Judith Butler Connections

So this week we started talking about Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” On Thursday we talked a lot about constitutive exclusions – how you can not identify with one institution without the opposing others – and how identity categories are restricting. To be shallow and less academic, this actually reminds me a lot of one of my most beloved films – Mean Girls.  This movie’s plot is absolutely dependent on the existence of exclusive identity categories.  And as we talked about in class, identity categories act as a technology of surveillance and a way of ordering people and relationships.  Thus, the “Plastics” would not exist without the “Asians,” “Cool Asians,” “Burnouts,” “Jocks,” “Cool Jocks,” and of course the elusive “Mathletes.”  The prestige of being a “Plastic” is eliminated when all of the other identity categories disappear.  Also, once a person enters a certain identity category, s/he is now subject to a set of rules, whether they be explicit or implicit.  In the “Plastics” the rules are clearly spelled out:  wearing pink on Tuesdays, only wearing their hair up once a week, and so on.  The “rules” limit any deviance and act as a surveyor of the claimants of any particular identity category.  In the film, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) struggles immensely when she tries to navigate between two identity categories – they exclude each other and are not compatible. Thus, although this connection is not the most intellectually deep, I think that Mean Girls is an decently accurate – if not an overly-simplified exaggeration – of the limitations and obstacles that identity categories create.

I have attached a link to a trailer of Mean Girls in case anyone isn’t familiar.

Mallory Thayer


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