Mightygodking's got a great post up about the head cheerleader as alpha bitch
I have to second everything he says here, seriously. And I want to elaborate on it, from my own perspective.
I won't rehash the same points he makes about Cheerleading being a hard and relatively unrewarding, demanding activity. Instead I want to talk about the "Queen Bitch" stereotype in general.
First, I have to disclaim this with some simple autobiographical facts. My highschool experience is fairly remarkable and atypical. I didn't go to a standard public OR private high school, instead, I was part of the first class to attend an experimental charter school located in the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The school experience was varied, with good and bad elements, (but let's be honest here, there are few things more kickass than going to school in a museum/historical village,) but I can't be 100% certain that the social standards are actually representative of the greater population of female high school students.
Okay, the big important factor is that my school only had 100 students per grade, and we were the first class recruited. There were no upperclassmen for us, ever. We did have cliques and groups, but they were not strongly defined, and there was often a lot of migration back and forth between them. There were not actually a lot of clique wars, since most of us had enough friends in other groups to make anything beyond a mildly antagonistic rivalry a fairly bad idea.
We didn't have a cheerleading team or a band, and it was a while before we even had a sports team (the Henry Ford Navigators, how awesomely lame is that?!).
I don't know how typical my experience was, as I said, but I do know that it bore almost no resemblance to pretty much any portrayal of high school I've seen on television or in comics, ever.
The biggest difference is that we didn't have a Queen Bitch. We simply didn't. And while as a highschool student, I just thought this was another way our school was different from others, the older I get, the more I wonder if this Queen Bitch archetype exists at all.
Because, let's face it. People are generally popular for a reason and who really wants to hang out with/or be a total bitch? In my high school experience, we had our rich bitch type characters hanging around, but quite honestly...no one liked them. They sure as hell weren't about to be voted Homecoming Queen. We girls are catty, we're not going to vote for someone we don't actually like, even if we ARE jealous of her. Especially if we're jealous of her, you think we'll give her more reason to lord it over us?
I'm beginning to think that the Queen Bitch is primarily a male construction. In one of my anthropology classes, I remember a big thing about how boys and girls tend to socialize differently. Apparently, and I don't know if this is true or not, boys tend to compete more against each other and establish more hierarchies and dominance play. Girls, on the other hand, tended to be more cooperative. A boy who transgressed would be, this study said, punished by being pushed into a lower social tier. Whereas a girl who transgressed would be more likely to be simply shunned by the group as a whole.
I tend to take these kind of studies with a grain of salt in general, but I have to admit, that when it comes to my own social upbringing, the description of "girls' society" is fairly apt. I don't know if it's biological, the way we're raised, or simply that my experience is an aberration, but that is how it was for me. There was never one alpha girl, and more likely a girl who tried to take on those sorts of characteristics would be expelled from the group as a whole.
I've been on both sides of this, naturally, accepted and shunned, but I've never seen the kind of socialization that these stories imply. Not among GIRLS anyway.
This is why it's my theory that the Queen Bitch is a primarily male concept. The Queen Bitch is always set, in these sort of stories, as the opposite to the popular boy. (Usually an athlete). And is often given her status through her relationship with him. She's the Queen to his King.
I'm sorry, but okay, assuming my experiences are atypical and girls do have the same sort of alpha-hierarchal society as evidenced by these movies, shows, comics, books, et cetera...why the hell would we choose our alpha based on who she's dating at the time? Or the number of boys she's dated? (Especially given the stigma attached to being "too easy".) That simply makes no sense!
And by the way, just because there's one girl that all the boys want to date...that doesn't mean WE'RE going to think she's the best thing since sliced bread. We don't judge each other on quite the same standards as you judge us. (And honestly, jealousy's a lot more likely to keep the subject down than elevate her up.)
The thing is, I do remember from my more typical middle school existance, the existance of a "popular crowd". A group of girls, snobs of course (if you can't tell, I was NOT a part of this group, heh) who were somehow the highest social status in the school, despite the fact that our "outcast" group was quite a bit bigger. So at least that correlates a little...
But, well, it's a lot more of the Sweet Valley Books's "Unicorn Club" than it ever was Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Cordelia and the Cordettes. The GROUP was elevated, not one individual. There might be one girl who was prettiest, one girl who was richest, one girl who was the best leader, but the whole thing was more of a group affair. And each one was DESPERATE not to get thrown out of the flock. And they might be a bitch to people outside their circle, but inside? Not. A. Chance.
Ultimately, all I know is that there is almost noting to turn me off of a school set story than the presence of a Queen Bitch. It strikes me as a lazy attempt to make the heroine likeable through her victimization, rather than, you know, giving her qualities that are actually likeable. And at least for me, it bears no resemblance to any socialized atmosphere I've ever encountered in my school years.