Persephone Movie Club: “Heathers”

Welcome to the second installment of the Persephone Movie Club. This week, we’ll be discussing Heathers. Somehow I’d never seen it until now and didn’t really know much about it, so I’m excited to have finally caught up with the rest of my generation. (I was 10 when it came out in 1988, so I wasn’t really old enough for the subject matter. Why it took another 24 years to see it defies explanation.) 

Heathers poster, with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater cuddling in front of a chalkboard with a drawing of the three Heathers.A few of my thoughts, and some ideas to jump-start this discussion:

  • I have no idea what the public reaction was in the pre-Columbine days when this came out, but I can’t even imagine the furor if it was made today. How well do you think the story has aged?
  • I love the concept of the popular girls all having the same ridiculously popular name. I thought it would be confusing, but it was just hilariously spot-on.
  • I loved the relationship between Veronica and her parents, especially the banter with her dad. And it was great that they asked about her social life but didn’t freak out that she was going to college parties and didn’t start lecturing her about sex when asking about prom plans.
  • Peer pressure is obviously one of the biggest driving forces behind most of the characters’ actions in the film. Did the Heathers seem like a realistic representation of high school popular girls? Were you a Heather or one of their victims?
  • Oh, J.D. You were so pretty but so fucked up. Why do you think he did the things he did? Was he an unrepentant psychopath, or just a troubled kid who got fucked in the head by watching his dad blow up his mother?
  • Why didn’t Veronica try to stop J.D. at the end? Did he deserve to die for his actions? Is it fair that Veronica went totally unpunished? And was J.D. right when he said that she knew he was lying about the bullets because she secretly wanted Kurt and Ram to die, or was she really clueless enough to think they wouldn’t be fatal?
  • How accurately did the film represent people’s reactions to (apparent) teen suicide? Was I the only one ugly laughing while picturing people writing on the Facebook walls of the dead characters?

And as always, if you have any gifs from the movie, share them in the comments!

Our next meeting will be July 27, where we’ll be discussing A League of Their Own. It’s summer, we need a baseball movie! It’s available on Netflix Instant and airs on cable pretty frequently, so check your local listings.

By [E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

15 replies on “Persephone Movie Club: “Heathers””

This movie is still one of my favorite dark comedies. There’s no way it would’ve been made post-Columbine. And it’s a good thing that it was made such a long time before Columbine because I’m sure it, along with Marilyn Manson, would’ve been blamed.

I think JD was just an anti-social deviant because of how he was raised. And Veronica…well, she just (initially) wanted JD’s approval and wanted revenge on the Heathers whose approval she also seemed to desperately want.

Aside from the killing and blowing up the school, I think it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what high school life was like back then and probably still is now.

I watched this movie last week in anticipation of this post. I thought it was about a group of popular girls and that Mean Girls was a sort of remake. Boy, was I wrong. And that wrong assumption really put me off the whole movie, to be honest. I didn’t like it. I feel like a bad 30-something year old for saying that. Maybe it’s one of those movies you have to first see as a teenager or younger adult to enjoy.

Pro: Some really good one-liners.

Con: I found Veronica awful and unforgivable. Why does she decide the cops can’t stop him? Because she’s a ego-maniacal bitch. Why does she continue to see him? Because he’s right – she does like it. She’s second in command at school around him, and then she gets to off him and be first.

Pro: While the psychopathic tendancies of two teenagers are highlighted, the whole school is full of little psychopaths – which is pretty accurate, in my opinion.

Con:  Rape scene.

Pro: The weird way Veronica speaks to the main Heather. It’s too bad she gets offed so early in the movie, because those two are hilarious together.

Con: JD’s dad. Why didn’t they shoot him instead?

Pro: Winona Forever. No, seriously, why isn’t she in more movies? She’s such a delight onscreen (ETA: her acting, not the character). I think I’ll watch Little Women this week.

This sounds a bit like my reaction to it, although I’m in a different age bracket. I kept wanting to like Veronica, but I didn’t. And I think bits of it were honestly too dark for me. Columbine happened while I was still fairly young, and I saw this movie for the first time last weekend. See also, a girl from my high school went to prison on manslaughter charges shortly after she graduated, so it’s entirely possible that this was just to weirdly close to home for me.

I did love Christian Slater’s line about, “How do you think he’d feel about a limp wristed son who was living?” It seemed like just the sort of inappropriate line that would be running through my head at a weird emotional over-share moment.

See, that line is perfect example of why I liked JD better than Veronica. He was a fucked-up dick, but he didn’t pretend to be otherwise. And while his conclusions were wrong, he was pretty much spot on with the facts he used to get there. She couldn’t stop lying to herself and everyone else about who she was.

Teenage suicide! Don’t do it!

This movie would never have been made post-Columbine. Just flat out not made.

