Spoilers for Varsity Blues and Mean Girls.

Mean Girls is a teen classic that most will recognize. The 2004 movie has kept in the public consciousness through its iconic one liners, merchandise, and even a Broadway musical. One of the titular “mean girls,” Regina George (Rachel McAdams), has, arguably, become the most recognizable character from the film. Her effortless cruelty defines the meanness of the film. Though she is the only mean girl without any obvious redeeming qualities–Karen (Amanda Seyfried) is charming and funny and Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) is also charming, but at times so pathetic and needy that it’s hard to truly blame her for her actions. Regina is the obvious evil mastermind, choosing her minions for their willingness to conform to her rules and their inability to outsmart her. Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is the exception to this, and she becomes Regina’s downfall.

Now, in a montage of other students listing their Regina facts, one student mentions that her favorite movie is Varsity Blues. This may sound like a generic high school football movie, but it’s actually a strange choice. The point of view character, Mox (James Van Der Beek), is far more interested in school and getting into Brown University than he is in football. The focus on academics doesn’t quite track for Regina. Her grades are clearly not her top priority in the film. Even if she is a high performing student, she isn’t above it all like Mox.

However, if we’re meant to take this line seriously and not as a nod to one of the film’s many inspirations, then Regina would see quite a bit of Mox in Cady. She’s focused on her academics while still being talented in school extracurriculars–for instance, The Plastics, if we can consider that an extracurricular, and Mathletes. Arguably, Mox, while he is meant to be a point of view character, is probably not the character to whom Regina relates. The character that makes the most sense as a Regina stand-in is Darcy (Ali Larter). Darcy is perhaps best known for the infamous whipped cream bikini scene, but she’s actually a particular interesting character. Though her social ambition comes through in her willingness to abandon her injured boyfriend for whoever is the current football quarterback, she does have character development and moves past her cruel qualities.

Both Darcy and Regina are popular girl characters, but with a twist. If Regina does in fact relate to Darcy, then her willingness to upset the status quo, despite being the status quo, is more understandable. However, this does not mean that Regina entirely rejects seeing herself as Mox. Remember, it is Regina who ultimately copies and distributes The Burn Book, tearing down the entire social system of the school. While this is far more selfish and malicious than Mox’s actions, but ultimately, it achieves the same goal: it brings down the villain of the story. And this may explain why Regina is so willing to burn down the entire system rather than simply try to reclaim her place at the top.

Moreover, Regina’s love for this particular sports movie may explain why she’s so at peace with her spinal injury. Cady theorizes that she enjoys the attention, but this is the beginning of Regina’s entire personality change. She may recognize from her favorite movie that there can still be opportunity in tragedy. It’s not until Lance (Paul Walker) is injured that he realizes that his passion lies in coaching rather than playing. However, Regina’s spine heals, and, like the protagonists in Varsity Blues, she begins to play sports.

Of course, it’s easy to say that the line about Varsity Blues being Regina’s favorite movie was a throwaway line, or that it could have just as easily been any teen movie. But Varsity Blues is a peculiar choice. Though many teen movies are about the rejection of mean girls or the status quo, Varsity Blues forgives quite a lot with its villains. Perhaps this is what makes Regina so fond of this film. Though Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) is never cleared of his crimes, this is because he is an adult. The young students are all presented as easily redeemable, while the adults need to be agreesively shown the errors of their ways.

This might be the ending that Regina seeks. Like Cady, cruelty and popularity was tempting, but so is the want to be good. Gretchen and Karen don’t change very much in the film’s final scene, but Regina has undergone the most drastic transformation. Though Cady may have toppled her empire, she was able to get the freedom and redemption she admired.