Paying tribute to the greatest teen movies of the last decade, Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” has a whole series of pop culture references that you don’t want to miss.
Ariana Grande has become, without a doubt, the greatest female singer and pop star of her generation. Not only she has shown great eloquence, poise, and wit when it comes to her career, public persona, and personal life, but she has also made empowering statements that inspire her fans and those (like myself) who have recently developed an admiration for the Florida-born singer.
In “Thank U, Next”, Ariana Grande pays homage to classic teen movies from the last decade, while also satirizing her own persona and sending a powerful message through each one of the pop culture references in the music video. So, let’s take a quick look at the characters and hidden messages in what has to be Ariana’s coolest video to date.
Gabi de Martino
Ariana Grande’s real-life wannabe plays the Mean Girls character who worships Regina George so much that she claims, “she once punched me in the face, it was awesome.” In the video, though, the reference comes with a twist that will probably get a good laugh out of everybody.
Ariana Grande as Regina George
The ultimate Queen Bee, Regina George is the personification of shallow, aggressive, and mean (not to mention an extremely manipulative person). So, it’s great to see how Grande is not afraid to make fun of herself and subverts the bad press that has called her one of the mean girls of Hollywood’s elite.
The Real Aaron Samuels
It’s amazing to see how some people look like they are immune to the passing of time, so it was a nice surprise to see Grande got the real Aaron Samuels (played by Jonathan Bennet) to reprise his role. And yes, his hair still looks sexy pushed back.
The “Thank U, Next” Burn Book
In Mean Girls, there’s a scene where somebody says that if the school were Hollywood, the Plastics would be on the front page of US Weekly. In that same analogy, the Burn Book would have to be the equivalent of TMZ. Grande cleverly mocks the scrutiny and public attention of the paparazzi and media outlets like TMZ, as she sings the names of her exes.
Elizabeth Gillies as Cady Heron
Another former Victorious co-star, Gillies plays the white girl from Africa who thinks that Ashton Kutcher is a band (back when he was still a thing).
Kris Jenner as Regina George’s Mom
Not only is the ultimate momager not afraid to parody herself, but she also references that iconic meme where she says “You’re doing amazing, sweetie,” but now with a twist, as she exclaims: “Thank u, next, bitch.”
Bring It On
“I said... brrrrr! It’s cold in here, there must some Ari in the atmosphere!” Okay, maybe that was a little extra, but I have to say I love the reference to the Toros and Clovers from this teenage comedy from 2000. Also, the fact that the tape is dedicated to her with love from herself is a really nice detail.
Matt Bennett as Jesse
Her co-star from Victorious, Matt Bennett plays Jesse, Kirsten Dunst’s love interest in Bring It On. Not only do we love seeing them sharing the screen one more time, but it’s also great to see them to remaking the iconic scene where they brush their teeth in an awkward yet cute silence.
13 Going On 30
“Woman in charge of her career” would have to be the title of this tiny little episode within the video. It’s interesting to see the plot line echoing these cult movies: first, we had the “man-eater” mean girl; later on, we have the sweet cheerleader looking for a “loving, caring relationship;” and then, we get to this movie, where the main character is dumped for someone else, but there’s a plot twist at the end of the scene.
Last but not least, Grande pays tribute to the ultimate empowered woman in a rom-com: Elle Woods. As she see how the character of Grande evolves, now she plays Woods, a woman looking for acceptance from her boyfriend who discovers the power within herself and transforms into a more independent, strong, and self-loving woman.
The video would need a whole dissertation to talk about its importance, relevance, and metafictional nature. But we’ll just give you the chance to watch it, love it, and dedicate it to whoever taught you the biggest lesson about love. In RuPaul’s immortal words: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”
PS: There might be two hints about Ariana Grande’s next single: it could be “7 Rings,” which appears on the license plate of her Legally Blonde car, or “Needy,” which is on the t-shirt she wears as Regina George.
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