“Heathers” remake misses the mark



Art Director Gabrielle Leitner discusses the new television remake of the 1989 film "Heathers."


In our divisive political world, television is often used as an escape from reality. This doesn’t stop Hollywood producers from creating content that tackles tough issues facing society today. 

Earlier this year, Paramount Network planned to air a television remake of the 1989 cult-classic film “Heathers.” The film’s plot revolves around Veronica Sawyer, her love interest Jason Dean (JD) and her so-called friend group “the Heathers.” The storyline involves Veronica and JD plotting the deaths of popular students at their school. This leads to depictions of gun violence and bullying amongst students. While this sort of satire worked in the 1980’s in a pre-Columbine world, taking on a story of this magnitude should be done so with caution in today’s culture. 

After months of delay due to several school shootings, Paramount decided to air nine of the 10 episodes on their network over the course of five days in late October. The 10th episode was deemed too sensitive for American audiences, resulting in it being scrapped altogether. The remaining 9 episodes were all heavily edited.

During this five-day marathon, the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting occurred, causing one of the nights of the show’s airing to be canceled.

As I watched this show, I wondered how this even got made in 2018. When I first heard that “Heathers” was going to be made into a television show, I was intrigued to see what Paramount would do with the format, especially since the film had not aged well in any sense. After watching the series, I concluded that there was no need for this remake.

Sure, the television show looked great. It was visually appealing (aside from one episode shot completely from the first-person view of one of the characters), from the costumes, to the sets and to the heavy use of color coordination. Some of the jokes were updated for the present day and some new and creative slang words were used, along with old ones from the original. From a production standpoint, I can appreciate on that level the value that went into this television show.

The subject matter is ultimately where this show lost me.

While gun violence, bullying, victim-blaming and toxic relationships are all topics that should be discussed, I felt as though all of these underlying themes all being presented synonymously were a bit overwhelming. Whatever message one storyline was trying to get across was drowned out by all of the other storylines and the messages they were trying to get across. In this show, it seemed as if the writers valued quantity over quality.

In this day and age where it seems like we see so much violence so often, I am both numb and saddened by this new reality. If Paramount’s goal was to be edgy and controversial for the sake of being edgy and controversial, I feel as though maybe this is not the route to go, especially after seeing headline after headline of shootings all around the country. If the show really had to be edited that much and an entire episode had to be scrapped, maybe it shouldn’t have been made in the first place. 

It’s easy to see why a network like Paramount would want to redo a cult classic like “Heathers.” Many other studios are rebooting older television shows and remaking films. It is “also” easy to assume that since the original was so well-liked that a remake would be just as successful, but some films are better left untouched.