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Heathers, one of the many films that catapulted Winona Ryder to ‘90s superstardom, flips every teen movie trope on its head, dips it black paint, and throws it into the dumpster behind the parking lot for good measure. It gifted us with what is possibly the most morbid and hilariously twisted depiction of teen culture of all time, and now it’s getting a small-screen, modern-day revival.
The first trailer for the upcoming Heathers television show dropped earlier this week, and it looks to be just as dark, strange, and unsettling as the 1988 film of the same name. Like the original Heathers, the new Heathers appears to centre around Veronica (played by Ryder in the film version and Under the Dome’s Grace Victoria Cox in the TV version), a high school student who plots to exact revenge on three popular teens who all happen to share the name Heather. Selma Blair, Casey Wilson, and Shannen Doherty (one of the original Heathers) all have supporting roles.
Fans of the original film immediately picked up on the fact that the new Heathers look nothing like the old ones—the 1988 Heathers were all white, straight and conventionally pretty (the Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, and Karen Smith of the ‘80s, if you will). This time, Heather Chandler (Melanie Field) is a plus-sized queen bee, Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell) is a gender queer teen who also goes by Heath, and Heather McNamara (Jasmine Matthews) is an African-American student.
Theoretically, putting teens who belong to traditionally marginalized socio-cultural groups in positions of power is a progressive and interesting decision, and one that’s not entirely unprecedented. Plus-sized cheerleader Sadie Saxton ruled the school in MTV’s Awkward, and openly gay social butterfly Shane Harvey found a way to rise to power in the short-lived teen comedy Faking It, so why not use the Heathers reboot to subvert and challenge ideas about what constitutes modern-day popularity?
But, as many fans have pointed out, painting a plus-sized, genderqueer, and black student as Veronica’s vicious oppressors may actually be counterproductive and perpetuate the idea that blonde, white, unassuming teens like Veronica are the ‘real’ victims, despite the fact that students who look like the new Heathers are still, sadly, often bullied by their peers.
Heathers showrunner Jason Micallef recently spoke to Entertainment Weekly to defend the controversial decision, reminding readers that new student and all-around toxic male J.D. (played by Christian Slater in the film and James Scully in the TV show) is the real villain of the story. He also explained that the TV show, unlike the movie, will allow viewers to get to know the Heathers and (hopefully) come to understand that they’re more than just one-dimensional bullies.
Trailers are, more often, than not, pretty misleading, so we’re willing to give this version of Heathers a try. Plus, Heathers: The Musical was apparently surprisingly good, so we’re more optimistic about a reboot now than we would have been a few years ago. Fingers crossed that we actually end up liking all three Heathers and that we get a updated version of the infamous croquet scene.