New ‘Heathers’ TV Show Reboot Is Cringeworthy

Let me first say that I adored the original 1988 film Heathers, on which this new show is based. It was a stunning and highly relevant piece of high school and teenage social commentary that still holds its weight today as a cult classic. But paired with unhinged and unrestrained creative expression in an era of reboots and forced sequels, this new show is cringeworthy and misses the mark. Not only that, but it completely replaces the target. In the original film, the Heathers–Chandler, Duke, and McNamara, respectively–were privileged white popular girls who everyone wanted to be. Killing them and a few jocks off for their popularity backfires in the film, as it likely will in the show, as Veronica teams up with J.D. and slowly begins to realize he has his own agenda–one that culminates in setting up a bomb to blow up Westerburg High.

While the film takes the tone of a dark comedy, and Heather Chandler’s popularity only increases in death, the focus remains on how far Veronica will go before social justice is served and the high school hierarchy upended. In giving J.D. the reigns, she loses a part of herself which she must then go through hell to gain back. She is, in many ways, the archetypal teenage outcast who is just cynical and incredulous enough to fight for the underdog, and yet she remains vulnerable throughout. The influence of peer pressure is still a strong one–she laughs with J.D. at Heather Chandler’s funeral, he gets her to assist him in killing people under the guise of revenge pranks, and for a while it’s a fun experiment until she realizes the truth.

The point was that anybody can turn evil if they let their desire for justice consume them. Killing people solves nothing and will only immortalize them–of course, it’s a well-known fact that no matter how bad a person may be, someone will always have nice things to say at their funeral. But this pursuit of social justice becomes problematic in the new show for several reasons, not least of which is the recasting of the ‘Heathers’ group.

Heather Chandler has been cast as an overweight queen bee, Heather Duke is genderqueer, and Heather McNamara is an African-American lesbian. They are the most popular group in school, and those who, in most generations of youth, have been labeled outcasts. But considering where the story ends, one can see why this was a terrible idea.

Veronica Sawyer even says to Heather Duke, ‘what if the new most radical thing is to be normal’?

Meanwhile, showrunner Jason Micallef continues to defend his radical interpretation of the source material, stating that “Today, all different types of people are more aspirational. People that wouldn’t have necessarily been considered the most popular kids in school in 1988 could very well be — and probably most likely are — the more popular kids today.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but I highly doubt that man has ever walked the halls of a modern-day high school for long enough to find out if that’s true (spoilers: it probably isn’t). While I do believe the LGBT+ community has gained more mainstream traction in recent years thanks to shows like Glee, Shameless, Degrassi, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and others, it has not yet risen to the level where such outcasts are the more popular kids in school. Many teenage youth are still struggling with coming out because in many areas and situations, it is still dangerous, perhaps even life-threatening to do so. Prejudice and bullying are still very real, and flipping it around for the sake of a television show does not make it any less of an issue–in fact, it swipes it under the carpet, along with racism and all the other uncomfortable things people of privilege don’t commonly like to deal with.

I can appreciate that they are, in a sense, making it clear that nobody is infallible, not even those in marginalized groups.

But the Heathers themselves are the victims, in this case. And they face malice and destruction at the hands of a white, cisgender, heterosexual couple. It is not a message the LGBT+ community needs, and certainly not one that encourages closeted kids to come out. This is not because we are “special snowflakes”, but because we have already been historically marginalized enough. While the original Heathers film had a lot of crass and gallows humor moments, those moments were delivered in an intelligent manner as relevant, scathing social commentary that didn’t carry the risk of marginalizing or alienating anyone. While the overall message the showrunner and writers are attempting to convey is much the same for the television show, representing LGBT+ characters can quickly get you into murky territory if not done in a tactful, sensitive way.

As far as I can tell, Heather Duke and McNamara are caricature stereotypes of what has been represented in the media countless times. This is even less helpful, as is their social media obsession. Not all LGBT+ people are popular, nor do many aspire to be. Taking it to that level carries the risk of downplaying their personal struggles as well, portraying a mere surface-level characterization the rings more like token traits than actual sexual identity. It’s even pretty blatant, considering the lines of other characters, that their popularity is due more to their inherent queerness than any other aspect.

If the most revolutionary thing is to be “normal”, as Veronica puts it, then is that not the equivalent of calling our entire marginalized community “snowflakes”? That our identity is just something we want special–not equal–rights for? Of course if the entire underlying message of Heathers is that nobody is special, perhaps this first episode is best taken with a grain of salt.

