Standard Issue writers revisit an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Dotty Winters swots up on none-more-black high school comedy Heathers.
What and why: It would be easy to lump 1988’s Heathers in with other “high school clique”-based dramas like Mean Girls and Clueless if it wasn’t for ALL THE KILLING (and some croquet). The plot centres on a group of popular girls, all of whom are called Heather (although one of them is called Veronica, but nobody minds because she is Winona Ryder, and adorable).
Veronica’s love interest is pointy-faced sulk guru JD (which stands for Jaw Definition, probably), played by Christian Slater. Despite his lovely floppy hair, JD quickly starts killing Heathers and ropes Veronica into faking the girls’ suicide notes. We never find out whether JD was addicted to Grand Theft Auto, but if he was that’s definitely why he did it.
Quick poll: your overly cheekboned boyfriend starts methodically murdering your frenemies. What do you do? Veronica’s no slouch: she dumps his ass and shoots him. Nobody lives happily ever after. I think this whole thing may be a terrible foreshadowing of what could happen if Kim ever breaks up with Kanye (Season 4085: Blowing Up with the Kardashians).
Rated or dated: Despite some hilarious hair, most of the film wears well. Themes of campus rape culture, teen suicide, fat shaming (poor Martha Dumptruck) and high school attacks all feel very contemporary; references to the band Big Fun (even though it’s a fictional one) and a paper petition, less so. If there’s one thing we can thank the internet for it’s that it would be significantly harder to dupe an entire school into signing a mass suicide note if you had to do it using 38degrees.org.uk, even if Christian Slater shared it on Twitter.
Ryder and Slater out-act everyone else on the screen, and it matters not a jot: this is one of those films where the central characters are so in focus everyone else looks blurry by comparison. The script, in both concept and content, is incredible. JD and Veronica were over-thinking and philosophising long before Dawson wept his first creek.
You know all those times when you needed a perfectly constructed witty comeback and couldn’t find one? Heathers’ scriptwriters used them all up in the 80s and we’ve been working with variations of “yo mama” and “whatevs” ever since.
If you’ve never seen it, or haven’t watched it in years, Heathers is well worth a visit/revisit.
For bonus points Heathers also contains: literary references, monocle wearing, German wordplay a teenage forgery expert and a symbolic scrunchie of power.
Above all, the film boasts one of the most stylish and prophetic endings you could wish for, and it’s so very 1988; if it had been set nowadays that explosion would have melted her Vapourlite.4430 Views
Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.