By: Shelby Harding, Senior Editor
Many people know the 2004 teen comedy, Mean Girls, for its star-studded cast and continued cult following. However, many people don’t know the movie was inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes. Wiseman’s book offers parents a guide to navigating “Girl World” and “Planet Parent” by helping parents understand adolescent friendships, the power of cliques, and the challenges young females face in today’s society.
In 2002, Wiseman signed a $400,000 deal with Paramount for all film rights and derivative works. This deal included all rights to original motion pictures, musicals, and TV shows. Shortly after, Wiseman met Saturday Night Live’s first female head writer, Tina Fey. Fey saw Wiseman’s New York Times Magazine cover story about the deal with Paramount and asked to buy the film rights to Queen Bees and Wannabes. Wiseman stated that she chose Fey’s offer with producer Lorne Michaels over others because “it was very much a ‘we’re doing this together’ kind of experience.” So, why is Wiseman now threatening legal action against both Fey and Paramount?
Wiseman’s film contract included net profits, which are profits payable after recouping the cost of production, interest, overhead, advertising, and the like. Mean Girls grossed over $130 million worldwide at the box office, according to IMDb. Yet, Paramount insists that the film did not make any net profits, meaning Wiseman has not received any compensation in addition to the original $400,000 contract. Wiseman’s attorney, Ryan Keech, is now asking for an audit of Paramount’s books from the film.
Additionally, a musical adaptation of the film was in the works by 2013 and later premiered in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2017. Wiseman approached Fey about an opportunity to create an educational program about bullying for high school students putting on their own productions, but Wiseman was never compensated for training the cast and crew. The musical used Wiseman’s name in its Playbill despite Wiseman receiving no payment. Although legal documents have yet to be filed by Wiseman, it is likely not a coincidence that Wiseman’s claims surfaced shortly after news dropped of the Broadway musical being turned into a film set to premiere on Paramount+.
Wiseman publicly criticized Fey for speaking openly about women supporting other women but says she has not had that experience with Fey over the years. Wiseman stated, “It’s really what my work has been about, especially Mean Girls. Women don’t have to be best friends—we can get mad at each other, but when it comes down to it, we need to actually support each other.” Representatives for Fey and Paramount have yet to comment on the matter.