Avantika on ‘Mean Girls’: “Brown Girls Can Be Dumb, Too”

The hit 2004 film is back as an on-screen musical, giving us Hollywood’s first South Asian ditz: Karen Shetty.

Mean Girls Avantika
Avantika in 'Mean Girls' (2024)

Snigdha Sur


January 12, 2024


9 min

“That’s Karen Shetty. The dumbest person you’ll ever meet,” Janice and Damian tell the new kid in town, Cady Heron, as they explain North Shore High’s cliques and personalities in Mean Girls (2024). “She once put a ‘p’ in the word orange,” Damian emphasizes.

Indeed, as the camera pans over to Karen, we see her trying to drink juice by putting the straw in her nose, only to be quickly surprised by the suction effect somewhere else in her body. Amanda Seyfried — later equally known for her roles as angelic daughter Sophie in Mamma Mia! and the eerily accurate Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout — breathed life into the iconic Karen Smith. She is one of the three Plastics — women who lord it over their fellow high schoolers, helmed by Regina George — who hits a volleyball with her breasts, says she can tell when it’s raining (when it’s already raining), and isn’t the sharpest tool in the toolshed. 

But she is also unapologetically freeing. For a decade, all South Asians had to hold onto from the superhit Mean Girls (2004) was Kevin Gnapoor, badass M.C., rapper, and mathlete captain — truly, a delight. But now, we also have Karen Shetty — incompetent, glamorous, and lovable. As Avantika sat down with The Juggernaut to remind us, despite popular opinion and mainstream stereotypes, “Brown girls can be dumb, too.”

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