But in my opinion, it’s simply not worth the risk.

 

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7 Things I’ve Learned As A Writer

Hey everyone, I’ve got a new vlog for you all! =)

Since (by my own judgment) I kind of suck at talking to a camera and may have fumbled a couple points, I wrote a basic outline that goes a little more in-depth than the video:

  1. Accept criticism of your work. Let’s face it. If you’re not willing to listen to what readers have to say about your work, you will never develop yourself as a writer. This can be a bit of a balancing act at first, but you have to learn to weigh what is most beneficial to you. There will always be self-righteous trolls out there ready rip apart your work for stupid reasons, but the good thing is that you get the final say and you don’t have to listen to that shit. Only accept what your think would make your story stronger.
  2. Read more. It will make you a better author. This should go without saying. And when I say read, I don’t mean Buzzfeed or Cracked articles (unless of course that’s who you’re writing for), I mean read actual books. Read many books, and in different
    genres and points of view. Not only will it strengthen your prose and dialogue, but it will also expand your horizons and help you see what is necessary to build stronger characters andan addicting narrative. Plus you may find yourself coming up with ideas in a genre you hadn’t previously considered writing in before.
  3. Characterization is everything, because characters drive the plot. This isn’t necessarily something I’ve ever had a problem with, because most of the stories I read deal with strong character development.I also watch people a lot and I think watching a lot of movies has really helped me develop good, strong characters and dialogue. Dialogue is actually one of the first things I write for my story when I’m constructing a scene, and sometimes I’ll even pace around my room like a crazy person trying to act out that scene. But that’s not because I’m insecure or nuts about it, I’m just emotionally moved by it, and strong characters are what I base my entire plot around. Think of characterization as the Force from Star Wars. It’s always there, surrounding everything, but you can’t see it. That’s what strong characterization does. Then the action comes, and it changes them from within, and they react. Given the Force and inner workings of your characters, how do they react? Strong characters are essential for telling a story worth reading.
  4. If you love it, stay in it for the long haul. I can’t tell you how many artists, writers, and musicians I’ve seen quit at this just because they didn’t know how to build an audience, or decided that just because one part of their story or song was crap, they
    should just throw out the entire thing. But your creations are, for better or worse, a mental and emotional extension of you. In effect, they’re your children. And you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, do you? You don’t throw your kid out on the street just because they slipped up once. Writing a story, just like with any kind of art and even parenting, is about loving and nurturing your creation and seeing it through. So if you really love to write, don’t quit! It’s a vital part of you and I promise that with enough love and dedication, it will get better and you can do anything!
  5. Write in multiple points of view. It will expand your horizons. The fact is, most writers typically start in first person, just because it’s easier to put yourself in your character’s shoes and write his or her thoughts down. Basically, like writing a diary. The problem with this is that first person is a very hard point of view for newbie writers to pull off effectively. For one, you’re not able to see what anyone else is thinking, and two, your entire world will be colored by your character’s perception of it. You have to show equal parts introspection as well as outside action. That’s not to say that you can’t tell a great story with that point of view, but it’s important to be aware of the benefits and limitations that each perspective comes with. I for example wrote my first two books in first person, and while it worked for those stories, I realized it wasn’t going to work for my current story. I decided to try third person limited POV, and while it was a little awkward for me at first, I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with writing in that style, and my story is much better as a result. So don’t limit yourself.

  6. Remember to write and read with cultural diversity in mind. AKA, #CheckYourPrivilege. Hopefully, you’re not racist, misogynist, or a hater of LGBTQ people. I cannot stress this enough, because it’s a question a lot of straight, white, male authors seem to struggle with. There’s a good quote a friend of mine said a while back, and that is “it takes effort not to be racist”. My point here is that if you’re a white, straight author and your stories don’t include women, people of other ethnicities, sexual orientations, or gender identities, you’re being ignorant and your stories will probably be boring. Consider that it is possible to be ignorant by omission as well; if you’re not including the physical descriptions of your characters and you are a white author, it’s generally assumed your cast is white unless noted otherwise. If you are genuinely concerned with how to remedy this problem, I highly suggest visiting a Tumblr called Writing With Color that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know on how to write with cultural diversity in mind.
  7. Make friends with other authors. Seriously. There are way more of us than you think! Especially indie authors, who need your support the most. Plus there’s nothing more beneficial to your writing than making a few friends who might help you edit and beta read your work. So get out there and make some author friends, because they’re literally all over Twitter. Join a writers group! Even if there aren’t any in your local area, there are plenty you can find online. Sign up for NaNoWriMo. I know that’s in November, but its extension site, Camp NaNoWriMo, is going on all throughout the year to help keep you motivated. You can make personalized writing goals and keep in touch with groups of other authors just like you. You literally have nothing to lose. Even if you’re as painfully introverted as me.

