Screencap from the trailer for Paramount's "Heathers" TV show. Left to right: Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews), Heather Chandler (Melanie Field), and Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell)

The New “Heathers” Is Problematic And Here Are 7 Reasons Why

In case you haven’t heard, Paramount has made a television show remake of the 1980s cult classic film “Heathers.”

In this new “Heathers,” the Heathers are portrayed by a body-positive girl as the “mythic bitch” Heather Chandler, a gender-queer boy as Heather Duke, and a biracial lesbian as Heather McNamara.

For anyone unfamiliar with “Heathers,” here’s a little background.

The 1988 movie follows Veronica Sawyer, a member of Westerberg High’s popular trio called the Heathers, as she and Jason “JD” Dean, a boy with a hatred for bullies, get together and target the mean kids. The two end up killing the leader of the Heathers, Heather Chandler, and two bullying jocks named Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney. They forge suicide notes for each that make Heather look like a troubled teen and paint Kurt and Ram as gay. (Read the full plot here.)

In addition to the film, there’s a musical adaptation that adds to the story and elaborates certain characters and issues. (It also has a great soundtrack.)

As of now, the show has been postponed indefinitely. The creators claim it’s because of the Florida school shooting, but many are hypothesizing the true reason is due to the widespread negative backlash to the show.

Why is there backlash?

1. The story has lost its relatability.

Every high school has their version of the Heathers, Kurt, and Ram: those popular girls and jock guys who run the school and can easily make your life miserable with a little rumor, who bullied others for being different. The film slightly exaggerated the characteristics of these roles and plays up stereotypes, but was still relatable.

Popular kids are also typically white, straight, cisgender girls and boys. But by putting people from minorities as the popular kids, the relatability is gone.

Show creator Jason Micaleff claims the new Heathers are inclusive because “I didn’t view the Heathers as villains,” and “people that wouldn’t have necessarily been considered the most popular kids…in 1988 could very well be—and probably most likely are—the more popular kids today.”

He clearly didn’t bother to educate himself to the fact that high school social hierarchy hasn’t changed that much. It’s still highly unlikely for popular cliques to feature a bigger girl or an LGBTQ person; only a biracial person is actually feasible. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where especially in high schools, bigger kids and LGBTQ are typically made fun of and ostracized. High school kids tend to be immature and are still learning to accept those who are different from themselves.

2. Certain high-tension issues arise from putting minorities as the Heathers.

Targeting and killing a big girl and several LGBTQ characters will just perpetuate fat-hating, homophobia, and the “Bury Your Gays” trope. I can already foresee people losing their crap over how a television show is killing off/targeting LGBTQ and big characters. It feels like the show creators sat down and said, “How can we stir up the most outrage with this reboot?”

GIF of Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) saying "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?" to Heather Duke (Shannon Doherty) in the 1988 Heathers movie

3. It’s incredibly hypocritical to have a “body-positive” girl as Heather C.

In the film (and especially the musical), there is a fat girl named Martha Dunnstock, or “Martha Dump Truck.” She’s made fun of for her weight and for being “weird” to the point of attempted suicide. This plotline highlights the negative effects of bullying, particularly over looks. For reference, the following pictures of Martha in the movie and the musical’s original cast.

Having the lead Heather be played by a big girl destroys an important plotline and rejects an important message. It also is oblivious to reality, how anyone who isn’t a size 0-4 is often made fun of for their size and would be highly unlikely to ever be popular. And by the way, the new Martha is now named Shelby Dunnstock, a thin cheerleader (and a guest character).

4. You lose the reason for Kurt and Ram’s “suicide.”

In the forged suicide notes, Veronica makes it so that Kurt and Ram committed suicide because they were in a gay relationship in a world that doesn’t approve. Sadly, even today, that message is relevant. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ kids (between ages 10-24) are almost five times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual kids.

In the new “Heathers,” however, Kurt is actually gay, if closeted. And by creating a high school where LGBTQ is clearly accepted since two popular kids are on the LGBTQ spectrum, that reason is out the window. I can only imagine what BS reason the creators would come up with to cover up their deaths…if Kurt and Ram still die, that is.

5. Having minorities as these popular kids is NOT good representation.

The Heathers are undeniably mean kids, regardless of what the show creator feels. It’s the reason Heather C., Kurt, and Ram are targeted, because of how they treat others.

I’m normally super gung-ho for inclusivity and representation, and I understand the thoughts behind having minorities in an unlikely role like the popular kids, but “Heathers” is 100% the worst show you could try doing that in. It shines a negative light on LGBTQ, racial minorities, and bigger people.

6. Veronica and JD become the bad guys.

Okay, so JD was always the bad guy, but that’s slightly besides the point.

Everyone hates the mean popular kids. That’s the reason you empathize with Veronica and JD’s decision to kill Heather, Kurt, and Ram, however wrong it felt, because everyone hates their real-life equivalents. But now Veronica and JD look like the bad guys since their targets are minorities…and they’re a white heterosexual couple.

GIF of Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) and JD (Christian Slater) standing over a dead Heather Chandler saying — V: "I just killed my best friend." JD: "And your worst enemy." V: "Same difference."

7. Several big characters have been changed and reduced in their roles.

Kurt is now a recurring character and a closeted gay, while Ram is a mere guest role. As previously mentioned, Martha has now become a thin cheerleader named Shelby, and she too is just a guest character. In the musical, there is also an added plotline where Martha has a crush on Ram, despite how he treats her.

Changing these characters’ level of involvement in the plot indicates a demotion of two important plotlines, despite their contribution to the overall message of Heathers.

What do you think of the new “Heathers”? Leave a comment with your thoughts below!

*Originally posted on Odyssey

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