“Mean Girls” has a one-day run on TikTok

Cady Heron, the star of the 2004 comedy “Mean Girls,” was once again the new girl in town.

This time it didn’t enter an intimidating high school cafeteria full of cliques, but on TikTok, where Paramount Pictures released the film on Wednesday in 23 chunks ranging from 60 seconds to nearly 10 minutes.

Viewers of the clips saw Lindsay Lohan dress in pink on Wednesdays and notify her crush that it was October 3, a date known as “Mean Girls Day” by fans of the film.

“Mean Girls” was the rare studio-approved addition to the thriving ecosystem of pirated movies on TikTok. Paramount’s decision to upload “Mean Girls” was an indication of Hollywood’s willingness to play along.

At least, to a certain extent. By Thursday, October 4, Paramount had pulled the film.

TikTok is flooded with clips taken from movies and TV shows, despite its rules against copyright infringement. In an email, a TikTok representative said the platform works with studios to remove copyrighted materials and will ban accounts that repeatedly violate intellectual property policies.

Video uploaders modify clips in an effort to get around restrictions. Modifications include cropping or adding a filter. Some change the speed of the movie, making the characters look like they belong in “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

Still, people use the app to watch fragmented movies and shows that they would have otherwise ignored. Elizabeth Kidd, 31, said she got hooked on “Call the Midwife,” a BBC drama, thanks to TikTok.

The TikTok version removes parts of the show that might test some viewers’ patience, and Kidd was okay with that. “When you’re just seeing the character you’re following, instead of having to do the entire arc of each episode, it just scratches my brain,” he said.

Alex Kim, a 25-year-old TikTok creator and pediatric nurse, said he had found himself watching movies without learning their titles. He described a movie starring Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell that he believed was “Love, Actually.” (Reader, it was “Crazy, Stupid Love”).

Also circulating on TikTok? Clips from the period romance “Brooklyn,” the reality show “Sister Wives” and the Pixar movie “Up.” Videos with the hashtag #movieclips have almost 200 billion views on the app.

Even without Paramount’s help, it was easy for users to watch the full hour and 47 minutes of “Mean Girls” on TikTok. The film was posted in May by an anonymous movie-clips account with more than 300,000 followers, and the clips have been viewed more than 50 million times. The account owner, who did not respond to a request for comment, also made it possible for viewers to watch “Freaky Friday” and “High School Musical.”

Paramount, which did not comment for this article, likely knew that “Mean Girls” had been uploaded to TikTok, said Alex Alben, a professor of privacy and internet law at UCLA School of Law.

“The calculus seems to be changing,” Alben said. “Someone at the studio is calculating that they benefit more if millions of people see a clip of their movie than if they tried to shut it down.”

Other entertainment companies have experimented with TikTok. In August, Peacock released a 2023 episode of the U.S. version of “Love Island” and the 2022 pilot of “Killing It,” a five-part comedy series.

Michael D. Smith, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who conducts research on digital piracy, said it made sense for studios to use the platform to generate interest in older films, rather than newer ones. The same day “Mean Girls” hit TikTok, Paramount announced that a movie based on its musical adaptation would be released on January 12.

While some fans applauded the Paramount-approved appearance of “Mean Girls” on TikTok, it landed with a thud among some writers and filmmakers. Rebecca Green, 44, a producer from Detroit, said there was a feeling of “disrespect” among some filmmakers at the idea of ​​a studio breaking up a movie into parts and making it available for free.

It also raised the question of whether writers, actors, directors, producers and crew members would benefit from a film posted on social media. Paramount declined to comment on compensation for filmmakers and actors resulting from the TikTok appearance of “Mean Girls.”

For some TikTok users, clips can take them back to the source. Kidd, for his part, said he recently tried to stream full episodes of “Call the Midwife.”

“I don’t want to say anything bad about it, because I know people love it, but it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

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