The charmingly sinister JD — played by an equally charming Christian Slater — confesses over the course of the 1989 dark comedy Heathers, “The extreme always seems to make an impression.”
It certainly does, and no truer words were spoken than by the anti-heroic protagonist in Heathers, a 1980’s dark classic. The film focuses on a typical suburban high school ruled with sarcastic wit by the three most popular girls in school — all named Heather. Into this trio of inevitable poison comes Veronica (Winona Ryder), a thoughtful, compassionate deviation from the gang who struggles with her own place not only in school, but in life itself. At least, until she meets the one and only mister bad boy, JD (Christian Slater), who shows Veronica a different way to live her life: one where she doesn’t have to use her grand IQ for lip gloss decisions and when to best drink from keggers.
Through her time spent with JD, however, she experiences the corrupt and destructive lifestyle that JD had set out for her — the backstabbing, the murders, the suicides (fair warning: there are both real and faux suicides) … Let’s just say Veronica went too far out to come swimming back to the safety of the shore.
Despite this film coming out in the late 80’s, it still seems to stand the test of time. While the high school life over thirty years ago is by no means similar to the enervating and paralyzing schooling of today, the patterns of decisive popularity, intensive bullying, and intoxicative crushes are all still incredibly present. Heathers was written exactly that way to remain relatable to the persistently “misunderstood” teens in any era. In fact, a lot of the most memorable quotes from this incredible 31-year-old film are so bizarrely appealing, that one will even include them in their own vocabulary. Not to mention that the ludicrous plot keeps your eyes glued to the screen for each second of the one hour and 43 minutes of unusual screenplay.
Of course, with it being a 1980’s film, Heathers includes elements much more popular to the 80’s and 90’s rather than the 21st Century. That’s not to say, however, that the clothing choices aren’t absolutely brilliant and stunning. Each Heather of the infamous trio is paired with a color of their own, as if to signify their personality right from the get-go. Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), being Ms. Royal herself at Westerburg High School, wears red as her very own signature — and just like her clothes, she is every bit passionate as she was dangerous. If someone else were to wear the queen’s color… let’s just say they’d be signing their own death wish with a glitter pen. Then there’s Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), who wears yellow to match the more mellow and calm side of the Heather Trio. While still following the high school popularity stereotype, she remains Heather Chandler’s complete opposite. Little Miss Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), the last infamous Heather in the trio, wears her green with complete and utter jealousy for Heather Chandler. It wasn’t until the queen died that we see the other reasoning for her green complexion — her growth into a better person. As someone who adores the clothing style of the 80’s, viewers will be nowhere near disappointed in the style choices — be it the trendy popular girls, the dimwitted jocks, or even the social outcasts.
With the exceptional actress, Winona Ryder, being in this film you can already tell Heathers is going to be simply incredible. Pair her with Christian Slater as JD and you’re already concocting one of the most absurdly entertaining films of the century. That pair together is intoxicating — much like Veronica’s draw to JD from the very beginning. It is that addictive draw, however, that becomes poisonous to Veronica. JD was never good for her, but it is too late. She has already taken the dangerous sip of trouble and corruption. From there, we see the concoction boil and explode. Without Ryder and Slater, the act of illegal chemistry would have never been there in the first place.
The success of this film would have been nowhere near as successful without the help of the actresses playing the Heathers. Each fit their designer shoe so well, even Cinderella would have been given a run for her money. They made this movie into what it’s known as today — simply classic, simply iconic, simply “very.”
Of course, no movie is ever completely perfect. While moviegoers will applaud the choice of direction — teenage life and the dangers of jumping on the bandwagon — it strays from the path too much to be ignored. While the allure of the bandwagon is important to acknowledge, there are parts where viewers will feel that Heathers becomes too unrealistic of the typical teenage life. Sure, high schools have the mentally unstable teens within, but they displayed JD as the extreme: the one-of-a-kind limited edition version. For a film in the 1980’s, this wasn’t as frowned upon as it would be today. Mental health wasn’t as taboo, or rather, as understood, as it is today. It definitely isn’t a movie for the lighthearted. Heathers makes you reconsider a lot of things you may not have thought much of before, such as mob mentality and popularity, and it is with those realizations that one will wholeheartedly agree with the R rating of this exasperatingly prodigious film.
Heathers is rated R.
Kaitlyn Riley is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl