Film and TV

Dear Hollywood, Get Some New Ideas: Heathers

Last week it was announced that the Bravo network would be producing a scripted series based on the 1988 cult classic film Heathers. According to Entertainment Weekly:

The show will take place in the present day, and will have Veronica (the Winona Ryder character from the film) move back to Sherwood with her teenage daughter. The daughter must deal with a new generation of high school drama in the form of the Plastics"Ashleys," the daughters of the surviving Heathers.

As it has been decried that Hollywood has no new ideas, so upon reading this news, one should not have been all that surprised. However, I have to say that I was completely thrown off my horse. There have been plenty of awful remakes and reboot ideas in the past few years, but for some reason this one really unnerved me. It's taken me a good week to process this (yes, I was that upset) and try and understand why it threw me so off-kilter, and I think that my therapist and I have figured it out.

When Heathers hit the screens, it was a groundbreaking teen film. It was so unbelievably angry. Teen films had been on the rise for several years preceding Heathers, and no doubt the Bratpack flicks touched upon the generation's anti-parent/establishment sentiment, but not in the same sardonic way that Heathers did. In director John Hughes's films, parental units were forgivable. They were just people, after all, and most of his movies end with teen and parent hugging it out, a new common ground discovered. Friends were made and bonds were formed; everything was going to work out just fine.

Heathers does not end with a birthday cake or an uplifting Psychedelic Furs song; it ends in destruction. In Heathers, the authority figures, parents and schoolteachers are so clueless they don't warrant the teenagers' attention. They speak in a blind repetition. They are pointless. Friends are enemies and classmates use you to get ahead. There is no "I" in "team" for Heathers, there is "I" in "I hate everyone."

Veronica (Winona Ryder) and JD (Christian Slater) are not redeemable characters, like The Breakfast Club's troubled bad boy Judd Nelson; they are monsters. It is arguable that Veronica never "intended" to murder her best friend and that love is blind, but she also never went to the police. But the characters' dark sides are exactly what makes this movie so wonderful and why it has continued to thrive long after its release. In fact, it was not an initial success; it found its stride when it was released onto video and then continued to gain a following years after. The 1988 generation wasn't quite ready for this type of teen. But the angry, pissed-off kids of the early '90s were. Will the young adults of the 2012s be? I tend to doubt it.

I hate to come off as one of those old "when I was a kid...we wrapped our flannels around our waists!" fuddy-duddies, but there is no denying that there are vast, well-researched studies outlining the differences between Generation X and its succeeding generation. And the differences in the attitudes toward authority are also well documented. Gen X were loners and anti-authority; Gen Y (Millennials, whatever) are kind of cool with their parents, and they really love their friends. It's cute; it's just not what Heathers is about.

Considering the current generation's infatuations -- sugar-coated pop, competitive singing and dancing, abstinent vampires and group-think charity work -- why would a television series that appealed to a cohort that considered bashing into one another as a form of dancing work now? It won't. So Heathers the TV series will either bastardize the movie's good name or turn into Pretty Little Liars part two, or both.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig