Why You Need A Ms. Norbury of “Mean Girls” Fame Pushing You
Do I have a treat for you this week. This week we’re letting Team Amplify Lab take over. For a change, you’re going to hear from Julia, a new and awesome add to the team. We thought it was time to hear some fresh perspectives.
I am in an air-conditioned movie theatre in Houston, Texas two seats away from my mother, and I am horrified. I am watching Mean Girls for the first time, on the week it was released in April of 2004. I am 9 years old, and already I understand too much of the often mature thematic elements in the film. Now a classic, the movie Mean Girls is chock full of some real, adult, truth bombs.
Ms. Norbury sees Cady, her practiced skill set, understands the value of her aptitude, and holds her accountable to that. Tina portrays Cady Heron, our protagonist’s 12th-grade calculus math teacher Ms. Norbury. Ms. Norbury is 30something, divorced, working two too many jobs, and sharp as a tack. She recognizes Cady’s mathematical ability and insists over the course of the film, that Cady take advantage of her skills. Cady begins to fail math, and Ms. Norbury calls her in, knowing she is capable of more.
Adapted as a screenplay by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame, who herself acts in the film, the teen drama unpacks questions about womanhood, friendship, and what it means to navigate your own life with authenticity and integrity.
I imagine you’ve seen the flick. If you haven’t, you ought to.
Find me an American millennial who hasn’t seen Mean Girls, I dare you. The film is deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness. Remember, I was in the 4th grade when I first enjoyed the flick and I’ve seen it countless times since.
Consequently, I remain in search of my very own Ms.Norbury; someone who is certain of my potential and sees it with enough clarity to offer guidance. A mentor who is ready to give the little push I might need.
Ms. Norbury believes in Cady more than Cady believes in herself.
More than just pressing Cady onwards and understanding her natural abilities, Ms. Norbury saw value in her pupil’s authentic self. Ultimately, Cady is a nerd and genuinely excited about math. Seeing and leveraging that reality is what elevates Ms. Norbury from teacher to mentor, from comic relief to a paragon of adult lady realness. Mathematics and the Mathletes become tools Ms. Norbury uses to inspire Cady, give her challenging work, and heighten the abilities that distinguish her.
Mean Girls teaches us a variety of lessons. The film asks us why women are asked to perform certain roles, to undermine and minimize their genuine abilities, and to compete against one another. What makes Cady an object of ridicule at the outset of the film, is also what sets her apart. Initially, Cady doesn’t think twice about her mathematical ability or her outsider perspective. They are earnest interests she has developed on her own, carefully incubated away from the monstrosities of high school “girl world.”
Ms. Norbury is similar; her character is likable because of her hardship, her shortcomings, and her unflinching ability to laugh at herself and the circumstances around her. Her acerbic wit is part and parcel of makes Ms. Norbury genuine, and genuinely cool. If we are to bring the film into the corporate world, Ms. Norbury is basically Cady’s first great Boss, the superior that Cady would work for again in a second.
Like Cady, I am new here–new to this whole Joanna Bloor + Ladybadass situation. Looks to me, as the fresh-eyed outsider, like being a Ladybadass is about, at least in part, embodying both Cady Heron and Ms. Norbury.
It is important to remember who you are and why you do what you do differently than anyone else could, what in particular you are bringing to the party. And it is important to think back on who pushed you, which leaders inspired you towards a better craftier version of yourself.
It is important to remain in dialogue with yourself about your genuine abilities, your untapped skills, and to notice when you might need a push.
But also, sometimes that push has to come from someone else; sometimes you need someone else to tell you that you’re a Ladybadass.
What do you think? Would you like to hear more from other voices? Do YOU have ideas you’d like to share?
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