is a movie that soars beyond the typical 80's
cult classic film. There is no Molly Ringwald
, and definitely no Andrew McCarthy
/Anthony Micheal Hall
/that cute guy from "Sixteen Candles"
, whose name escapes the minds of most. The plot is a bit more twisted than the loss of one high school girl's prized virginity
. Instead, we find ourselves in a world of multiple murder, trendy suicides
and more. Daniel Waters (writer) and Micheal Lehmann (director) create a strange carbon copy
of high schools in 1989. There are a few stars in this film who will have a career in the 21st century
. Looking back ten years later, this movie has had been mimicked on screen, and in a morose sense, real life.
There are more than a few eerie things in and about this movie. While the junior class of Westerberg
play with guns and poison, things get more and more bizzare. Parents, teachers, and the media do little more than speculate about inane details
. After one student "commits suicide
", her teachers sit around discussing how odd it was she used the word "myriad
" in her suicide letter, since she missed it on her vocabulary test. Parents are ponder "the time of troubled youth"
over pate while they watch the propaganda
created by the three local news stations looking for ratings. Christian Slater
's character, who is brilliant to the point of insanity
sums it up by
saying "You don't get it, do you? Society nods its head on any horror the American teenager can think of, to bring upon herself."
*Peer pressure and cliques in high school, with a pinch of drain cleaner.*
Our characters walk the halls of Westerberg High School (named after the lead singer from Winona Ryder's favorite band "The Replacements"), in the fictional town of "Sherwood, Ohio". Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) hates her friends. They are the people she "works" with. "Our job is being popular and shit", she adds while explaining her dislike for her friends. Jason Dean (Christian Slater), more commonly called JD is her latest crush.. He's the mysterious, subversive, clad in black and a trench coat. He was as bright, sexy, brilliant, and just a little bit dangerous. JD replies , "Yeah, I don't really like your friends either." Nobody else really likes them either, as they are more feared than respected. This goes especially for the Heather Chandler (played by Kim Walker), the most "popular girl in the school".
Heather Chandler ruled her school with an iron fist clad in fear. She insulted, played vicious pranks, and rose to the top on a wave fueled by the humiliation of others. Most of Westerberg's students wanted to "have her as a friend or fuck", or at least that is what she thought. Veronica also "works" with Heather Duke (Shannon Doherty, pre-90210), who was a trendy bulimic who , although she despises Heather Chandler, is totally scared of her. Heather McNamara, the not-too bright
cheerleader, completes the eponymous "Heathers" foursome. Where there are cheerleaders, there are dim-witted, homophobic, beer-guzzling football players
looking to score! Westerberg has a few of those. Along with the stereotypical over-achievers, geeks, preps, stoners, and faceless fillers. This could be any high school in 1989, or 1999.
*Fuck the oppressor?*
JD manipulates and persuades Veronica into a world of murder and chaos. "Chaos is great. Chaos killed the dinosaurs! Face it, our way is the way. We scare people into not being assholes!", JD boasts in reply to Veronica's sudden guilty conscience. She didn't want people dead. All she wanted was for her "school to be a nice place". As the body count grows, the only thing that changes are the faces and names. To be quite honest, no one really cares. All it does is make for "touching" yearbook spreads, and publicity for their school and town nationwide. The recently dead Westerberg students were more popular than ever. Transcended to a place where the shallow became deep, the moronic shift to smart, and the immoral transcend to altruist. They even inspired the #1 song in the nation, "Teenage Suicide:
Don't do it". Things had spun out of control. After a while Veronica couldn't tell if she was "going to the prom with JD, or hell."
"It's the kind of thing that affects a generation" - JD
"Heathers" was something most teens could relate to. That whole teen angst stage, where your parents were clueless, society blind, and you were forced to live in this mini-world, high school. There is a reason why a large number of people age 18-30 can still quote the dated, angry 80's slang in "Heathers". "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw", "Our love is god, let's get a slushie", "Grow up, Heather. Bulimia's so '87!" are good examples. I admit it, I can pretty much quote that whole movie. A favorite video rental among slumber partying girls giggling at the 80's, and people who actually wore Swatch watches and bangle bracelets. The idea of someone seriously trying to murder thier high school classmates was considered "too far fetched" to ever really happen. So extreme, it is classified as a black comedy. Sadly, we were wrong. I don't believe a movie like this could be responsible for the tragedy of the Colorado school shootings. Blaming a movie, some music, a book, it doesn't solve anything. What will solve the problem? I don't know. I think popular culture mirrors society, not the other way around.
Written April, 1999