Do Revenge, Your Next High School Classic, Pays Homage To Mean Girls While Critiquing Performative “Wokeness”

Do Revenge is actually pretty good. It’s fresh, it’s raw, it’s an inadvertent critique of performative “wokeness”, and finally, it pays homage to Mean Girls and other teenage comedy classics before its time.

A New Take On High School From A Mean Girl’s Perspective

Do Revenge is a story of vengeance and redemption from the perspective of Regina… I mean Drea–the queen B mean girl who befriends Janis and Cady… I mean Eleanor/Nora, a newcomer and fish-out-of-water that gets a ‘problematic’, cliche high school make-over and loses herself in the process of seeking vengeance on Drea’s behalf.

Some of the scenes reference our beloved high school classics and the decision to bring in Sara Michelle Gellar solidified the film’s 90s teen-flick reminiscent tone. When Drea’s plan to humiliate her ex fails, she looks upon the chaotic hallways plastered with troll fliers just as Regina did after submitting the burn-book to the principle in Mean Girls.

DO REVENGE – Sarah Michelle Gellar as ‘The Headmaster’ in Do Revenge. Cr. Kim Simms/Netflix © 2022.

What is interesting about this film’s approach to high school life is that oddly enough, everyone is a “mean girl”, even Drea’s ex boyfriend, Max. With the exception of Russ, everyone exhibits sociopathic behaviors even when they’re desperately wanting to live more authentically and true to themselves. Everyone sells out for their image. Everyone wants the image of being good, of being “woke”, of caring, even while also causing harm to others.

A Critique of Wokeness in the Age of Digital, Performative Activism and Image Obsession

One way that the film is refreshing is that it gives us a fresh perspective on how our social/digital image is often conflated with who we really are underneath it all. Everyone in the film, with the exception of Russ, is mean and disingenuous. They are unaccountable, subversive, treacherous, and all out for appearances. In a way, this is an accurate portrayal of what internet culture–it isn’t all that it appears to be and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

Drea’s own friends abandon her after the video is leaked while offering false sympathy. They can’t help but benefit even when they know that it’s wrong for them to exclude her.

Drea’s ex, Max, clearly benefits from Drea’s downfall. He begins to date her best friend and for as deplorable as he truly is, he is untouchable. Just as Drea is shown at the beginning of the film using “wokeness’ as a vehicle to escape criticism from her peers while eliciting support and degrading anyone who stands a threat to her status, Max can’t help himself but to capitalize on Drea’s fall from grace to further his own social agenda by creating a woke platform for womens’ empowerment that was ironically catalyzed by the same public humiliation that he intended to cause Drea. This ultimately cost her her college acceptance as well as friendships, and all to Max’s benefit.

Max uses his founded platform, The Cis-Heteronormative Men Championing Women, to further alienate Drea and gain popularity–all while, soliciting compassion for himself and hiding the fact that he himself leaked Drea’s sex-tape to the internet.

When Drea exposes that Max has been cheating on her, her former best friend, and every woman prior, he goads his peers to clean up the mess by spreading a rumor that he was non-monogamous all along, even though he was in exclusive monogamous relationships. This prompts the student body so see his decision to cheat as a progressive promotion of sexual “fluidity”.

Note that in reality, non-monogamy/polyamory can still involve forms of cheating and breaching of trust as these relationship styles necessitate open and healthy communication.

The idea that cheating is acceptable as long as one partner claims the label of non-monogamy is a common misconception about open relationships. A person’s relationship expectations and style still need to be communicated to their romantic and sexual partners openly–in every kind of relationship dynamic.

Max’s response to being exposed as a cheater while lying to his former and present partner were parodies of how woke culture can be used as subterfuge to diffuse situations that implicate a person for wrong-doing for the sake of retweetable semantics. Max eventually is looked upon as “brave” for his transgressions by the entirety of the student population–taking visibility away from his harmful behavior while bolstering his public persona as the resilient and progressive hero that champions women and sexual fluidity.

At the climax of the film, however, we also come to realize that Drea is also the cause of so much of her pain. While Max is the more obvious antagonist, the film’s premise is far more complex than what many cis-heteronormative men are able to get away with. Both Drea and Eleanor, who have both been wronged, have still caused immense harm to others and still need to face their own actions.

The film is very self-aware but in a way that is understated. Many of the jokes call attention to our cultural obsession with being socially perceived as “morally perfect” even when we knowingly can never be and even when some are hurting and subverting others, rather than doing right simply to just be good.

The film makes this point from making “safe-space” jokes to playing hot potato with the popular internet label, “toxic narcissist”. While doing so, it still provides our titular characters with a pathway to redemption.

Holding the Heroines Accountable

When Eleanor is first shown turning on Drea at her birthday party, the film attempts to absolve the later criticisms of Mean Girls. Instead of Drea being the victimized character whose life got ruined–much like Janis in Mean Girls— Eleanor shines a light on how blinded Drea is with her own plotting that she isn’t capable of seeing Eleanor as a friend, nor aware enough to know that she too, is being manipulated by Eleanor.

Eleanor is not all she appears to be. Much like Cady, her values are being subverted by her newfound friends… however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Eleanor actually has moves of her own. Unlike Cady, she has been holding the strings all along–plotting against Drea who cannot remember the psychological harm that she caused.

Viewers are set up to root for Drea because she has explicitly been humiliated, wronged, and targeted by Max in a way that calls attention to how women are so often subjected to public shaming even when they are being blatantly victimized by their male counterparts. Similarly, viewers are set up to root for Eleanor, who was subjected to blatant bullying, slander and homophobia.

Nevertheless, both Eleanor and Drea are deeply guilty for the harm that they have caused others. While they’re actions are understandable, they are treacherous, nevertheless. Russ, very explicitly, calls attention to this–even when Drea is lying in a hospital bed, expressing that harm done, even for the right reasons, is still inexcusable.

Let’s Face It, Everyone Is A Little “Problematic”  

Carissa is caught for growing mushrooms as a revenge plot for throwing Eleanor under the bus when she was outed, Erica is framed for doing cocaine as punishment for her bullying, Max is exposed for his lying and womanizing, Tara can’t stand the front she puts on to maintain her popular image even though she reaps the benefits of Drea’s alienation, Drea and Eleanor are both out for revenge and are willing to destroy everyone. Eleanor even blackmails Drea into attending the Ivy League Party to expose all of her social circle on social media.

When Eleanor and Drea come to terms with the miserable cycle that they find themselves in, they return to the relatability and safety that they found in one another, something neither of them had before in their respective lives, but that they identified in one another at their worst–when their masks were off and when they didn’t have a superficial persona to fall back on.

The fun twists and turns of the film, the colorful references to its teen-flick predecessors, and its quick-witted bits are the makings of a solid teen movie classic.

Ultimately, the film ends on a heartfelt note and is insightful in showing that despite how each of them are perceived, none of the main characters are “good”… However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of growing and becoming better people.

True progress is in the transformation.


Madrid-based traveler, visual and performing artist, and content writer.

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