The Evolution of The Queen Bee
Moving on from the 'Heather Chandler' blueprint.
What’s Your Damage, Heather?
The Queen Bee trope has had us in a chokehold since the 80s when Heathers burst onto our screens. Red Heather had full control over her high school, she was ambitious, powerful, and widely disliked, yet all the other girls in the school either wanted to be her or get close to her. But Heather Chandler’s presence is omniscient throughout the movie, writer Daniel Waters fails to give us any background aside from superficial details. We know she partied, ate corn nuts, and dated Peter Dawson. But we are not told about her home life, her upbringing, or her socioeconomic status. But whether it was the audience or the people in Hollywood, someone made some big assumptions.
The die was cast, and Heathers unleashed a feeding frenzy.
Always the same format, rich (normally blonde, but depending on the fashion at the time) white girl, three groupie friends, and one (at least) outsider trying to break in to further the plot. The head of the group is horrible to other women, including her own friends. She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Scream Queens to name but a few.
How Many Of You Have Ever Felt Personally Victimized By Regina George?
The classic movie to fit into this trope is Mean Girls. Regina George was born. Regina was Heather Chandler updated and turbocharged. She had the ‘army of skanks’, the magic number of which seems to be three, with an outsider joining for the plot. Her signature moves were being pretty and putting down other women for fun. Mean Girls tries to correct this with a fluffy ending, but it doesn’t change the fact that for the whole movie Regina’s attitude makes her the most desirable person on screen, so much so that Lindsay Lohan’s character imitates it. Lohan then switches back to her ’ugly clothes’ again when she starts being nice again. The audience takes a tour of Regina’s life, we find out she is rich, badly parented, and uses her white pretty privilege to get her own way. We see a brief uncomfortable clip of her little sister dancing to Milkshake by Kelis and realize that Regina was probably aware of her sexuality at a young age.
I Cannot Move On To The Next Chapter Of My Life If I’m Still Stuck In The Old One For Twenty Years.
But Netflix seems to have cottoned on to this damaging narrative and has switched things up in its latest rom-com, Senior Year starring Rebel Wilson. The movie is set over two decades, and not only is Rebel’s arch-nemesis Tiffany, not a platinum blonde (in the 90s, guys) she’s also not Caucasian. Well done casting directors. Skin color does not a badass make and it’s about time we had better representation in this genre.
The real stand out is Tiffany’s daughter Bri Loves is a new generation of Queen Bee. She rules the school by philanthropy, positivity, and social media. She is passionate about causes such as climate change and LGBTQ+ rights and has a fashion sense that is brave and eclectic. She is someone that you can genuinely see other students her age following because she is interesting, rather than through fear. Yes, Bri Loves can still (passive-aggressively) put someone in their place when she needs to, including her mother. Bri chooses the moral high ground over money and exposure, not something you could ever see The Chanels or Regina George doing, even at the end of their character arcs. But this does not make her any less formidable, she has the attention of everyone in her school because she achieves what they can only dream of doing. But Bri Loves will still probably only follow you on social media if you are cool, after all, she is still a Queen Bee.
This change could come from directors and writers taking more care with female characters. Instead of giving us cardboard cut-outs that can be chopped and changed from movie to movie, greater representation in production, and a demand for the female gaze is putting better quality on screen. Let’s hope it continues and the Queen Bee continues to evolve and grow.
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