Paramount Put Mean Girls on TikTok. Writers Are Worried

3 minute read

The 2004 teen comedy classic Mean Girls, originally distributed by Paramount Pictures, has been made available, also by Paramount Pictures, on TikTok in its entirety.

On Oct. 3—a date made famous by a memorable scene in the movie—the studio launched an official Mean Girls TikTok account, which contains the full 97-minute movie, broken up into 23 individual videos, each between one and 10 minutes long.

The move is part of a growing trend of studios and streamers experimenting with uploading full-length movies and TV episodes for free on social media. The news that Mean Girls would be available to view in pieces drew criticism from screenwriters who said the choice by Paramount Pictures seemed to undermine gains that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) just made with its new contract—for which it went on strike for 148 days. 

Among the WGA’s top demands was updating and reforming the current system of residuals—money paid to those who created a show when that show is re-watched—which grew complicated with the rise of streaming (and thus, a decline in reruns). The new contract made significant progress to help remedy that. But TikTok offers studios and streamers a workaround. 

“As the WGA strike comes to a close, studios find another way not to pay us for our work,” producer Rebecca Green tweeted about Mean Girls. “(And if you think people won’t watch the film this way, you’re obvs not on TikTok).”

“The fact that y’all uploaded the entire movie is so iconic,” reads the top comment on the first Mean Girls video. “Except it’s just a way to not pay actors and writers residuals,” reads one of the replies.

It remains unclear if or how studios and streamers are determining residual pay from content shared on social media.

In August, following the premiere of Season 2 of Killing It, Peacock posted the pilot episode of the comedy series, comprising five TikTok videos. The full first episode of Season 5 of the American version of Love Island was available on the same channel for a limited time. Both instances occurred during the WGA strike, when studios were limited in the ways to promote their original material. Apple did something similar in June, when it temporarily made the complete pilot episode of its sci-fi dystopian drama Silo available on Twitter three days before the streamer released Silo’s season finale.

“Hmmmm. Are we accounting for whole ass episodes of TV being uploaded on TikTok and Twitter in our contracts now?” WGA strike captain Caroline Renard tweeted at the time. “Cause remember when Apple dropped the entire first episode of Silo on here. AMPTP, pick up the phone!”

Individual users have been doing the same thing—divvying up movies and TV shows into bite-sized pieces on social media—since the early YouTube era. Now that TikTok reigns, they’ve started doing the same thing there. TikTokers pirate content in a couple of ways: by posting chunks of it in individual pieces, a là Mean Girls, or by livestreaming it from the movie theater or TV screen as it happens. (This trend picked up during Barbie’s moment this summer.) It appears studios and streamers have noticed the snowballing success of this model, and are attempting to use it to draw in viewers.

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