This Character Is the Biggest Improvement in 2024’s Mean Girls


The Big Picture

  • Mean Girls (2024) gives the characters increased representation and complexity, particularly with Karen, who breaks free from the “dumb blonde” stereotype.
  • Karen’s kindness and friendship stand out amidst the social dynamics and feuds of the other girls, making her a grounding presence in the film.
  • Avantika’s portrayal of Karen brings a new level of talent and artistry to the movie, showcasing her comedic timing, emotive moments, and musical abilities.

Mean Girls (2024), created by Tina Fey as an adaptation of an adaptation, had the titanic task of warranting its own existence by creating something that could stand alongside the exceptional versions that came before it. It accomplished this in various ways, from the music numbers to the raucously funny scenes, yet one area where it truly thrived is its characters. Across all editions, the cast is what drives the plot, a young group made up primarily of girls whose intense social dynamics emphasize the core themes of the story: the need for womxn solidarity, and the fact that putting others down will in no way bring yourself up.

The 2024 version grants these characters a level of representation and complexity that previous iterations could only hint at; by doing things like increasing the number of characters of color, allowing Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) the proud LGBTQ+ identity the original film suggested but did not clarify, and allowing a true reconciliation between foes Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) and Regina George (Reneé Rapp), it was able to truly embody its message while still honoring what made the original so iconic years ago. There is one example of this update in the source material that towers above the rest, though. A character who is finally allowed to shine, and whose newfound nuance elevates the movie as a whole: Karen Shetty, played by the astounding Avantika. By allowing this character to ascend beyond the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype she’d been pigeonholed in previously, Mean Girls (2024) creates a character who perfectly summarizes its thematic elements and comedic style. Karen is truly the stand-out gem of this film, and by investing in her character the creators made a huge improvement from the original and improved the quality of the film as a whole.

Mean Girls

Cady Heron is a hit with the Plastics, an A-list girl clique at her new school when she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George.

Release Date
January 12, 2024
Samantha Jayne , Arturo Perez Jr.
Paramount Players , Broadway Video , Little Stranger

Avantika’s New Version of Karen in 2024’s ‘Mean Girls’ Is One of Its Best Updates

In the original Mean Girls, Karen was one of Regina’s primary lackeys, a member of “The Plastics” whose identity could be reduced to two facts: she was sexy, and she was dumb. The character was nice to newbie Cady but the only aspects of her personality showcased were her physical appearance and willingness to fall in line with whatever alpha was nearest. While this version was played to perfection by Amanda Seyfried, she lacked any opinions on the situations around her and served more as set dressing than a genuine addition to the plot being told. This newest version of Karen still serves the role of the funny, ditzy sidekick. Still, this foolishness is paired with a level of autonomy her previous version was desperately in need of. The best part of her initial outing, her kindness, is immediately illustrated in how she openly welcomes Cady into their group, noticeably without the ulterior motives of Regina or frantic pushes to fit a mold like Gretchen (Bebe Wood). This openness defines her throughout the film as, while others prod Karen to do their bidding or change her personality, it’s clear Karen only wants one thing Cady: to be her friend.


This ‘Mean Girls’ Song Was Cut For Being Too Broadway

Angourie Rice and Reneé Rapp star in the film adaptation of the 2018 Broadway hit.

As the plot progresses and the characters begin turning on one another, the film subtly shows Karen as a grounding presence amidst the rampant drama. While every other girl begins to feud, Karen avoids this conflict to the best of her ability, wishing only for a friendship with all of them no matter the social machinations at play. Gretchen and her are shown to hang out without the others, a side friendship that makes perfect sense but was missing in previous versions. When Cady is ostracized by everyone around her the movie makes a point to reveal Karen as the only one reaching out to assure the heartbroken girl that their relationship is still strong.

While quiet, it’s rather refreshing to have a character whose congeniality transcends the easy trappings of social hierarchy that lead others around her to fall into chaos. And with her brilliant performance of the song “Sexy,” this new Karen makes it clear that she is confident in herself and relishes her ability to be whoever she wants — whatever sexy version that may be. It’s extremely common in cinema to see a character whose lack of intelligence leads to a vapid demeanor or whose “dumb” personality doesn’t go beyond one mode of function. But in Mean Girls (2024), simple-minded does not mean simple, and Karen is a character who makes up for missing intelligence by being a good friend every other character would do well to learn from.

‘Mean Girls’ 2024 Lets All of its Girls Shine

This newest edition of Mean Girls proudly touts the themes of feminism that the original pioneered in cinema. It presents a group of complex young women whose wants and insecurities may come to blows but who all deserve to be celebrated for ultimately expressing their genuine selves. Unfortunately, similar to its inability to grant her any real depth, the original barely includes Karen in this happy ending of its girls finding what makes them so great and supporting each other in this truth. While the others are allowed a journey, she is used primarily as a prop in scenes to react to the world around her rather than take any active role in it. It’s saddening to see this message of pride exclude such a well-meaning character and this was clearly an issue the newest version was determined to address.

In the 2024 version, while disguised in comedy, Karen’s earnestness comes through in every scene she features. One clear example is when the Plastics (Cady, Regina, Gretchen, and Karen) are preparing for their talent show number and Regina flippantly slut-shames Karen for her previous partners. A genuine look of hurt crosses the young woman’s face — a stark difference from the previous version who reacted to all critique with a blank face and agreement with the casual cruelty. While small, Karen’s emotions appear throughout the plot and reinforce the central emotional force of the film. While it takes Cady and Regina an entire runtime to discover that they should focus on kindness rather than petty theatrics, Karen is shown to know this truth the entire time; no matter how dim-witted she may be perceived, it’s clear her knowledge lies in recognizing that their friendship should trump any petty squabbles. In this version, Karen is granted not only the space to have her own opinions and feelings but also something that is utterly valuable: independence, the ability to separate herself from the surrounding viciousness to vocalize the movie’s key lesson of kindness and how freely it should be shared.

Avantika’s Karen Embodies the Core Message of ‘Mean Girls’

While the writing for her has greatly improved, Mean Girls (2024) owes so much of what makes it great to the stellar acting ability of Karen’s actress, Avantika. Her comedic timing is impeccable throughout, and even within a character who maintains a placid expression for most of her time onscreen she finds key emotive moments that resonate with viewers (for both emotional and comedy’s sake). Add this to her beautiful singing voice and dancing skills that create what is arguably the movie’s best musical sequence, and this breakout star endows the story with a level of talent that brings it to a whole new level of artistry. It was obvious that Karen was going to be a much more complex character no matter what this time around, but it’s hard to think of a person who can carry that development as expertly as Avantika does.

When considering Mean Girls and its core message, rarely is the character of Karen factored into the conversation. Her original purpose was purely comedic relief and it can be hard to consider her as anything substantial to the actual narrative attempting to be told. Yet, therein lies the issue. In a film so focused on uplifting young women, why is it okay to rob one of any chance to have actual complexity and a role in the plot taking place around her? Well, Avantika’s version of this character not only addresses this issue — she embodies it. In the 2024 version of this now classic tale, the character of Karen is allowed to be an actual person whose unyielding love for those around her serves as a warm point of stability in a film whose latter half features so much strife. She astounds with her comedy, and her musical ability, and in quiet ways she reveals the story’s emotional center. The character of Karen is truly the biggest improvement in this newest version, and hopefully, her updated inclusion is the first in a long line of characters whose proud sexuality and unabashed compassion are respected rather than ridiculed.

Mean Girls (2024) is currently playing in theaters in the U.S.

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