It’s been almost two months since I’ve done one of these and there’s a good reason: I haven’t really felt my interest sparked by any I’ve read. Yeah The Killing Joke novel was really great but I wouldn’t call it a must write on. I really disliked the Captain Marvel book I read. There were a couple of Star Wars books I thumbed through but none were that exciting.
No, to find a topic worth discussing you need an idea so out there weird yet incredible in execution it almost takes a full column just to explain. Enter Ian Doescher, a guy who on a whim took Star Wars: A New Hope and did an act of it in iambic pentameter thwn sent it to his publisher which got it to Lucasfilm which has now led to all the Episodes released turned into pseudo-Shakespearean plays. As I said, hell of an intro. Where do you go while you’re killing time between movies? Well, to other pop culture works.
On Tuesday, he released two new Shakespeare pastiches, a retelling of Back to the Future and today’s subject, an adaptation of Mean Girls. I have yet to read the BTTF one but I spent Tuesday morning in the company of this work. I knew as I picked it up that the advantage of the work, its brilliant dialogue by Tina Fey, was also the obstacle. How do you capture her work and get it right?
The play retells the plot of Mean Girls and I don’t mean it freely retells it. I mean it’s absolutely beat for beat the same work. There’s been adjustments to get it into play format such as using balconies for asides. But it’s 100% Mean Girls as you know it. Just told in the style of William Shakespeare.
Books like these are incredibly valuable to writers. Since we have the original film in our cultural DNA–come on you can quote it too because I sure as hell can–it makes what work the writer does to transform the play all the more distinct. You can really appreciate the exercise and see if it works as more than just a novelty.
And this sure as hell is more than that. Doescher really does a great job of connecting the 2004 film to the classic traditions it drew from. Backstabbing, lying, and general horrible human behavior all fit in Shakespeare, who did after all have a yo mama joke in Titus. Moving this to iambic pentameter feels perfect.
Doescher does a hell of a job translating. Such a good job I’m loathe to share any quotes. Suffice it to say a line like “his gaiety doth overwhelm his sense” is at once a sparkling adaptation and has a great ring itself. To read it is to anticipate your favorite scenes then glow as you read them anew.
He also does a great job of showing how great the original work is in the first place. Fey deserved an Oscar nomination for her incredible script. By adapting it, the airtight structure and pacing shine through. That we know the lines to look for speaks to how incredible the dialogue is.
Much Ado About Mean Girls is a gift to fans of the film. It’s faithful yet unique in its own way. Think of it as a great cover.