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Heathers (1988)- A Cult Classic?

Updated on February 5, 2014


Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) wants to fit into the "in crowd" of her high school. Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), and Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) run the popular clique in their Ohio high school. Veronica is their best friend but has ill feelings towards all of them when their humanity fails to present itself. Everything changes when she meets "rebel" J.D. (Christian Slater), who has his own methods of dealing with the "in crowd". Having gone in and out of schools, J.D.’s violent nature makes its first appearance early in the film when he pulls out a gun on a classmate that was teasing him. Veronica and J.D. go down a tumultuous road of murder that eventually leads to the film’s poignant ending.

Movie Title: Heathers

Director: Michael Lehmann

Writer: Daniel Waters

Date of Release: October 1988

Nationality: American

Genre: Comedy / Black Comedy / Teen Film

Heathers digs into several characteristics of a "cult film" through its marginality, suppression, economics, transgression, cult following, and quotation.

For the first criterion, marginality, Heathers had the theme of teen suicide central to its story. The murders that Veronica and J.D. commit are set up as suicides, and ultimately J.D. commits suicide in the films climactic ending by bombing himself outside of his Ohio high school. Homosexuality is also conversed at the beginning of the film when high school jocks mock J.D., calling him a "faggot" in their cafeteria. The topic resurfaces later in the plot when J.D. sets the same guys up for murder, which would later be played out as two star struck lovers so tormented by their sexuality that their only way out was through suicide.

Furthermore, these themes within themselves were subject to censorship. The late 1980s and early 1990s didn’t hold these themes common-ground in films. This was the beginning of the exploration of homosexual reference in film, but the rise of school violence was becoming a common tragedy. Thus, many critics and viewers alike thought the film stepped into risky space. Some went as far as describing the movie "irresponsible" cinema. The film was taken up in the 'protective censorship' argument by the older crowd due to school shootings that had also recently happened at the time of the movies' release. Daniel Walters, the writer, even wanted to add literary references to "The Catcher in the Rye" but wasn't allowed to for legal reasons.

Needless to say, its dark comedy and satiric look at societies views on teens and teen suicide, the film didn't endure economic prosperity. In fact, the company that released the film went out of business soon after its release, limiting its theatre time.

"F*** me gently with a chainsaw"

Whose role was more crucial to the story?

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Heathers' transgressive power is massive in huge part to the aforementioned themes. Teen suicide, school shootings, and school bullying shined a light at the socio/cultural damage being done to teens that leads them to consider murder and suicide. It altered the way high school feudalism was looked at. Its raw portrayal of teen relationships brought awareness of what's really happening in high schools across the nation.

Moving along, the 80's held the beginning of the creation of fan sites and Heathers' had a couple. But, there is only one that can still be viewed.

You can see that site here:

To conclude, after every murder, weather intentional or not, Jason J.D. Dean, makes Veronica write a suicide note for the victims. The notes contained cryptic messages about their dissatisfaction with life. Lines that were the trademark of teenage depression and suicide note content.

"So, we killed them."


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