Thursday’s series premiere of Bad Teacher introduced viewers to Meredith Davis (Ari Graynor), a beautiful but financially challenged young divorcée looking to find her way to another rich husband. A seemingly shallow sexpot, Meredith charms audiences as the champion for a group of unpopular girls; relating to their feelings as outcasts, she tells the story of how she was “kicked out of my life” after her husband cheated on her and left her with nothing.
This is how Meredith illustrates the evolution of the new mean girl: With a gorgeous face and “bikini-ready body,” she is aspirational to some women, but as a victim of a douchey ex-husband, she is instantly relatable to all women. Think Jessica Rabbit meets Liz Lemon. She’s got moxy and hustle as she schemes to get back on top, with the help of a middle school and its population of weekend dads. As charismatic as she is sharp, Meredith represents an emerging female character who can capitalize on her sexuality and sort out her own messes, without taking anything from anyone. She is the face of the new (and better liked) mean girl, giving them a better rep and challenging viewers to rethink the stereotype. Maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
Here are a few tips for rocking that mean-girl vibe, without actually becoming a mean girl at heart:
- Know your worth.
Meredith has a lot of problems, but confidence isn’t one of them. She swings instead of walks, poses instead of sits, and has perfected the flirty hair flip. Her confidence draws people to her. Within minutes of arriving at Richard M. Nixon Middle school, Principal Carl (David Alan Grier) is beguiled, Irene (Sarah Gilbert) is completely smitten, Coach Kotsky has a crush and Jenny (Kristin Davis) is her sworn enemy, mostly out of jealousy. When she is repeatedly told she is pretty, she responds, “I know. I am also very photogenic.” We should all start answering this way after receiving a compliment.
- Always tell the truth.
Even though her message is sometimes difficult to hear, Meredith doesn’t shy away from the hard conversations. Teeth need whitening? Need more deodorant? She’s your go-to girl when you need some hard truths. But what sets her apart from bitchy female characters is that Meredith’s truth is not meant as malicious or hurtful — she thinks you need to hear it. And you probably do. She gives the girls a bit of hard advice after a run-in with the popular girls she’s dubbed “Water Bra” and “Panty Lines.” She tells them, “It gets better, but not right away. And truthfully, it will probably only get better for one of you.” Face it: She’s right.
- Find a cause and fight for it.
This is why we love her: Meredith sticks up for folks who can’t stick up for themselves. When Lily (Sara Rodier) and her friends are being bullied, she makes it her business to keep the real mean girls in line. She confronts them, insults them and all around puts them in their place. If you’ve ever been bullied (or ever felt personally victimized by your very own Regina George), then the cafeteria scene from the pilot episode, “Divorced Dudes,” will make you cheer. As a pep talk to the girls, Meredith tells them,“I may be blessed with a perfect rack and a great face, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how you’re feeling … You got to fake it ’til you make it.” Amen, sister.
- Don’t back down.
Every mean girl has to have an adversary, and Meredith has found hers in the uptight, prudish Jenny (Kristin Davis). A perfectionist and stickler for the rules, Jenny sets out to sabotage Meredith and expose the lies on her résumé. Meredith doesn’t shy away from her challenges and flaunts the rules anyway. When confronted about stealing Career Day from Jenny, Meredith defiantly retorts, “I’ve already made the fliers.” And we all know what that means.
- Be yourself.
Meredith has fallen quite a few rungs down the social latter, to say the least. But that doesn’t stop her from being unashamed about her agenda. Riding a school bus to school has no effect on her; she struts down those steps like she’s in a White Snake video, and she puts up no falsities as she gets to know the other teachers (and they still love her). Irene (Sara Gilbert) is so infatuated with her that she is willing to take Meredith up on this reply to a lunch invitation: “I nap at lunch, but feel free to give me the cash equivalent.” Sounds good to me.
So let your mean flag fly, just as long as you’re following the rules according to Meredith Davis. In her honor, I’ve compiled a list of other (well-liked) mean girls from over the years (in no particular order):
- Gossip Girl‘s Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester)
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons)
- True Blood‘s Pam De Beaufort (Kristin Bauer van Straten)
- The Mindy Project‘s Tamra (Xosha Roquemore)
- Angel‘s Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter)
- Ugly Betty‘s Wilhelmina Vivian Slater (Vanessa Williams)
- Freaks and Geeks‘ Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps)
- Awkward.‘s Sadie Saxton (Molly Tarlov)
- Glee‘s Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera)
- 30 Rock‘s Jenna Mulroney (Jane Krakowski)
Wanna know if you’re a bad teacher — or a well-liked mean girl, for that matter? Take this quiz at CBS to find out.
Tweet me the mean girls you love to love and leave a comment below.
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