Growing up in the '90s, the movie Heathers was a cultural touchstone. Veronica and J.D. were our version of relationship goals, and the Heathers were the ultimate glammed out versions of the preppy popular crowd, the A List version of the "Gap Girl" clique that the overweight, the goth, the gender non conforming and the emotionally unstable could never hope to join. But times have changed, hard. Pop culture is now run by the outcasts, and the Heathers reboot trailer is here to take that to it's logical extreme endpoint.
Exactly when the world turned upside down will one day be a point debated heavily be historians, but at some point in the early to mid-aughts the one two punch of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter flipped over the social order, and suddenly those who had once been outcasts became the biggest franchises on the planet. When I was in high school, lo these 20 years ago, we the outcasts, the ones who cheered on the death of the Heathers, were assured that come adulthood, the nerds would inherit the earth.
I'm pretty sure this is not what our teachers meant. And yet, here we are. Now a scathing parody of what it is to be in high school puts the outcasts in the catbird seats, with a reminder that it doesn't matter what the bullies look like, or what their backgrounds are: in high school, absolute social power corrupts absolutely.
(Watch for the Shannon Doughty-as-Original Heather Duke cameo at the 1:43 mark.)
Some of the hallmarks have stayed: the "Dear Diary" entries, the monocle Veronica wears while frantically pouring her emotions out into a locked set of pages. But now she's the one in the sweater sets and the blonde hair, aspiring to be as cool as those who are "body positive" and walk with swag, because preppy uptight is out.
But there are those who feel this show is taking things a step too far. Though the media is far more likely to show positive reinforcement of characters who are gay, or not a size 0 as they were, say 20 years ago, there's still a long way to go in producing series that feature people of color and LGBT characters. Heathers is making fun of something that hasn't really been established, except in a few areas, and is using the template to make it OK to hate on these stereotypes, who have fought so hard just to be acknowledged and see themselves portrayed on TV.
When you think about it that way, the entire premise gets as uncomfortable as I felt in the trailer when Veronica calls the lead Heather a fatty.
But showrunner Jason Micallef insists to Entertainment Weekly that this is a incorrect reading of the show, and that his love of the Heathers is why it works.
The three Heathers are incredibly powerful and ruling the school; they’re the people you would want to be.... The Heathers are the aspirational characters. The villain is J.D. — and that’s the same in the movie and same in our show. The reason I changed the Heathers surface identities is I think today [the characterization] rings true. Today, all different types of people are more aspirational. People that wouldn’t have necessarily been considered the most popular kids in school in 1988 could very well be — and probably most likely are — the more popular kids today. And also because it’s a TV show, we have so much more time to explore their characters and get behind it. Of course, no one’s seen the show yet. Once they see it, I think they’ll get what we’re talking about.
Heathers will debut on the new Paramount Network on March 7, 2018 at 10 p.m. ET.