How Mean Girls’s Janis Ian Sparked My Sexual Awakening

by Devon Preston

When you take a look at the entertainment industry over the last several decades, there are countless fictional characters that have caused women to question their sexuality.  Just within the past few years, straight and queer women alike have fallen for androgynous female characters such as Shane McCutcheon from The L Word, Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett in The Runaways, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and pretty much every character in Orange is the New Black. These are women who inspired bi-curious conversation, or simply reaffirmed already apparent queerness, making them go down in queer history as some of the most fantasized about characters of all time. Yet, for me, it wasn’t a ’70s rocker or a Swedish hacker that sparked my queer awakening, because, by the time I saw those films, I was already well aware of my sexuality. Instead, one of my first instances of sexual curiosity came from the 21st century cult classic Mean Girls and I still have a big lesbian crush on Janis Ian, played by Lizzy Caplan.

Janis Ian Job

Although Janis Ian’s sexuality was used as a homophobic bullying tactic by Regina George and the Plastics, many found her “dykey-ness” to be a total turn on. Sure, Regina may have poked fun at Janis’s gothic wardrobe and pin-straight black hair, but it was her badass sense of style and no-fucks-given attitude that made her a queer sex icon.

mean girls janice spring fling dance

I was 10 when Mean Girls came out, which was a few years before I began to seriously question my sexuality. As I entered middle school and began my teen years, Mean Girls played a key role in the pop culture of the time, and like every other 12-year-old, I was just trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into society. I related to Cady’s struggles to fit in, but as I got older, I found myself identifying less with the film’s protagonist and more with the brazen and eccentric supporting character. By the time I was halfway through high school, I had seen the film over twenty times, and I knew that instead of wanting to be Janis Ian, I wanted to date her.


There was something in the way that Janis unabashedly dismantled patriarchal standards and navigated high school to the beat of her own drum that got teenage me all hot and bothered, and to this day I still find her to be a total babe. Even though in the end, Janis may not have been a lesbian (although I still don’t totally buy her relationship with Kevin Gnapoor) and I was left secretly hoping that Regina and Janis would hook up in a sequel of their lives after North Shore, she is still a queer role model in my eyes. And while we were never rewarded with a follow-up confirming Janis Ian’s sexuality, Showtime’s Masters of Sex has given fans a second chance at drooling over Lizzy Caplan. Sure, the characters are about as dissimilar as you can get, but throughout her acting career, Caplan has continually played feminist characters, which are sexy no matter what.

Nevertheless, today on October 3rd, also known as Mean Girls Day, let’s all take the time to honor the women of the big screen and the silver screen that affirmed our blooming lady love and reassured outsiders everywhere that it was okay to be different. So whether you’re team Ruby Rose or still shipping Naomi and Emily from Skins, be sure to think back to the fictional feminists that made sleepovers just a little bit hotter. 

Janis Ian Gif

Photos and GIFs Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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