A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Whereas 1989 original had an all-white, model-gorgeous cast, this show has more gender role, ethnic, racial, and body diversity. But it undercuts this positive message, making "good" characters white and thin and "bad" characters from marginalized groups. Even a "good" character stereotypes her classmates, referring to some as "gay nerds" and others as "sluts." A plus-size character is subject to eight fat jokes in one episode: characters call her "fatty" and marvel that a "fat kid could be popular" despite "pushing a good 200." A "genderqueer" character is said to be acceptable because he's "rail thin."
Positive Role Models
No good guys; the characters coded to be the hero and heroine use violence to gain their ends, and justify their actions by pointing out that others are imperfect, too. Heather Chandler is a popular plus-sized girl, which is good, but she's mocked frequently for her size, which is bad. Heather Duke is played by a male actor proud of his "genderqueer" status and accepted by others.
Violence & Scariness
The creators sensibly jettisoned the original's "blow up the school" plot -- a lot scarier in the age of school shootings -- but characters still attempt to kill each other. A woman puts a gun up to her chin and waves good-bye to her small son; the camera cuts away and we hear the gun shot. A teen jokes about an athletic schoolmate losing his "date-rapey" scholarship thanks to an online scandal she orchestrated.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Expect vulgar references to sex, like when a character is humiliated by asking "Jesus Julie" if she'll "do anal" with him, and a male character says he'd let another boy at school "suck me off." A girl is shown receiving oral sex; all we see is her clothed top half and a propped up leg, but a boy pops up suddenly from her lap after asking if it was "good." A teen is having an affair with a high school teacher; they're seen making out in a car while another teen snaps their photo and posts it on social media. One famed vulgar phrase from the 1989 movie ("F--k me gently with a chainsaw") is used here.
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Language and vulgar language includes "f--k," "damn," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "d--ks," "goddamn." There's also a lot of insulting language, even from Veronica, who's supposed to be the hero of this tale. Insults include both language you might find in any show or movie, as well as made-up slang similar to but not the same as in the movie version: "slut," "basic cable bitch," "qwat," "hose trash," "snape-ing everyone's jizz," "what the queef?"
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Expect references to drinking and drugs, like when JD suggests he and Veronica "snort Adderall" as a prelude to making out.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this remake of the 1989 movie Heathers has similar levels of language, sexual content, and violence as the original. The plot revolves around a high school boyfriend/girlfriend pair who attempt to change the social dynamics at their school through violence. Expect to see violence such as attempts at murder and a woman committing suicide with a gun (we hear the gunshot but the camera cuts away before we see the shot). Cursing is frequent: "F--k," "damn," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "d--ks," and "goddamn" are all represented, and there's vulgar language that includes made-up slang: "basic cable bitch," "what the queef?" Characters have casual sex, like when a girl receives oral sex (we see her propped-up leg and a boy who pops up from her lap), and an inappropriate affair between a high school student and a teacher plays a part in a social media plot to humiliate her. Whereas the movie's original cast was all white, this cast is diverse in terms of body type, race, ethnicity, and gender/sexual orientation. However, this positive is undercut by mockery, particularly of one plus-sized girl who is called "fatty" and is subject to frequent fat jokes. A character suggests he and a date he doesn't know very well "snort Adderall" as a prelude to making out.
Is It Any Good?
Attempting to remake a cult classic is a dicey move -- and though this series has some interesting updates on the original, it's less appealing than the 1989 movie in pretty much every way. Heathers does get one thing right: It incorporates social media into the social dynamics of Westerberg, making the (very real) possibility of being humiliated in front of the whole world an integral part of the Heathers' bullying. Part of Heather Chandler's power comes from having 245,000 followers (some of them even bloggers in New York and Los Angeles, she sneers), which she turns into a bully pulpit to bend the other students to her will.
But a lot of time has passed since 1989, when Heathers (the movie) was like nothing else that had come before it. This series tiresomely calls out to the movie at every opportunity -- there are scrunchies and croquet mallets, a Snappy Snack Shack and Corn Nuts. But it's not enough, and worse, the series strains to be hip in a way that almost screams "middle-aged dudes trying to write for teens." When JD (who's no Christian Slater) meets Veronica, he says about her friends: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Yes, those are The Who lyrics from 1971. The made-up slang (the original movie was, of course, famous for making up its own "timeless" slang) hits an equally false note: "You can be such an Ugg boot latte," snaps Heather Chandler. It's no "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?" This series could be worse, but it could be much better, too, even if it weren't based on a beloved property.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.