Trigger Warning: Heathers depicts themes of suicide, school bomb threats and murder.
(Spoilers ahead for both the film and the series)
The instant I saw the trailer for the Heathers reboot TV series on Paramount Network, I knew it was a bad idea for so many more reasons apart from the fact that the costumes look like leftovers from when Scream Queens got cancelled (RIP Chanel #3, my openly pansexual queen). Unfortunately, when I did watch it (and yes, I sat through all 40-something minutes), it was exactly what I expected.
The original Heathers film follows the story of a group of four white, thin, cishet rich girls. Three are named Heather, one named Veronica. The Heathers — especially Heather Chandler — are awful people and intended to be awful people. They bully those who aren’t thin, white and rich. Veronica tires of their behavior, so she ends up killing Heather Chandler with her new-to-town, brooding, sad, white-boy boyfriend J.D. and convinces the whole town Heather committed suicide. Later the two plan to kill the two popular jock guys at school, who are a textbook example of toxic masculinity, and they decide to humiliate them by convincing the whole town that they committed a double suicide, because they were secretly gay.
Essentially, the Heathers, Veronica and J.D. represent different types of problematic white people. They’re racist, homophobic, you name it. Of course, I was surprised, when I saw Paramount decided to have a plus-sized Heather Chandler, a genderqueer Heather Duke and a black lesbian Heather McNamara. The Heathers are supposed to be villains. They’re supposed to be the oppressors. I worried not only that the message of the show would be that the oppressed have become the oppressor (which obviously sends a very bad message to the white, thin, cishet people of the world) and that the characters of marginalized groups would be killed off by the two white, cis, heterosexual leads (which also sends a very bad message). I decided to watch the original film, then watch the series pilot, just because I wanted to at least give these LGBTQ+ leads a chance.
The instant the guidance counselor asked if Veronica were intersex, as if that would give her an advantage for college, I knew this show could only go one way. Sure enough, we are introduced to Heather Chandler when she approaches a white guy in the cafeteria and takes a picture of his shirt that supports some fictional racist sports team that uses Native American people as a mascot. She threatens to post about it online if he doesn’t take the shirt off. Funny thing is though, we’re supposed to feel bad for him. Veronica pleads with her, insisting that she not be so mean to this guy, and Heather’s cruel, SJW self shows no mercy to racism.
The Heathers are supposed to hate each other and use each other for power and popularity. They’re supposed to be the most powerful clique in school, yet the conflict among the Heathers feels extremely disingenuous. Heather Chandler tells her friends to shut up and bosses them around. Genderqueer Heather Duke mocks black, lesbian Heather McNamara for being a “fake” lesbian. It’s as if these writers think that marginalized people, particularly LGBTQ+ people, are in competition with each other, pitting one another against each other, hating other members of their community as much as homophobes and transphobes do. The only real understandable conflict is with Veronica, who seems to be quick to defend the “oppressed,” white, cishet classmates that the Heathers call out for problematic behavior, which is why she finds relief in talking to J.D.
J.D. is every alt-right girl’s manic-pixie-dream-boy. He’s dark, brooding, destructive, bigoted and thinks that white, straight, cis boys like him are oppressed for being “normal.” He even goes on to complain that individuals like the Heathers, who have been historically marginalized, are no longer taught to hate themselves, claiming “sometimes a little self-hatred is good for the soul.” He also has a very strange connection with his grandfather, who collected Nazi memorabilia, so much so that he actually had some of these items in his possession. Basically, he’s a fascist, who gets romanticized, because he’s a sad, white boy with pretty hair.
If you’re a Trumpian-millennial, who thinks that queer and trans people fake their identities for attention and that you’re oppressed for being white, straight and cis, Heathers is the show for you. As for the rest of us, we’ll be drinking our blue slushies elsewhere.