ossibly the most iconic queen bee in recent memory is the original “mean girl”, the quick-witted Regina George from the 90s cult favourite, Mean Girls.
Regina, along with other notable Queen Bees like Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl, Cher Horowitz from Clueless and Sharpay Evans from the High School Musical movies collectively define a generation of popular, headstrong and sharp-tongued female characters.
But where did this term really come from? In this blog, we unpack the origins of the term and how it’s shaped pop culture today.
First made popular in the 1970s, the term “queen bee syndrome” was coined by social psychologists Graham Staines, Carol Tavris and Toby Epstein Jayaratne while examining the impact of the feminist movement on the workplace.
The original study, which was based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in a magazine, found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. They argued that this occurred due to the limited number of women in the workforce at the time, which encouraged the few who did rise to the top to be obsessed with maintaining authority.
A famous example is Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. In this acclaimed role, Meryl channels a powerful, intelligent and beautiful fashion editor who is “hell on heels” to her younger female co-stars.
Given this history, the “queen bee” has been a negative stereotype used to describe women as bossy, mean, or even bitchy. While there are still traces of this in the workplace today, pop culture, particularly movies and television, have forever changed what we associate with the stereotype.
Queen bees (and their male equivalents, kingpins) are very easy to recognize. Every school has them.
Who are they at your school? They are often the “mean girls” or “bad guys” in high school movies and television shows. Pop culture portrays then as popular, charismatic, forceful, pretty, manipulative and the centre of attention.
According to Popularity Explained’s Student Map, they are popular yet liked and disliked by many at the same time.
Queen bees are sociable, funny, and at times fun to be around. The problem is that they are master manipulators that play favourites and use their social relationships for their own promotion. Queen bees surround themselves with the popular clique, but the rest of the students can be promoted or demoted as needed.
If you’ve ever watched Mean Girls, then you know that this was exactly what Regina George did. She surrounded herself with a popular group of girls, “the plastics”, and knew exactly how to manipulate others to do her bidding. While she was definitely the most popular girl in school that everyone wanted to be, many also disliked her.
But what do you do if you’re faced with a queen bee at school? How do you act?
The fact is, the queen bee label is just a cliché classification of societal expectations and norms. There is no one-size-fits-all in real life, not every queen bee can be categorized into a stereotype. There are a lot of queen bees out there, but what’s most important is being yourself!
The only queen bee you should really look up to is the one and only queen of the Beyhive, Beyonce!