Teenage life has changed significantly since 1988, the year that the pitch-black teen comedy Heathers debuted in theaters. The nerds that once lived in fear of getting wedgies now have Hollywood studios eagerly catering to their every consumer whim, and the jocks who used to terrorize them no longer have the power to dictate every facet of their peers’ lives. Fat-shaming and bullying are on their way out, and it’s (relatively) safer for LGBTQ kids to live openly than ever before.
That seems to be the thought process behind Paramount Network’s TV reboot of Heathers, which flips the original’s formula by having the vicious clique of Heathers making their classmates’ lives hell consist of plus-sized fashionista Heather Chandler (Melanie Field), genderqueer Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell), and Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews), a black student who’s the least of these three evils. Add a sprinkling of on-trend slang liberally lifted from gay culture, and you’re all set. Right?
Except the show doesn’t seem to have thought the rest of it through. The end result, where conventionally pretty Veronica Sawyer (Grace Victoria Cox) and her bad-boy boyfriend JD Dean (James Scully) systematically pick off the “unconventional” popular kids one by one, ends up playing more like a conservative fantasy of restoring the white, slim, and heterosexual to their proper place atop the teenage hierarchy than any sort of trenchant commentary on 21st-century teen culture. We’re going to give the creators the benefit of the doubt in saying this was probably not their intention with the series, but regardless, it betrays a serious lack of self-awareness in the writing process. In other words—seriously, Heathers, what is your damage?
Heathers debuts on Paramount Network on March 7, at which point we’ll find out if this series is as ill-considered as it seems.