In Defense Of '13 Going On 30' Mean Girl Lucy
When 13 Going on 30 was released in 2004, it instantly became one of my favorite movies. It has everything: a love story, coming of age moments, slumber parties, magazine shoots, body positivity, and a classic misfit vs. mean girl conflict that every girl can relate to, especially if you're 13. I feel confident in saying that now, over 10 years after the movie's release, I have watched it at least 13 times — 30 if you count all the times I caught the end on TV. Over the course of these many viewings, I've noticed something: you know the mean girl in 13 Going on 30 who stabbed Jenna in the back by completely ruining Poise magazine and stealing her job at Sparkle? Yeah, she's not really that bad. In fact, Lucy Wyman isn't the real villain of 13 Going on 30 — society is.
Hear me out. As much as it pains me to defend a mean girl like Lucy (played by Judy Greer), it needs to be done once and for all. Watching 13 Going on 30, it's easy to use Lucy as a scapegoat for all the horrible things that happen to 30-year-old Jenna (Jennifer Garner). Jenna ditches her BFF Matt to be friends with Lucy, and she also loses her job and Matt's photos because of Lucy, which leaves Jenna crying alone on a front porch. But, is all that really Lucy's fault, when you think about it?
Lucy might be a mean girl, but it's important to remember that Jenna isn't really all that innocent. After all, although we don't see it on-screen, it's Jenna who originally reached out to Sparkle for a job and who divulges Poise secrets to the magazine's rival. And what's worse is that Jenna is planning on leaving Lucy behind during all of this. Is it really fair for us to judge Lucy for being a bad friend when Jenna isn't a particularly good friend herself? Yes, Jenna changes over the course of the film, in which we see her grow up and make amends for past mean girl acts, but the only reason she is able to do this is, essentially, because she's her 13-year-old self in her 30-year-old body. And her 30-year-old self is pretty awful.
Even putting the mean girl stuff aside, Lucy's biggest sin isn't that she betrays her friend, or even necessarily that she's obsessed with being the best. Her biggest sin is that she buys into the idea that women, whether in high school or in the working world, are always competing against each other. Pitting women against women is the oldest trick in the book, with the idea that two women will always be competitive with each other being one of the longest-running sexist myths of our society. Lucy's cutthroat actions in 13 Going on 30 certainly don't do anything to contradict this idea, but they do expose it. Nobody knows why Lucy does what she does, but it's safe to say she doesn't act in a vacuum. Her competitive streak, specifically in the workplace, could be seen as the result of the societal expectation that women must always be competing with each other.
Next time I re-watch 13 Going on 30, I'm going to try to see Lucy as less of a villain and more of a reminder not to always see other women as competition, but potential Jenna Rinks instead.