The List: five great girl gangs

Girl gangs are big at the box office this year. We’ve already had Spring Breakers (college girls on a crime spree) and The Bling Ring (celebrity-obsessed teens on a crime spree) and, next month, there’s Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, the (second) film adaptation of a Joyce Carol Oates novel about an increasingly violent gang in 1950s New York. Here are five more fictional “girl gangs”.

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1. ‘The Group’, Mary McCarthy (novel, 1963)

“The Group” are eight female Vassar college graduates living in New York in the early 1930s. McCarthy delves into the then hidden parts of women’s lives: bad sex, unhappy marriages and contraception, with a candour that shocked even 1960s readers (Betty Draper is seen reading the novel in the bath in an episode of Mad Men). The book’s influence endures: Candace Bushnell was aiming at a “modern-day version” of The Group when she wrote Sex and the City.

2. ‘Annie’ (stage musical 1977, film 1982)

This rags-to-riches 1930s-set tale of a winsome orphan adopted by a billionaire also features a cute gang of Annie’s orphanage friends and their infernally catchy song-and-dance number, “It’s a Hard Knock Life”, which may be familiar even to those who hate musicals since Jay-Z sampled it in his 1998 hit “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”. Now Jay-Z is to produce a new film version of Annie, set to be the big Christmas movie for 2014.

3. ‘Tenko’ (TV series, 1981-85)

Tenko follows the day-to-day life of a group of women who are captured in the fall of Singapore in 1942 and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp. More popular in its day than Dynasty, up to 14m viewers followed its three series, based on the true stories of those who were forgotten during the war (the British government official line was that all women had been evacuated from Singapore).

4. ‘Heathers’ (1988), ‘Mean Girls’ (2004)

A tie for the title of best alpha-female high school gangs: the “Heathers” are a gang of four, three of whom are called Heather. The outlier is Veronica (Winona Ryder), whose status is mirrored in Mean Girls by that of Lindsay Lohan’s new girl Cady, a home-schooled ingénue who finds herself courted by the ruling clique. In both films the girls are seduced by the cruel glamour of popularity, one ending rather more messily than the other.

5. ‘Calendar Girls’ (film 2003, stage 2008)

Mature ladies in a Yorkshire Women’s Institute decide to strip off for a charity calendar to raise money in memory of one member’s husband. Based on a true story, this depiction of female friends making the most of life was a huge hit. Less brilliantly, it was also responsible for endless me-too photo shoots featuring naked people hiding behind strategically placed fruit, veg, cakes, etc.

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