Monday, February 6, 2017

Satire In Teen Chick Flicks

There is a certain type of movie that everyone has seen at some point, either with enthusiasm or with disdain for the person who picked it out. It most likely has a pink cover with the conventionally attractive lead actress on the cover, either just standing there and looking pretty or maybe standing there, holding something, and looking pretty. These movies all have the same plot: teenaged girl is faced with injustice in the form of high school cliques or the struggles of being unpopular, teenaged girl overcomes injustice, gets the guy, and looks hot doing it.
Image result for mean girls coverImage result for sixteen candles coverImage result for clueless cover
Don’t get me wrong, some of these movies are great. I would put Legally Blond in this category and I love that movie and think it has a really important message. That being said, these movies are often lazy in their storytelling. They rely on the same characters, plots, and settings and after a while, they start to blend together. This cannot be said for the 1988 film Heathers. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please go watch it right now, it’s on netflix and well worth the hour and forty-three minutes.

Heathers is the brainchild of writer Daniel Waters and satirizes the typical teen drama. In the film, Westerburg High School is run by the Heathers, three popular girls who share the same name, and Veronica (Winona Ryder), the dark horse of their clique. Veronica is quite possibly the epitome of the “not like the other girls” archetype. She’s pseudo-poetic, she wears a monocle to write in her leather bound diary, and she hates her friends. Like in every teen movie, Veronica’s world gets turned upside down when she meets a boy. In this case, it’s JD, played by a young Christian Slater. JD fancies himself and Veronica Bonnie and Clyde types and sets out to kill the people that make his and Veronica’s lives miserable by staging their suicides. Their targets are fairly predictable, two of the Heathers and two stereotypical "meathead jocks". In the very first suicide they stage, JD and Veronica go to see Heather #1 to help cure her hangover. Veronica genuinely does not want to hurt Heather too much, but JD ends up giving her a cup of blue drain-cleaner, causing her to collapse, smashing a glass coffee table, and die.

While the first "suicide" scene is interesting from an aesthetic and cinematographic perspective, the most interesting detail is perhaps the color of the drain-cleaner. Throughout the film, blue is very closely associated with Veronica and the world she and JD create around them. Veronica kills Heather. JD may have handed Heather the cup of drain cleaner, but she choked on blue drain-cleaner, Veronica killed her. The fact Heather tormented JD and Veronica doesn't excuse the fact that they're murderers and it becomes clear towards the end of the movie that life, in fact, was better when Heather was alive. JD is not a hero. Veronica is not a hero. They killed people, they are not meant to be glorified. In the last scene JD blows himself up and Veronica just barely keeps him from taking the rest of the school with him.The idea that one unique, quirky girl can defeat bitchy teen queens is idiotic. The premise of a school run by a clique of cheerleading primadonnas is idiotic. The notion that the right guy will fix all a girl’s problems is idiotic. The genre of teen movies that constantly forces these concepts down the throats of a young and largely female audience is idiotic and Heathers wants you to know it.

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