The conflict of values in Mean Girls
English 101 11 December 2012 Long Assignment: Mean Girls Discourse Gee’s theory of Discourse is that mushfaking can never be successful without already being native within that Discourse or learning the Discourse early on through apprenticeship. The movie Mean Girls is an example to confirm Gee’s claims, but also the claim of constant resistance and reform to mushfake a dominant Discourse well, needs to be included. If the claim is not included, values will conflict between primary and secondary Discourses.
The conflict of values in Mean Girls demonstrates the dangers of mushfaking a dominant Discourse and proves that mushfaking itself is not enough to become successful without resistance and reform efforts, which in consequence, will lead to identity conflicts and a retreat from the dominant Discourse. Gee expressed the primary Discourse as the identity learned early in life from parents and home society (Gee). In the movie Mean Girls, Cady Heron, the main character, is from Africa.
Her primary Discourse is that of the values and beliefs instilled upon her from her parents and the society of Africa. The customs are completely different in Africa than they are in America, where Cady moves to attend high school after being homeschooled all her life. Throughout Cady’s journey in high school she is constantly making a reference to the way problems would have been dealt with in Africa. Whenever a problem would arise, Cady would imagine everyone acting like animals and settling the problem through a fight from dominance like actual animals would in Africa.
Cady makes this reference because her primary Discourse presented that each problem should be solved in such a manner, that she believed this how a situation in America would be handled. With a strong connection to her primary Discourse, many conflicts and tension arose between Cady’s secondary Discourse and her primary Discourse. The first conflict comes from a test put in place to become part of the dominant Discourse. The dominant Discourse always preforms a Christmas dance at the school’s annual talent show. This dance is a scandalizing performance that showcases the dominant Discourse’s sex appeal and confirms Cady’s cceptance into the dominant Discourse. The short leather skirts, tight low cut leather shirts, and high-healed leather boots, conflict to the modest clothing of Cady’s primary Discourse. Cady’s parents were in the audience to watch the dance and gasped in shock and distaste to the way their daughter was now presenting herself to others. For Cady to continue to mushfake her way into the dominant Discourse, she had to perform the ultimate task, adding a person into the infamous Burn Book. The Burn Book is a scrapbook that holds pictures of every girl in the junior class (Mean Girls).
A nasty rumor about them is added to make the dominant Discourse seem as though they are above all others. At this point Cady was still not included in the dominant Discourse, but she did go through with adding a new face into the Burn book to be accepted as one of them. In the end the Burn Book, after Cady admitted to being the author, was the main reason Cady was rejected by society as the head of the dominant Discourse and returned to her primary Discourse. The dominant Discourse told Cady through overt instruction how to become like them, which was also a key factor to her imminent downfall from the dominant Discourse.
Cady learned how to become part of the dominant Discourse through overt instruction. Overt instruction is strictly telling a person how to become a part of a Discourse, rather than show them how to behave and act, apprenticeship. The dominant Discourse would tell Cady what to wear, when to wear it, who to talk to, and what clubs she could and could not join. By learning the way of the dominant Discourse through overt instruction rather than apprenticeship, Cady was not able to successfully mushfake the dominant Discourse for too long and eventually returned to her primary Discourse.
While in Africa, Cady and her family were very close and spent a lot of time together. Once Cady moved from Africa and mushfakes enough to be accepted into the dominant Discourse, her sense of cohesiveness with her family begins to diminish. Cady did well in math while being homeschooled in Africa and was doing well in high-level calculus while in high school. Cady was asked to be a part of the mathletes but the mathletes were deemed as nerds to the dominant Discourse and would bring down their social status (Mean Girls).
She then began to fail math tests to impress the dominant discourse and a popular guy, while appearing unintelligent to have the guy tutor her as well as proving worthy to become a part of the dominant Discourse. Her parents on the other hand, knew Cady was intelligent when it came to math, so when Cady started to bring home math tests with failing grades to have her parents sign the tests, they became worried that they pushed her to hard to join the public high school so early into moving.
The conflict was that Cady was exceptionally good at math but she had to appear not to be in order to impress the dominant Discourse as well as the guy. She knew she was good at math and knew that she shouldn’t let her grades or parents down, but mushfaking math was a key point to become one in the dominant Discourse. Becoming a part of the dominant Discourse comes with certain responsibilities. Cady had to throw a party to become the head of the dominant discourse, but in order to throw this party she had to lie to her parents and cancel a family trip that had been in place for months.
Tension arises when Cady can no longer be trusted by her parents for throwing the party and lying to them. During the party Cady’s main goal is to get together with the popular guy to confirm her place as the head of the dominant Discourse. While Cady is working on her plan for the popular guy, people throw sacred African urns that were given as parting gifts to her family from tribes in Africa. The throwing of the urns is an example of the two Discourses coming together.
Cady’s secondary Discourse, the American high school crowd, clashed with her primary Discourse because Cady no longer cared about her primary Discourse or the throwing of the sacred urns, but only cared about her advancement in the secondary and dominant Discourse. In order to mushfake a dominant Discourse well, constant resistance and reform needs to be made. Cady was not willing to continue to reform to the needs of the dominant Discourse, so she fell from her mushfaked head position in the dominant Discourse to retreat back to her primary Discourse.
She disassociated from the dominant Discourse and fell back into the non-dominant Discourse, the Discourse that does not bring social goods, but solidarity (Gee). Cady joined the mathletes and returned to the friends she made before she mushfaked her way into the dominant Discourse. Cady also fixes her relationship with her parents and the conflicts and tension with her primary Discourse. Works Cited Gee, James Paul. “What Is Literacy? ” Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What Is Literacy? Print. Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Walters. Perf. Lindsay Lohan. 2004. DVD.