Since its release in 1988, Heathers has been criticized and analyzed repeatedly for its themes of school outcasts and vicious cliques. However, I don’t think that it should be criticized. It’s a wonderful black comedy with a very real message about the inner workings of high school cliques.
This film is often mentioned in the same breath as Mean Girls. Even in my own notes, while watching the film, I mentioned Mean Girls and how that film is a milder look at high school cliques when compared to Heathers. I mean, the former ends with a long talk in the gym and the latter ends with death, lots of death.
The vicious clique of Heathers shows the controlling nature one person can have on an entire group of people. For instance, in the beginning of the film, it is casually mentioned that Heather Duke may be bulimic. However, immediately after Heather Chandler has died, Heather Duke begins eating, actually eating. The film also shows the overwhelming power of groupthink. This weird psychological phenomenon is present from the moment the students, teachers, and parents find out about Heather Chandler’s “suicide”. It’s the one thing that unites nearly the entire student body. The frustrating part, I would say, is that the only two characters who are immune to this groupthink are Veronica, who at least has some kind of guilty conscience, and JD, whose misanthropy is SO GREAT that he wants to blow up the entire high school.
One of the most important visual aspects of Heathers that helps to show the overall message of the film, is color, and that’s shown from the beginning of the film. Not only is the color palette bright and vibrant, but each of the main characters is assigned a color. For example, Heather Chandler’s color is red, while Veronica Sawyer’s color is blue (with some black and white thrown in). These colors make appearances throughout the film whenever there’s something important happening. The best example I have of this is during the party at Remmington College. It is at this party that
Veronica ultimately decides to turn on her best friend. During this decision, when she is LITERALLY PLAYING WITH FIRE, the room is hued completely red. Simultaneously, Heather Chandler is in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and looking disgusted with herself. This entire bathroom is blue. The whole thing. I’m not kidding.
Okay. Let’s cut straight to the chase. I’ve read in a couple of different articles about this film that people felt/feel like it ultimately glorifies suicide. I disagree. I think that the adults and the teenagers in the film, save for Veronica and JD, glorify suicide. I mean, glorification oozes out of nearly everyone’s mouth after the first “suicide” of Heather Chandler.
Ultimately, what happens and what Veronica soon realizes is the real problem, is that there is always going to be somebody to take Heather Chandler’s place.
For goodness sake, Heather Duke even transitions from wearing green to red after Heather Chandler has died, as she is now the Queen Bee. To make the overall message of the film more bleak, JD states “People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, “Now there’s a school that self-destructed, not because society didn’t care, but because the school was society.”” You can cut the snake off at the head, but two more heads will grow back. It’s a bleak look at life and our society, but I feel that it errs more on the side of truth.
This film, especially in this day in age in the United States, makes people uncomfortable. Hell, the television adaptation of this film (that nobody really asked for) has had its premiere date suspended indefinitely, due to recent school shootings. Unfortunately, this film foreshadowed a lot of what was to come in the USA. You know what? I don’t even really think that it was foreshadowing anything. Much like being a teenager, I think that the film was screaming in people’s faces that there was something very wrong, but nobody would listen. Much like a teenager, nobody took it seriously.
What do you think of the film? Do you think it’s an accurate depiction of the effects of high school cliques? Are you also alarmed with yourself because you find Christian Slater attractive in this film, when it’s clear as day that you should not? Let me know!
I can’t end a post about Heathers without at least inserting .gifs of some of my favorites. So, here ya go: