Reviewed by Alicia Glass
It’s generally an accepted fact that high school, no matter what age you happen to hail from, is a kind of Hell. The disaffected movie from the 80’s, starring a young Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as a pair of high school kids who end up plotting to literally end the revolution of popular ‘Heathers’ girls at their school, is a black comedy usually found relatable to a lot of people. Take a selfie and dive into the revamped miniseries Heathers from the Paramount Network!
So like any typical high school show, Westerburg High is ruled by the popular kids, in this case the three Heathers: Duke, the screamingly flamboyant male gay Heath-er; McNamara, the black self-proclaimed lesbian who has affairs with her teachers; and Chandler, the plus-size gangsta shark leader of the bunch. Veronica Sawyer, while not being named Heather, has been a friend of theirs for a long time, and dutifully follows the Heathers’ insistent instructions on how to remain rulers of the school. And then there’s JD, not part of any clique or club, and yet Veronica coins a morbid fascination for him.
The Heathers personify the absolute worst of today’s PC culture cliques one can think of, especially after Chandler’s miraculous death and resurrection and her determination to become the ‘face of suicide’. Really, girl? Heather Chandler (Melanie Field) stalks the school like Missy Elliot on bad rainbow acid, giving benevolent and saint-like touches with one hand and pointing the demanding accusatory do-it-NOW-or-I’ll GUT-you finger with the other. While it may be true Chandler’s home-life is far from exemplary and she is surrounded by enablers at school, her messianic complex has a tendency to get on my last nerve. And that is likely precisely the point.
Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews) is barely in the show, as she decides to be the ultimate trendy and be the first major girl to take her own life, at the end of the very first episode. The pretty little black self-proclaimed lesbian who happens to be having affairs with her considerably older, white male teachers is an interesting twist on a standard trope, but even that can’t infuse this Heather with a ton of personality. Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell) on the other hand, screams personality and demands to be seen and noticed with his utterly fabulous ways, darling, and yet his little drag-apalooza is often over-shadowed by the shallowness of his heart. Because your sexual orientation doesn’t matter when you’re truly an asshole, capable of anything and everything to get what you think you want. It doesn’t help that Heather Duke’s stepmother (Selma Blair) is the worst kind of trailer park noveau riche trash one can think of, too.
JD (James Scully) is of course the disaffected standoffish bastard like many of us, hating the rat race that is his high school experience, annoyed at his rich never-there father and his eternal parade of ever-younger girlfriends, the poor little rich rebel without a cause or a clue. The oppressed violence that seems to lurk in many teenagers these days is given license in JD, especially once he discovers Veronica not only shares his tastes, but can do him one better, too. It sure doesn’t help that JD’s missing mother, played in flashbacks by the redoubtable Shannon Doherty, encourages him to live freely in his dark impulses, like she did.
Annnnd, then there’s Veronica (Grace Victoria Cox) herself. She keeps the same strange affectations the original Veronica did – the monocle for writing in her ever-present diary, the bloodlust and bloodshed, the hormonal madness given whirling dervish form. She obsesses over the Heathers and her part in them, she righteously turns the tables on JD as far as crazy goes, and she all but gleefully goes tripping about committing murder. But in all honesty, the angst that the original Veronica suffered, even while she was happily joining JD in murder, was more realistic and enjoyable.
It’s a very brave move for the Paramount Network to not only remake the Heathers movie into a TV series, given all the very real high school violence and suicide that happens these days. The show was originally scheduled to have a certain number of episodes, and an entire episode was scrapped from showing on TV due to the Sante Fe and Parkland school shootings. The show’s premiere was actually pushed back a few times due to school shootings, but eventually went ahead with it, to generally positive reviews. And there are still talks of a second season, which yeah, I would watch.
Check your privilege with the new Heathers, on the Paramount Network now!