A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Based on the 1989 film of the same name, HEATHERS centers around Veronica Sawyer (Grace Victoria Cox), a high school misfit who struggles to connect with her peers and withstand the slings and arrows of her group of super-popular "friends": quippy genderqueer Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell), meek Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews), and queen-bee bully Heather Chandler (Melanie Field). Things were bad enough at school when the Heathers liked Veronica. But when she accidentally gets on Heather Chandler's bad side, Veronica faces crushing social media humiliation. That is, until she meets mysterious transfer student JD (James Scully), who has a dangerous plan for Westerberg and its students that makes Veronica's former angst seem like very small potatoes.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in Heathers? Do the characters reflect the groups you see among your peers? To what degree is stereotyping necessary for the comedy to be effective? Does stereotyping interfere with your connection to a character?
Families can also talk about why so many movies and TV shows are remakes or reboots of other shows or movies. What's the built-in appeal of a remake? Do you need to have seen the original to appreciate the remake? Have you seen the 1989 movie of the same name? How does this show compare?
Can you think of other high school dramas? Why are schools such popular settings? What dramatic or comedic possibilities do they hold? How does this high school-set drama stack up to others you have seen?
For kids who love teen drama
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