Heathers: ”Dear diary, ‘my teen angst bullshit has a body count.”

Year: 1988
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Produced by Denise Di Novi
Written by Daniel Waters
Cast:Winona Ryder,Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty,Lisanne Falk,Kim Walker,Penelope Milford,Glenn Shadix,Lance Fenton,Patrick Labyorteaux,Jeremy Applegate, Renée Estevez and Carrie Lyn

A malcontent teenager and her psychotic boyfriend start a bizarre trend of committing murders and covering it up as a suicide. Shortly, the hysteria surrounding the deaths of the teens overtakes their society and their school.

Heathers is a damning satire and critique of the American high school social system. Its dark humor and callous treatment of serious topics might strike us as insensitive. Perhaps, it is, in this time of overly uneasy moralism. Heathers harkens back to an age where school shootings weren’t such a frequent tragedy and pop culture took a greater interest in high school. Heathers might be antiquated in appealing to our sensibilities. Yet, its brazen and flippant attitude offers us an unreserved judgment.

Veronica Sawyer is the self-conscious lead that’s fed up with following the whims of her popular friends. Veronica feels compelled to act in a certain way and is constantly bowing down to peer pressure. She searches for a method to escape the social expectations and boundaries that annoy her. Methods that are less than moral, to put it mildly. Veronica lacks a moral conscience like much of the people presented in Heathers. But, Winona Ryder’s natural winsome persona rubs off on Veronica,so, she’s more than a disaffected youth. Veronica’s arc is her realizing the limits of her misguided delinquency and the troubled worldview that fueled it.

Jason Dean( a name that’s probably reference to James Dean) is the alluring figure that ensnares Veronica. He’s impeccably cool and a great fast talker.Jason Dean’s casual psychotic tendencies appear hardly out of place in this rather cynical world but even that has a breaking point. Dean’s misanthropy and nihilism is captivating to many teens. The public reactions and outcry that it sparks give credence to his mode of thinking or we are led to believe at first . His backstory is sprinkled subtlety throughout the story. Our perception of him does change.

Heathers is a topsy turvy presentation of American society and its relations with teens. The constant snarky dialogue and unadulterated irony is a clever tool of how teens interact with society and among themselves. Heathers uses it as a tool to craft a story and world that captures perfectly the adolescent worldview. All of the adults are painfully out of touch and passive. The casual depiction of homophobia, date rapes, violence, suicides and anxiety are part of this as well. The brooding rhetoric is immature but always earnest. Heathers is the rare type of satire that’s totally irreverent while not sacrificing its sincerity completely. Although the dark humor never subsides, the moral conflict that arises between Jason and Veronica gives a certain gravitas in a story that treats suicide as a joke.

Heathers is a little macrocosm of 80s cinema. It’s a self-aware reaction to the prevalence of teen flicks of its decade. Heathers applies a cynical lens on high schools to produce a damning critique of it but also on how American society treats its teens. A social commentary that makes the morbid irresistibly fun.

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