(you might wanna listen to Clique by Kanye West whilst reading this to get a truly immersive experience)
I’m going to go way back and remind you that we used to be members of clans and packs that needed to stick together for survival; they lived in caves together, they ate together, they developed language and fire and civilisations together. If you want an accurate representation of that kind of life, I suggest watching The Croods staring Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage.
These groups changed, as people died and new people joined, but the evolution of groups of people joining together and why as a whole is also really interesting.
From the Brat Pack, to FRIENDS, to Taylor Swift’s gang of gals, celebrity friendship groups have always left interesting tabloid headlines and jealous teenagers in their wake. You wanna join their gang, you wanna be on their group chat! You wanna be in one of their hundred perfect Instagrams.
If you look at films from the 80s, you have the Brat Pack – a group of actors who starred in numerous successful teen movies like The Breakfast Club, St Elmo’s Fire, and Pretty in Pink, making teens everywhere jealous of the actors’ beauty, success, and fame. Within those films they reflect much more realistic groups of friends, who were in high school and struggling through social expectations. Probably most iconically The Breakfast Club, where each actor represents a high school stereotype. I love that film, but I feel like Pretty in Pink represents the thing that divided people mostly at that time, which was how much money you had. This seemed so key at the time, with Molly Ringwald explaining to her father how it was problematic that she was in love with a ‘richie’. The amount of money someone has seems to make not nearly the amount of difference that it did then, showing a clear distinction between cliques of then and now.
Fast forward 10 years into the 90s, and you get Clueless, where Cher shows the new girl who she can and can’t date, as well as who to be friends with and who to never associate with, ever! This movie’s based on a Jane Austen novel, and ties the two together through hierarchical friendship groups that apparently transcend time. (this film shows less about the social divide between the rich and the poor because it’s set in a private school.)
FRIENDs includes possibly the most iconic friend group of all time. Although they aren’t in high school, they still have the table where they all sit at in the Central Perk in a very lunch-table kinda way, each of them has a defining characteristic, and they’re all really hot. What’s interesting is that whilst people watching the show wanted to be friends with the characters, the actors then themselves became a group of friends that you wanted to be friends with too!
Okay, then we get into Mean Girls territory with the early 2000s. Regina George shows the new girl around the various cliques – in truly ICONIC style (getting concerned that I might have used the word iconic too many times…) – from the art freaks to ‘us’. There are rigid rules that define where they fit into the high school hierarchy. You like indie music? Over there. You into sports? You go there. Are you hot? You join those people at that table and sit in that chair. Unlike today, this film shows how what you do and how you dress defined where you were placed, losing again the sense of a rich/poor divide.
Now you get to today, where the Internet has created the ‘squad’. Unlike the films mentioned here, groups in high school now seem to be less to do with what you do, wear, like, listen to, but are a mishmash of everyone, brought together with seemingly no common denominator. They still have that element of being completely impenetrable, but now we have even more ways to define ourselves despite that lack of a clear, defining factor. You can Snapchat your group’s party, the picnic you just went on, that time you got drunk, the story of your friendship validated and forever encapsulated in various social media, buried in filters and tags. The group chat that constantly reminds you that you’re a part of something, vibrating in your pocket reminding you you have a seat to sit in at lunch and people you can invite out at the weekend. Although there are still celebrity ‘squads’, for example Taylor Swift’s recently founded group of famous actresses, singers, comedians etc., I feel like the social norms in terms of friendship groups and cliques have changed massively ever since the idea of celebrity became as commercialised and idolised as it did.
I’m not sure how I feel about the ‘squad mentality’. If you’re in one, then it seems like the best thing in the whole world, like your bubble of people protecting you, but there’s always the people who aren’t a part of one, or the petty group dramas, or the want to be in a different group. I don’t know. Please tell me your ideas on the idea of squad goals etc.