I first heard about it while watching the weekend Siskle and Ebert movie review show. They both loved it, if I recall, and they showed just enough of the clips to intrigue me, but I never got to see it until it came out on cable. At which point, I watched it semi-regularly and religiously.

I’ve been trying to figure out when I can show it to Mini — I keep thinking she’s too young for such a dark comedy, but the comedy doesn’t get any lighter when you get older, you know? Maybe I can marathon this with Pump Up the Volume. Remember when Christian Slater was a thing?

Oh I was all about Christian Slater as a thing. And those .gifs are to die for. I think your girl is probably old enough to handle it. It doesn’t get any lighter, you’re right. And I think there’s something to be said for seeing it kind of on the young side, where you don’t really get how dark it is, that’s a good thing. Also, she’s going to be so distracted by the shoulder pads that I don’t think she’ll notice what else ; )

I can recite this movie from beginning to end.  I remember my brother bringing home the VHS back in either 1993 or 1994, and I was absolutely hooked.  I wanted to be Veronica Sawyer, and SAVE J.D. from himself.  The movie spoke to me as a nerdy, outcast teenager, though I had no desire to harm my classmates.  I was Veronica, and my stepsister and her friends were the Heathers.  I wanted to be bad ass so bad.  Haha.

I don’t remember this movie ever being scandalous or a big deal in the pre-Columbine days.  Pre-Columbine also was before the age of round-the-clock news channel and Internet coverage.

I always thought J.D. was an unrepentant psychopath who was raised by an unrepentant psychopath.  I never thought he was troubled or anything – just downright evil.  Still I loved him.  Oh, 13 year old Lara is having a swoon fest right now.  Don’t mind me.

Oh my friends and I wore out a couple of VHS copies of this movie in 1990. We laughed so, so hard, and 22 years later, still quote it all the time. I think the murders were far fetched enough that we found it hilarious, but the social issues/peer pressure was real enough to make it engaging for us at the time.

“I love my dead, gay, son”, “What’s your damage, Heather?” and “This is not just spoke in my menstrual cycle” are three of my favorite lines.

I really enjoy this movie because of the cinematography and how far fetched the idea seems. Even post-Columbine, I still find it hard to believe that anyone would want to blow up their school, but I do enjoy the ingenious way the writers employed in getting everyone to sign a giant suicide note. I found it completely hilarious, mainly because it would work. Many high schoolers don’t even bother to read what they sign, so you could say anything to get them too.

As for Veronica and J.D. I think they’re both sociopaths. Neither one cares what happens to any other student, not even one of Veronica’s good friends (e.g. the date rape scene and how they act at the funerals). But J.D.’s psychosis has progressed much further than Veronica’s which is why he is the more antagonistic character. With that in mind, I also think Veronica starts to move away from her coldness as she realizes what she’s doing and that she has become like the much loathed Heather Chandler, which is why she ultimately stops J.D. from blowing up the school but not from removing himself and  his own brand of cruelty from the world.

Also, some of my favorite quotes come from this movie. “God Heather, did you have a tumor for breakfast?” “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.”  And of course “What’s your damage, Heather?”

I saw this movie again a month or so ago, and Mr. Rose pointed out the one Heather getting raped in the background when she and Veronica are out on that “date” with the two football players, while Veronica is talking to J.D.  I had never caught it before and was kind of horrified. It had a very profound effect on the way I felt about the movie in general and Veronica’s character specifically, she became less of a protagonist in my eyes. I used to love Heathers, but I just feel slighted that they decided to throw that in and make two characters complicit in the rape of someone.

I think that scene is just supposed to show us even further how completely sociopathic JD is, and to clue us in to the fact that Veronica is, too. Some horrifying shit happens at Westerberg, but JD and V frame themselves as the ultimate victims, which allows them to justify their revenge.

I watched this movie both pre- and post-Columbine.  I don’t really remember much about my reaction to it as a teenager (pre-Columbine).  I do remember thinking that Veronica had to be pretty stupid to trust Christian Slater dude (I am too lazy to scroll up and find his real name) after the first incident.  And maybe he was both an unrepentant psychopath and fucked in the head.  It can happen.

As to teenagers’ reactions to suicide:  teenagers are generally horrible.  I was a teen once, and even though I avoided most of the teen bullying, I still thought they were horrible.  A girl in my school killed herself, and some of her bullies cheered.  So even though Heathers  was a cheesy eighties movie, they got teenagers right in their cheesy eighties way.

I think that is all.

ok – all I have to say is – I will never forget my favorite line from this movie: “I love my dead, gay son!”

I saw this in 91-92 for the first time.  Loved the movie, but was also taken aback by the horrible-ness of Christian Slater.  I can’t really relate to HS movies, but overall, I’d say this sucker is the precursor to Mean Girls.

As for the pre-Columbine part – I remember thinking of that part as so farfetched and completely part of the movie fantasy.  I had no idea what would happen in a few years…

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