Assent—and you are sane—
Demur—you’re straightway dangerous—
And handled with a Chain—
—from “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” by Emily Dickinson
I watched the movie Heathers for the first time on Saturday night. I piled on the couch with my family and two dogs and got excited to watch this film that my parents love dearly. Someone pressed “play” and the film opened with the song “Que Será, Será.” And then…I was amazed. Not only by how great the movie was, but also by how much things have changed since 1988, the year it came out.
Have you seen Heathers? You should see Heathers. It’s about a 16-year-old named Veronica and her relationship with the dangerous rebel JD. Veronica is a new and reluctant member of the most popular and powerful clique in school, the Heathers. The Heathers are three mean girls (plus Veronica), each assigned to their own color to wear, and each named Heather (plus Veronica). They belittle their classmates, and though Veronica disapproves of their bullying, she feels trapped—they’ll only make her life more miserable if she defies them. She falls for the new boy, who wears black and doesn’t like her “friends” very much, either. In an early scene, when two popular boys come up to JD and hassle him for talking to Veronica, he pulls out a gun and shoots blanks at them. Then we cut to a game of croquet.
My first thought was: “WHAT?! Why wasn’t he expelled? Arrested?” But this was pre-Columbine. You could do stuff like that in movies back then, apparently. The faculty smoke during their meetings. And everyone’s hair is SO BIG.
When I got over my shock at all of the smoking, guns, violence, and hairspray, I grew to love this film. I related to Veronica. Not because I (spoiler alert) kill people and make it look like suicide—because I don’t—but in that sometimes Veronica feels like she wastes her intelligence on choosing what lip gloss to wear. I feel that way a lot—like I’m wasting time and energy on things I don’t really care about; or that I know I’m better than the petty, stupid reasons I hang out with some people, just because I feel I’d rather have friends that I don’t like than none at all. This logic makes no sense, but it’s a very in-the-moment sort of feeling.
After lots of death, the film ended with another round of “Que Será, Será” (whatever will be, will be), and I said, out loud, “Wow.” I’d never seen anything like it. None of the teen movies made nowadays are anything like this. Heathers is smart and avoids cheap cultural irony.
The fact that my parents loved this movie when they were teenagers made it less awkward to sit between them watching Winona Ryder play strip croquet and drop F-bombs. I wonder what my generation’s Heathers will be? ♦