    So those are my Top 7 Things I’ve Learned As A Writer, and I hope they help you too =)

Embracing Your Weirdness

So lately I’ve just been thinking how everyone, especially young people, are so petrified of what the world thinks of them nowadays. To that, I say this. With everyone placed on the same eternally spinning sphere surrounded by big burning glittery things in pitch black antigravity, several things are certain:

  1. We will all meet each other at one point or another
  2. We all think we’re weird, so you might as well embrace it. You never know who might like it. We’re all awkward, insecure, and feel inadequate. It’s why we do things, good or bad. Be secure in the knowledge that everyone else is just as insecure as you. And if they say they’re not, there’s a 90% chance they’re lying.
  3. Not many will understand you at first. But that’s okay. They’re just used to paying more attention to themselves and their own world. You’re always you, and nobody can take that away.
  4. Usually if you’re not in harmony with yourself, you can’t be in harmony with others. Start with the understanding of that you’re actually not all that special. Everyone, to a certain degree, is just like you. They breathe the same air, feel many of the same feelings, have good or bad days, just like you. Maybe they come from a different society which colors their interpretation of the world, but in general, most of us fear the same things and aspire to rise above those fears, express ourselves, and create positive change in the world.
  5. Given enough time, we all eventually break free of these false, imaginary walls we build both within ourselves and between each other, and embrace our insecurities and secrets for what they are. Because eventually, you get to a point where nothing shocks you anymore. And when you do, you will realize we’re all human, all equally capable of good or bad. It’s how you live in harmony with yourself and others that matters most. 

Basically, you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of you. There’s no reason to, because we all worry about that. All that matters is that you’re good enough for you, and that you treat yourself and other people well.

It’s funny, really. You grow up and you’re amazed at the evolution of the human race, until you realize we’re all still children inside.

Everyone is just winging it. Most of us are terrified of screwing everything up and maintaining some imaginary wall where all anyone ever sees is the best of us. America suffers from this disease perhaps more than any other nation. But it’s important to be honest with each other and ourselves, because much of the society we’ve built doesn’t want us to. Various companies thrive on our insecurities and fears because nothing sells greater, they provide us products that help maintain this wall. But who cares? The wall is not you. There is no wall.

To quote a favorite movie of mine, “there is no spoon”.

So I encourage you all, young or old, to be shameless. Be weird. Question things. Be honest and real and genuine. Learn to know when you’re not being honest with yourself or others about who you are.

No other path will give you peace.

The Hatred of Change, and Writer’s Frustration.

mandala2

It is no secret to those who know me that I abhor healthy routines. If there is any length of time during which I manage to drag my stubborn ass onto the path of eating healthy, sleeping normal hours, using the gym membership I waste $20 a month for, paying bills on time, and being a normal, sociable person who actually takes time for interaction outside of work, it is inevitable that I will screw it up somehow.

And I can feel myself slipping, every time. The nights get progressively longer, until eventually I’m going to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I’ll get fed up and reprogram myself by staying up for 48 hours until I’m exhausted enough, but lately I find myself incredibly stubborn. I do this even though I know I feel at least 70% better about life on a regular schedule.

I make a lot of excuses for why I don’t go out anymore. “I have to write,” I’ll tell myself. Or “I have to finish working on this song”. And then months go by, and life passes by and very little of it really gets done.

All of that seems to be changing lately. Not the stubborn habits, but my work ethic. I now have two web serials going, Burntown which is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi teen drama amalgamation (that I haven’t worked on in over a year but just decided hey, let’s see if anyone likes this weird thing), and Adventures in Viktorium, a dystopian sci-fi series which is much better written and is more planned out.

Guess which one is now getting the most attention since I just dumped all these posts into it last night? Of course. Burntown.

But I am not particularly proud of Burntown. The writing isn’t the best. It’s horribly planned out and needs editing. It straddles a few lines, ranging from major teen drama and social issues to post-apocalyptic, and then later on I blast the characters off into deep space. Strangest story ever.

