'Why Is One Brown?' Avantika's 'Mean Girls' Role Has Been Questioned By Critics, But She's The Reason Many South Asians Will Watch The Movie

The likes of Mindy Kaling, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Seerat Saini have thrown their support behind the actor who plays Karen Shetty.

Caption	Avantika plays Karen Shetty, Angourie Rice plays Cady Heron, Renee Rapp plays Regina George and Bebe Wood plays Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls

Image Source: Supplied – Jojo Whilden/Paramount

October 3rd, Glen Coco and wearing pink on Wednesdays. These are all synonymous with the Lindsay Lohan movie Mean Girls, which was released – wait for it – 20 YEARS ago! 

As the new year kicks off, fans of the oh so fetch film are in for a treat, with a new Mean Girls hitting cinemas this month. Producer Tina Fey insists it’s not merely a remake, but rather a new interpretation of the stage musical version of the movie, promising freshness but still enough plastics pizzazz – particularly due to its casting. With the likes of Avantika Vandanapu as Karen, Jaquel Spivey as Damian and Moana’s Auli'i Cravalho as Janis, ethnic diversity has thankfully not been ignored in a production based on an American high school in a modern, multicultural 2024. 

Bebe Wood plays Gretchen, Renee Rapp plays Regina and Avantika plays Karen in Mean Girls

Image Source: Supplied – Jojo Whilden/Paramount

But the progress and strides made in terms of cultural representation in Hollywood are still sadly met with prejudice by some, proving the stakes are often higher for people of colour just trying to do their job in the screen industry. When it comes to Mean Girls, racist commentary has already swirled around the casting of Avantika as Karen. The role was played by Amanda Seyfried in the 2004 original that featured an all-white trio of ‘mean girls’ including Rachel McAdams as Regina and Lacey Chabert as Gretchen. 

Taking to her Instagram account recently, Avantika shared a few of the offensive remarks which included, “Imagine getting bullied by a Indian girl (sic)”, “The head wobble would scare me the most” and “Why is one brown”. 

Despite the ignorance of these trolls, an overwhelming wave of support from other South Asian women – both actors and fans – proved the world is rightfully ready for a brown ‘mean girl’. 

“Why is one brown”?! Great note, cool guy!” Mindy Kaling wrote in the comments section, while Never Have I Ever star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan said, “screw them, you’re gonna shine”. 

Ramakrishnan’s co-star Richa Moorjani added, “The only reason I would ever watch this is BECAUSE there’s a brown girl in it. Specifically you. So proud”. Meanwhile, content creator Seerat Saini echoed, “WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!!!! Going to watch BECAUSE you’re in it”. 

Not only do these comments prove we’re ready for a brown Karen, but they’re testament to the power of representation. The fact that so many brown women are watching this version of Mean Girls because there’s a South Asian in a lead role, speaks volumes about how pivotal film and pop culture can be in helping diverse communities feel seen and heard. It's also worth noting that Karen's surname has been changed from Smith to Shetty in this new interpretation – attention to detail is key in achieving authentic representation!  

On that note, if it’s for no other reason other than showing support for a brown sister (probably the best reason), we say give the revamped Mean Girls musical a go. 

Mean Girls releases in cinemas across Australia on January 11, 2024. No, it’s not a Wednesday, but we’ll be whipping out the pink jhumkas and dupattas anyway.