Heathers Reboot: Why Diversity Doesn’t Always Equal Good Representation

In 1988, the soon to be a cherished cult classic Heathers was released. Heathers was a film that was rare and gritty, differentiating from other teen movies released in the 80’s such as Pretty In Pink — daring to give us something so different than what we’re used to. It gave us a glimpse into the darker side of teen youth, the side that’s laced with power-hungry teenage girls and self-entitled white boys who like to carry guns to school.

Fast forward to 2017 — a Heathers TV reboot coming to Paramount Network in 2018 has just dropped its first trailer.

The 30 second sneak preview has sparked an overabundance of mixed reactions, going from how it looks like a cheap Mean Girls reboot to how the choice in cast is a little, well, controversial.

Heather McNamara (originally played by Lisanne Falk) is now portrayed by Jasmine Mathews — and this time, she’s written as a black lesbian. Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) is played by Brendan Scannell, who identifies as a genderqueer individual and Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) is now played by Melanie Field — a plus sized actress.

Hollywood’s attempt to give us good representation in film and television has once again turned out to be more problematic than proactive; solely because the minorities are the Heathers. Some have argued that it’s good representation, others however, have pointed out that although the cast may be diverse, it isn’t good representation.

Those who have seen the original Heathers know that the Heathers are a social clique who rule their small town high school with an iron fist and oversized shoulder pads. They’re crude, unapologetic, and uncaring; except for Veronica Sawyer — the one who stands apart from her crowd.

(Another description of the plot: “A girl who halfheartedly tries to be part of the “in crowd “ of her school meets a rebel who teaches her a more devious way to play social politics: by killing the popular kids.”)

Veronica (previously Winona Ryder, currently Grace Victoria Cox) states in many points during the film that she’s unhappy with her friends and social life, until she meets J.D (Christian Slater, now James Scully), manipulates Veronica into seeing his solution to her problem — kill off the popular kids.

This is where things start to get uncomfortable for the TV series.

Since the TV series is said to stay true to the movie, most of the minorities are about to be killed off and/or sidelined, which is definitely not the kind of representation any of us deserve. Not to mention most of these characters are killed off because J.D, a white male, thinks they deserve it.

In an article published by Popsugar that interviewed cast members of the reboot, Scully warns us not to get attached to any of the characters, blatantly stating that many characters will be killed off, and Scannell adding, “We can kill as many people as we want.”

Seeing a diverse cast being killed off one by one obviously isn’t going to sit well with those of us who want to see ourselves represented in the media, and it’s not representation at all. It’s easy to see that the creators of the show meant well by trying add diversity to their reboot, but what they don’t understand is that their decision is a huge step back. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves if having a diverse cast is really worth it if we are going to be treated in a way that enrages us; we want to see ourselves front and center playing well written characters for a change. We want to see ourselves represented in someone like Veronica — someone who’s got power and does a whole lot more than sit on the sidelines.

Author: Natalia Plaza

Editor: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.

From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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