80s

What’s your damage?

It’s been said that the color blue was once used as protection against witches and evil beings. Colors have always been open to interpretation, and many believe that colors have certain meanings. Aside from blue, the color red is said to equate power, green symbolizes envy, and yellow may refer to cowardly behavior. Now, if you’re as much of a fanatic as I am, then you aren’t thinking of a color wheel right now – but a game of croquet, and we all know that Heather Chandler plays red. 

One of my favorite ’80s cult classics, Heathers, whose script was originally intended for Stanley Kubrick, and bombed in the box office in its opening year in 1989, has really come a long way. It was Christian Slater’s big break. It’s what gave Shannen Doherty the future chance to lock lips with Luke Perry in her 90210 role as Brenda Walsh. And it was the film that Winona Ryder’s former agent told her would ruin her career. It was controversial, dark, humorous, and mostly, it portrayed a dimension of high school social hierachy that had never been presented in such a way before. 

The writers of Heathers took on the master of teen angst himself, John Hughes. We’ve all seen The Breakfast Club, and we know that Claire can put on lipstick in a special way, that Bender is probably still stuck in Saturday detention to this day, and that according to my brother, Mike, there really was a principal like Mr. Vernon who reigned the hallways of a high school in the Chicago suburbs back in the ’80s. 

Yet, Heathers stretched beyond what The Breakfast Club offered us about high school cliques. I refuse to take this comparison any further than that though, because if I believe in any form of organized religion, it is all things John Hughes. With that said, Heathers takes you into a not-quite-right, not-quite-believable world, but just twisted enough to make you know you can’t take it too literally. I’m not going to get into plot summary. You’ve been in high school, you know the cafeteria layout. And at this school, the most powerful clique just happens to be run by girls with the same name. The film has a lot of juxtaposition going down. 

Let’s talk parallels. Winona Ryder is the main character, Veronica Sawyer. We briefly meet her former friend Betty Finn: unpopular, socially awkward. Veronica and Betty’s names are based on the two characters from the Archie comics, and Sawyer and Finn are in reference to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. 

Veronica’s boyfriend, Jason Dean, can be associated with the infamous James Dean, rebellious and definitive of his time. His initials, “J.D.” refers to the author J.D. Salinger, who wrote Catcher in the Rye, which was originally intended to be the book that Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty’s character) carries around with her. Instead, they opted for Moby Dick. Oh symbolism! 

If you remember anything I’ve said, please remember: bulimia is sooo ’87. And if you haven’t for whatever reason seen this film yet, I promise…it will be “very.”

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Discussion

5 thoughts on “What’s your damage?

  1. I love Heathers also! I didn’t know that about the color symbolism though, I really think that’s cool, since it does fit the characteres themselves.

    Posted by Aqua | June 8, 2009, 3:00 am
  2. Heathers is one of my all-time favourite films. Has to be in the top 3 for sure. Hughes was good in his own way but for me Heathers is the stand-out high school film of the 80s and despite what people say Mean Girls doesn’t come close to being as good.

    Posted by Helen | March 14, 2010, 6:25 pm
    • I completely agree. It’s very quintessential ’80s, and probably ranks in my top 3 favorite ’80s movies as well. If you haven’t seen Jawbreaker, I recommend that film, too. It came out in 1999 and seems to be inspired in that same dark comedy Heathers way. Mean Girls and other campy high school movies of this generation will never come close because they stop right at the edge of a cliff and don’t go over it. Heathers did. A different version of Mean Girls where the girls are actually mean and we feel bad for an actress other than Lindsay Lohan would have been a vast improvement.

      Posted by thehoff | March 15, 2010, 4:54 am

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