liners as Janis Ian. Her style is amazing. Every. Single. Eye shadow look. Like the new Damian, played by Jaquel Spivey, Auli’i Cravalho’s Janis ‘Imi’ike provides just the right kind of gritty flair needed to counteract the shiny pink of the Plastics. Here’s the problem, though: She’s the movie’s secret villain, and she never admits she did anything wrong.

Toward the end of the movie, much like in the original, the Junior Girls of North Shore High must get up on a little stage, read what they’re sorry for, and trust-fall into a sea of their peers. Although it looks like Janis is about to say something real and meaningful, she instead reveals that she and Cady hatched a plan to ruin Regina’s life. She points out that Cady became just as bad as Regina, flips everyone off, then falls into her classmates’ arms. Rather than have a touching moment with Cady where they both apologize for everything that happens, Janis ‘Imi’ike continues to shift the blame. Even when Cady points out that this was all Janis’s idea, she just tells her that she’s the problem.

Worst of all, Janis, after revealing their plot to the whole school, runs from classroom to cafeteria and back with her own song, “I’d Rather Be Me.” She talks about how everyone else is fake and she’s real. The song seems out of place. Are you really the only one who’s real, Janis? Everyone’s having character growth and you’re busy singing about how unique you are. As a song, it’s fine, and would have fit well earlier in the movie. But at this moment, when she’s supposed to be confronted with how toxic everyone has been, including her? It just makes her look more like the villain.

In Janis ‘Imi’ike’s eyes, what she did was a well-deserved prank. And while you could reason away what she did to Regina George since the leader of the Plastics was a literal terror, that doesn’t excuse her pushing her supposed best friend into becoming something she’s not. And since she never apologized or took any accountability, Janis ‘Imi’ike has been sentenced to a lifetime as the true villain of Mean Girls (2024).

About the author

Trisha Bartle

Trisha’s your resident tarot reader, rom-com lover, and horror connoisseur. In addition to using her vast knowledge of all things cinema for Thought Catalog’s TV + Movies entertainment section, she also offers her astrological and tarot expertise to Collective World. Trisha splits her time between making art and being awesome.