And yet somehow, Adventures in Viktorium, which I am currently writing in the arena of 4,000 words a day for, is getting no traction at all. I wanted feedback on it most of all.

That’s one of the most incredibly discouraging things for me as a writer and music producer. It has been for a long time. How can I be this creative and yet have no audience? All I want is feedback. I feel like a tree falling in a forest that makes a sound, but no one’s around to hear it, so it’s as if that sound does not exist–even though I know it does, because I made it.

Maybe it’s that I’m still waiting for that “magic hand”, so to speak to drag me out of obscurity–which is also why I haven’t looked for a better day job–but I am slowly getting better at tearing away from that mindset and working on my own luck. I’ve recently been talking to a successful author named Travis Simmons, and while he isn’t world famous by any means, he makes an actual living off his writing (or otherwise things involved with writing). That’s pretty what I want to do, and he’s given me a few pointers. I don’t need to be famous (nor would I want to), I just want to make a living doing what I love.

But I wonder why it even bothers me that I get no attention–I think it may stem from my childhood. My dad didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with me since he’s a pastor, and even now that I’m 29, we don’t have the closest relationship. It’s been hard all my life to find people willing to listen to me, because I was usually the one listening to everyone else and helping them with their issues, to the point I never helped myself.

And now somehow, I must break free of that mindset. I must make a change. I just wish I felt some sort of validation, or knew how to go about validating myself as a human. A rite of passage, as it were. It feels pathetic to want attention. But I don’t think the general wanting of anything is bad in itself. It’s good to want, and it’s okay. But I don’t think it’s okay to want out of lack for something, or to fill a void. You should want because it’s good, because it is already yours, because you already feel blessed. You should want for others, and want because of the experience of having.

Life is transient after all, and short. To quote one of my favorite bands Circa Survive, accomplishments are transient.

Maybe that’s what I have to get back to. The one thing I always used to hate about the Lehigh Valley where I now live is that everything in it seems transient; the people, the businesses, the friends, everyone just passes through. We’ve become somewhat of a tourist destination in recent years, and this is no more evident than in our interpersonal relationships.

Still, maybe it’s time I embraced the transience, the impermanence of everything. What would happen if I did that? I wonder…

Buddhist monks painstakingly create these beautiful, intricate sand mandalas, then toss them into the river when they finish. It serves as a reminder of the transience of life.

I’ve wanted to cultivate my spiritual self forever, but like everyone else in this media/internet-saturated world, I “haven’t had the time”.

What if I stopped focusing on the how? What if I stopped looking for validation? I love what I write. I do it because I like to think that through the sharing of myself, I can help others. I can give them an escape.And through it, I escape also, as I learn to love myself.

Fate will find me. We are all walking universes made up of the literal collective past of the cosmos. I do not hold a universe inside me just to collapse. But even if I do, I am reborn. We are all transient creatures, helping each other along through the motions. My words should be a narrative of that. They will find the people who need them most.

Yes. I think that will be my philosophy from now on. Don’t look for the readers, because then all you’re looking for is validation. Your words will find them. Keep pressing on.

Embrace the transience.

House of Rats (Part 2) is now available to read!

The latest installment of my web serial, Adventures in Viktorium, is up now for your reading pleasure here =)

I have to say that it’s going in a couple unexpected directions, but that’s the beauty of writing; nothing is final until you type it down (or use a pen, if that’s your chosen method…I almost miss using them). Though you may plot it perfectly and have characters planned out to a tee in your head, sometimes they just do what they want to do and reveal what they wish at different times. It’s interesting to me how the visual is a constantly evolving thing as well. I started off looking at the maze of the city environment, knowing where everything was. Suddenly there are canals and bridges and statues popping up in the most unexpected places, and building floor plans have changed. But that’s okay, because I don’t think I’ll be providing a map for readers (as of yet…I’ve been experimenting with different web applications, but I haven’t found much that satisfies me yet).

Lucien is going to end up being one of my favorite characters, I can see it already! Crafty bastard, that one. In addition, I’ll also be including some scenes with characters who up until now have been background voices, i.e. Benoit Laurent and Constance Renou. The mayor will also make an appearance soon.

I adore my cast of characters.

This web serial is probably the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for my writing productivity, ever. I used to struggle to pound out 1,000 words per day and now suddenly I’m cramming in 3,000-4,000 on average on my days off work. That is so far beyond what I would have previously expected of myself. I’m learning to be a confident writer, it’s awesome!

