Radar Replay: ‘Heathers,’ a dark twisted take on the high school genre

Courtesy of New World Pictures

“Heathers” stands out in the history of Hollywood cinema. Few films go so unapologetically dark as “Heathers.” This is the R-rated “Mean Girls,” taking the typical genre of the high school setting and reinventing it with a very atypical plot. 

Veronica Sawyer is a part of the most powerful clique at Westerburg High School, the Heathers. The group consists of Veronica, Heather Duke, Heather McNamara and their matriarch Heather Chandler. Veronica and her rebel anarchist boyfriend J.D. seek to make Westerburg a better place for everybody by targeting the popular kids and framing their deaths to look like suicides. The media, sensationalizing the suicides, inspires other depressed teens in the community to seek out the same adulation, inspiring an actual string of attempted teen suicides. The media begins to romanticize the very concept of teen suicide. Playing upon the ratings garnered by national tragedy, the media transforms the victims into martyrs and celebrities. 

As this series of incredibly unfortunate events plays itself out, the film becomes a social parody of the glorification of death in the American media. Rather than serve as a warning, teen sucide becomes romanticized. Those in the media who thought they were doing the right thing end up being the biggest influencers in negative change.

Veronica is left feeling very hopeless about how to make the world a better place. Even after her and J.D. have gotten rid of all the bad people, it only seems to be making the world worse. Thus, everyone is left in an unwinnable paradox as focusing on solving issues only seems to make them worse. J.D. realizes that Hollywood’s anti-war films only give young boys a deeper fascination with war and more inspiration to join the army. Veronica realizes that when the media covers news stories on violence and national tragedy, it only inspires others to emulate those same acts of violence.  

While beautifully blending dark comedy and drama, “Heathers” is special because audiences may never see anything quite like it ever again. We live in an incredibly sensitive culture today, in which art is often accused of romanticizing the subject matters it wishes to tackle. Ironically enough, “Heathers” plays upon that trope, pointing the finger at the media and its over sensationalization.  

The messages of the film are purposefully meant to be cynical and leave audiences with a lack of optimism. Most movies, especially in the high school setting, are meant to leave the viewer with a happily ever after. But “Heathers” doesn’t want to be like every other movie, that’s what makes “Heathers” unique and a cut above the rest. 

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