This month, three writers from the TeenTix Newsroom sat down to watch and discuss a dark comedy classic, the 1989 movie Heathers. The film follows a feared clique of teenagers all named Heather; Veronica, a girl who dreams of popularity; and an unstable school bomber named J.D. as they make their way through high school. Read on to learn what our teen writers think about this controversial film. Esha Potharaju
The bratty politics of high school cliques dashed with murder, Heathers might be a pretty accurate representation of what it’s like to be a teenager. The teenage mind tends to blow things out of proportion—in J.D.’s case, perhaps literally so. When your crush doesn’t like you, the whole world feels like it’s about to end. By capturing these overexaggerated feelings and twisting the whirlwind of high school into a dark tale, the film is actually quite relatable. It’s reassuring to see someone with similar circumstances take a dark path, because you know you can’t manage to do something worse than that despite all your embarrassments. So while there aren’t literally any Heather-cides taking place in the average school, the emotions that Heathers depicts aren’t too far off from that of the average teenager. But this morbid appeal of Heathers, viewed through the eyes of a watcher from 2021, is easily drowned out by the obvious problems: the film features homophobia, fatphobia, and dismissive attitudes towards eating disorders and suicide. It’s hard to ignore how different J.D.’s actions, particularly his casual use of a bomb in a school setting, would be interpreted if he wasn’t white. A classic, though rightfully not through the eyes of all, Heathers provides a dark kind of comfort to teenagers. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers © 1989 New World Pictures Frances Vonada
The edgy cult classic Heathers, directed by Michael Lehmann, holds a certain appeal for teens today, especially after the popular off-Broadway musical of the same name and the resurgence of ‘80s culture and fashion. Heathers is highly entertaining, upping the stakes of highschool popularity politics and taking the phrase “social suicide” to a new level. However, the characteristic violence and characters’ cavalier attitudes have not aged this movie well.
So many issues are treated with indifference in this film including school shootings and bombings, eating disorders, and suicide. The film is darkly humorous and intended to be satirical, but a bleak look at the world is not comforting right now.
I’m sure Heathers will always be appreciated by people with nostalgia for the ‘80s and those who like Mean Girls with more death, but it is not my cup of tea currently. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers © 1989 New World Pictures Kyle Gerstel
Although campier than an East Coast kid’s summer, Heathers is a brilliant black comedy that deserves to be studied just as much as To Kill A Mockingbird. Its fearless screenplay twists high school movie cliches into macabre messages both about teenage angst and society as a whole. Like Veronica accidentally falling into the dark schemes of J.D., the film reveals its satire in a way that allows the audience to enjoy the violence before realizing they’re part of the problem. While the film could’ve easily become “low art,” as many chick flicks and teen slasher films do, its witty balance of the creepy and comical makes the film a “killer” exploration of the teenage mind that maintains remarkable relevance and entertainment value today.