By Sara Karlovitch
One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time is the 1988 cult-classic “Heathers.” It is the perfect mixture of social commentary, dark humor and all around absurdity to make for, what I would consider, a nearly-perfect movie.
For those who have not been exposed to the genius that is “Heathers,” allow me to fill you in. It is about high school senior Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder). She is desperate to separate herself from the toxic group of popular kids at her school, the Heathers. They are a group of three girls, all named Heather, who run the school in a reign terror, humiliation and social ostracization.
Desperate to take down the Heathers, Veronica teams up with loner Jason Dean (Christian Slater), also known as J.D., where they decide to kill the popular kids and make it look like suicide, starting with the most popular Heather, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker).
Yes, you read that right. Veronica and J.D. decide that the best way to dismantle the oppressive social food chain that controls their school is through murder. Think of it as a hardcore and much better version of “Mean Girls.”
I knew it was only a matter of time before “Heathers” caught the reboot bug, like all things 80’s in recent years. First it was made into a moderately successful 2014 off-Broadway musical. I was hoping that would be the end of “Heathers” reboots.
Then Paramount dropped the trailer and first episode for a TV show, which premieres March 7 online on Spike. And boy, is it bad.
Like, really bad.
I am not saying this as a begrudged fan upset that anyone would dare mess with perfection, I’m saying this as a responsible TV consumer.
See, what made the original “Heathers” great was the people in control were exactly who you would expect to be in control. They are straight, white, thin and rich. Veronica’s quest, no matter how misguided, was to dismantle the social structure that allowed for the Heathers’ unchecked privilege.
In the show, the Heathers aren’t any of those things. They are members of marginalized communities who lord a parody of politically correct culture over the school. The white people are the oppressed group living under the tyrannical reign of a plus-sized woman, a black lesbian and a genderqueer person.
White people are the victims and minorities are the villains. The show is spreading a message so contrary to the source material, it’s better to call it a parody rather than a reboot.
Jason Micallef, the showrunner, said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “The three Heathers are incredibly powerful and ruling the school; they’re the people you would want to be. In the original film, the Heathers were the ones I always loved … The Heathers are the aspirational characters.”
No, Jason, no.
The Heathers are not supposed to be inspirational. They are living embodiments of privilege, oppression and the rigid social structure meant to keep people down — a social structure that still exists today. They are not meant to be admired.
Micallef goes on to say the true villain of “Heathers” is J.D., who turns out to be a domestic terrorist and wants to blow up the school with all of the students in it. While this is true, Micallef is missing the point. J.D. exists because of the system the Heathers built. He is a direct result of the rigid social structures the Heathers embody. While that does not excuse his behavior, it doesn’t exonerate the Heathers either.
And that is where the new “Heathers” fails. The show makes Veronica and J.D. the sole villains when the true villain is the system. It misses the nuance of the movie. The Heathers should not be revered because they control the system, they should be condemned for propping it up in the first place.
What I find most disturbing about the “Heathers” reboot is that it was given the go-ahead in the first place. Dozens of people had to agree on a project that vilifies minorities and paints white people as the oppressed. In today’s society, when progress is seemingly being made, a whole company approved this offensive, problematic, ill-sighted monstrosity.
As Heather Chandler would say, “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of the “Heathers” Facebook page.
Sara Karlovitch is a sophomore journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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