I recently watched Heathers for the first time. Keep in mind, I obviously knew the story: after all, it’s a cult classic. Girl meets boy, girl kills friends, boy goes nuts, the whole shebang. Half the quotes were already ingrained in my memory by the Internet. Still, the film stayed new enough to keep me interested as I watched it.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the premise, let me break it down for you. At a high school in suburban Ohio, a group of girls known as the Heathers act like they rule the world. They’re mean, seventeen, and ready to crush your dreams. Everything starts going downhill when their new friend, Veronica, starts feeling discontented with their lifestyle. She meets a boy named JD, whom she describes as a “dark horse,” and the story violently unfolds from there.
I think what surprised me the most was how innocently it all started. Yeah, Winona Ryder’s Veronica is no saint, but she isn’t a murderer. She’s just a girl with a divided moral compass, too decent enough to follow the Heathers blindly, but dark enough to wish they were dead. JD doesn’t seem to be a bad influence at first: he’s funny and cool and knows how to spin a phrase. It’s only as the movie goes on that both she and the audience begin to realize that she’s literally living in a nightmare.
So for most of the movie, I chose to watch it like a horror film. A girl, enchanted by the charms of a beautiful boy, watches as he destroys her entire life. “Our love is God,” JD says at a turning point in the movie. “Let’s go get a slushie.”
Let’s get back to Veronica. Never mind the fact that Veronica’s former best friend is named Betty(which I think is hilarious), Veronica seems stuck in between two worlds. She’s smart, she’s popular, she’s somehow an expert handwriting forger even though she writes in her diary like a psychopath. For me, this is where the story gets the most interesting.
The question remains: “Did Veronica mean to kill those people?” Some would say she was led astray by JD and his perfect hair, but I still wonder. At the beginning of the movie, she grabs the wrong cup “by accident,” but because there’s a lid on one cup and not in the other, the audience is left feeling doubtful. Later, when JD tells Veronica that the bullets in her gun are fake, you can tell she doesn’t believe him, but she ends up shooting someone anyway.
Which perhaps explains the residual guilt that Veronica feels throughout the movie. I don’t think she knows if she meant to kill them, either, but she certainly wanted to. She admits it herself, that she wanted them dead. But is that the same thing?
According to the Bible: yes. Jesus said it himself, that hating someone and wishing they were dead was the same thing as killing them with your bare hands. Perhaps, then, Heathers should not be considered a psychological thriller, or a dark comedy.
It’s wish fulfillment, pure and simple. Instead of Aladdin, where a boy dreams of winning someone’s heart, this is a story where a girl gets everything she wants only to discover that it’s not what she wanted at all. In fact, for someone who takes such drastic measures to change her life, she finds that nothing really changes after all.
Again, that’s human nature in action. The culture of Veronica’s high school fills the void she creates when the first Heather dies. It takes Veronica the entire film to realize that the only way to change things for the better is to take positive steps, not negative ones.
So, next time you’re tempted to off your best friends, remember what Heathers taught us: murder solves no problems, it only creates them.
On a side note – Heathers is now a pretty fantastic musical. Check out a song here.