The Leading Villain

While I was writing the thank u, next review, something dawned on me. Regina George was, for all things considered, the protagonist of Mean Girls.

Which, to me, is confusing because Cady Heron is literally set up to be the protagonist. Cady narrates the whole movie, she’s the perspective character and the story revolves around her and her experience in high school. But it doesn’t. It revolves around Regina who, in reality, should be the villain. However, what does Regina do that is actually villainous? In the movie, the worst she does is spread the Burn Book and, maybe, gets back with Aaron to spite Cady. The rest is just being shady which isn’t very nice, but not very villainous either. But what does Cady do? She gives her foot cream instead of face cream, she makes Regina gain a whole bunch of weight, she turns Regina’s friends against her. Which, in my opinion, is far more villainous.

And yet here Regina is, hated by almost everyone in the movie and the archetypal teenage villain. She gets what’s coming for her, and she ends up losing (although this is questionable) Spring Fling Queen to Cady, the good girl turned bad turned back to good. It doesn’t matter, though, because by that point she has stolen the show with her ice queen attitude and pretty-in-pink looks. Regina is the Mean Girl, it’s her movie. But that got me thinking, where else has the protagonist been usurped?

regina 1

The first one I think of is Altered Carbon, the Netflix series. Although I think I was only 75% conscious watching most of it, I still retain a decent amount of the convoluted storyline. The basic concept is that humans are now immortal, retaining their consciousness in a stack in the back of the neck where they can sleeve themselves into a new body. The storyline follows a rebel, Takeshi Kovacs, who was resleeved and then hired to investigate the death of a very wealthy man. It ultimately boils down to Takeshi’s sister, Reileen, running a massive drug and brothel ring who blackmailed a political leader to vote down a bill that, if passed, would allow murder victims with religious coding (which usually means they die one ‘true’ death) to be temporarily resleeved so they could testify against their killer. However, in those final moments, I wasn’t rooting for Takeshi. I was rooting for Rey, because she had passed off her own murder and made an intense hustle getting her to the top of a very rigid society. And all she wanted to do was protect what she’d made for herself, which is a totally understandable defence. Very quick spoiler alert; Rey’s death scene is, by far, the saddest scene in the whole show. It really did steal the spotlight, and ultimately cemented Rey as the character that I associate with Altered Carbon, a sentiment that, from what I’ve heard from the actor Dichen Lachman, is shared by a lot of fans.

I’d like to end this quick blog post on a note that Lachman made while talking about this same topic; it was only through her script that she was able to steal the show. The script that the screenwriters wrote was flexible enough for her to work in her own charm and ultimately turn out on top, and I think the same goes for the character of Regina George. I’m sure that script had enough space for every character to shine through (except maybe Karen, I’m still salty), but Rachel McAdams had that special formula of a good character, a good script and a good actress that turned out to be one of the most influential characters of the 2000s. It’s not easy, and it definitely isn’t seen a lot, but every so often the villain will manage to usurp the protagonist, and when they do it makes for very memorable storytelling.



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