When asked whether there's ever been another movie quite like #Heathers, one's mind races to the various homages, nods and tributes that have filtered through the entertainment industry since its release back in 1989. Mean Girls, Clueless, Jawbreaker, even the Ashleys in Recess; All feature be-heeled Satanic protagonists, running their high schools via a series of pranks, parties and Prada backpacks.
Yet none of its decedents quite captured the satirical, blood-thirsty drollery of the Heathers, a movie that paved the way for a new breed of teen dramas: In a sugar-coated, Breakfast Club'd time, this box office flop-cum-cult classic sprinkled anthrax on your popcorn and winked as you chewed. A black-comedy centering around a girl (Veronica, played by #WinonaRyder) who falls in love with the devil (J.D — #ChristianSlater), and together through a series of staged suicides, they accidentally turn the act of taking one's life into a "scrunchie-level fad."
The themes within Heathers — homicide, suicide, sexual harassment and emotional abuse, eating disorders, teen drinking, bullying and violence — were an early and extremely scathing critique of a culture that was indifferent to personal pain and promoted mediocrity. The film explored hot button issues with hilarity and feigned apathy, championed by director Michael Lehmann who used long takes to illustrate "cultures cruel banality." While watching, we were dared not to care.
This probing nonchalance is going to be tricky to pull off in #TVLand's planned #reboot, and not simply due to the notoriously cheery channel — How I Met Your Mother, Younger, Hot In Cleveland — attempting a similarly dark humored approach, but because of its character "development."
In the original, the three Heathers are white, upper middle-class, beautiful, heterosexual, thin, popular. Their leader — Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), the Regina George of the gang, if you will — was served a mug of drain cleaner because she was a heinous bitch. These girls were not nice, they were not minorities — they were victims of societal pressures, sure, but they did not have to fight for acceptance. They were the ones who delivered the stamp of approval.
By contrast, in TV Land's first installment of Heathers — if greenlit the show will be an anthology series, taking a new set of Heathers and a new school in each season — the pack of alpha villains will comprise of Heather McNara, now a black lesbian, Heather Duke — a "man who identifies gender-queer," and Heather Chandler, a girl with a "a body like Martha Dumptruck." These are the three characters who'll essentially be systematically hunted down by J.D. and Veronica, characters who remain white and heteronormative. In a nutshell, the fats, the blacks and the gays will be hunted down by a pretty, white, straight couple.
I know what you're thinking: "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw," right? Because on what planet was this idea conceived? Could it be a planet that, unlike ours, has a wealth of minorities fairly and accurately represented throughout their mainstream media? Because by looking at Earth-based company GLAAD's annual "Where We Are On TV" report, that sure isn't what's happening here. In 2016, the LGBT community made up just 4.8% of primetime TV characters — and while that actually marks a significant shift in terms of progress, this Heathers reboot feels like it will do nothing to either aid that or overcome the classic "bury your gays" trope. In fact, it will literally bury them.
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You could argue that the remake is the channel's attempt to adopt the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the original film, that they are planning to humorously highlight the lack LGBT representation, alongside the array of violent subjects addressed in its OG counterpart — like a suicide bomb in a school, for example — in a Black Mirror-esque manner, but somehow that doesn't ring true. And even if that is the case, is that really what we need?
Other than the fact that contextual awareness seems to have alluded everyone on board, should this actually be a satirical, topical commentary (which should be left to pros like Charlie Brooker, South Park and Rick and Morty), why come at it from a Heathers angle at all? Why not adopt its traits and spin it into something fresh à la Mean Girls? Because, as far as I can tell, its (weak) affiliation with the '80s masterpiece is not doing TV Land any favors — in fact, it's highlighting how many aspects have the potential to make fans of the original violently face-palm.
What's more, it feels as though the only reason they've opted for the Heathers at all is to tag onto the nostalgia-reboot-fever that's currently sweeping through the box office like the lazy ghost of childhoods past, not to mention to utilize the Hollywood comeback of the film's leads: Winona Ryder in Stranger Things and Christian Slater in Mr. Robot. Could it be a total coincidence that the movie that (Beetlejuice aside) shot them to fame many moons ago is rebooted amid their return? Color me skeptical.
But hey, I suppose if we were happy every day of our lives, we'd be game-show hosts, right?
What do you think of the Heathers TV reboot?