Anyway, it’s my bedtime. But if you haven’t yet, please do check out my web serial and give me some feedback on it! I’ll need it because I’m planning to launch Kindle versions of it in the near future with maybe a few extras included, not 100% sure yet.

Also, I promise I’ll try to post on this blog more. I know I’ve been pretty lazy with it, but I’m trying more to keep up with Adventures in Viktorium.

Later for now!

It’s been a year. Let’s get dangerous!

Hello everyone! Wow, this is strange. I haven’t been on here for quite some time obviously. I wish I had more exciting news to report. Unfortunately, I am incredibly ashamed to say that I have not been writing much in the way of stories for the past couple years. No lie, I have not finished writing a book since 2011 at least! So what have I been doing with my life all this time? Well, putzing around, mostly. Arguing with strangers on the internet about social issues. Visiting people only so I can pet their cats. Doing my best to overcome my random bouts of anxiety, insomnia, and wildly unhealthy addiction to pizza. Trying to get out more instead of making excuses for why I hate everything and everyone (the quarter-life crisis is so real). Working a job I hate and using all my free time for escapism. That’s the sad, curmudgeonly truth.

But I actually have been working quite a bit on music, more than I realize. I downplay it a lot, though I suppose it’s actually a fairly big deal at this point for me, because I am currently composing music for indie film director Ivan Noel’s latest film, Rodillas Quemadas (Burnt Knees).  In case you can’t figure what was going on in the trailer (some of my friends said they didn’t get it), it’s a modern-day take on Henry James’ famous ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

That’s my music in the trailer and I’m working on quite a bit more. It’s been a bit of an ongoing unorthodox process for the past year, since I’ve basically been coming up with pieces I think might fit and emailing them to him as I finish (he’s based in Argentina). But I am officially the composer for this movie, and that’s honestly been a dream come true for me (hopefully the first of many), as he is one of my biggest indie film idols. In case I didn’t mention this elsewhere on my blog, yes, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to indie and foreign films. I find the cinematography, stories, acting, and music to be imbued with so much more beauty, heart, and soul than your typical Hollywood nonsense. They can throw away the budget, easy. But when it comes to indie films in some cases, people have given up damn near everything to produce these works. More often than not, it definitely shows. I’ve read about some who sold their house to do it!

As it is, it seems Ivan has had quite a trip in producing this film. There was a massive flood where they were shooting, he was held at knifepoint by a drugged-out owner of the house they were shooting at, and one of his actors who’s an alcoholic refuses to finish the film because drinks are obviously more important *sarcasm*.

Anyway, it’s sort of been on hold lately from all that craziness, so I’m taking this opportunity since I have a bit more free time to actually get back into the swing of things with……*drumroll*…..WRITING!

I’m actually super-excited and pumped about it too, because I’ve been slowly but steadily working on a series of novellas entitled The Dispatchers Chronicles, which is about a brother and sister in the 1920’s who stumble across an alternate dimension on Earth called Viktorium, and they discover everyone who dies in our reality shows up there. There were originally machines built to allow ghosts to travel back to the land of the living, but when too many people crowded in, the machines malfunctioned and their souls were blasted apart and scattered across multiple dimensions, resulting in hauntings. So together, the brother and sister (Christophe and Vitalie) become ghost hunters of sorts, traveling between various dimensions to find and deport wayward ghosts. Christophe also has to work at repairing the ghost machines, since they threaten to tear apart the fabric of Viktorium’s dimension.

Next month, I’m starting up a web serial (my first ever!) based on it entitled Adventures in Viktorium, which will be a tie-in series of standalone tales separate from the novellas and will involve a few minor characters who are also featured in the main books. The intention is to give Viktorium a bit of necessary back story and introduce readers to the world and some of the characters they’ll encounter at different points throughout the main series, though you need not read one to read the other. I’m also trying to write it so that anyone interested could easily start with either the serials or the books and not get confused.

The reason I’m writing both rather than a full-blown novel series is because I wanted a tighter, shorter format, and I also felt it gave a nice aesthetic touch to hearken back to 1920’s-era fiction by giving it a more serialized feel. Plus you can never go wrong with being in two places at once (though that’s not particularly a good thing when it happens to Christophe a few times in the story, hint hint)!

Anyway, I feel my creative life is more or less starting to come together finally. I’m happy for once even though this year hasn’t been perfect, I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m incredibly excited to introduce readers to the world of Viktorium next month. I’m back on my A-game, everyone! It’s never too late to turn things around.

Hope you all have a great day and rest of the month =)