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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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.

My First Vlog!

Hey guys! So recently, I discovered an insanely awesome and down-to-earth author named Jenna Moreci, and she is friggin’ amazing! She gives frank and very helpful advice to other writers, and she has become both my go-to resource for writing tips as well as one of my favorite YouTubers.

And because I was so inspired by her and what she does and how she’s marketed herself–resulting in great success and a following of diehard fans–I decided to start a vlog myself to talk about my writing and various other topics of interest related to it.

So without further adieu, I give you my first vlog =) I know it may not be the greatest and I have to get more comfortable in front of a camera and I need to clean my room, all that jazz. But I’m super pumped and excited for it. Check it out! I’ll be putting out new videos every Monday!

You Don’t Know What It’s Like

I try to see the 21st century as a formative one when it comes to society. We can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as the saying goes. Despite that, I’m disgusted by the amount of bullies that online anonymity frequently produces, the sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of some people, and the fact we’re still fighting century-old battles that should have been resolved by now. Racism, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, constantly shaming each other because we’re not good enough or whatever.

You don’t truly know someone else’s struggle. You don’t know what demons some people fight every second of every day. And it’s far too easy to resign yourself to ignorance than to learn respect and tact. I write about this constantly in every story I pen, because it’s not something people want to understand. From the darkest and most evil to the saddest of the sad. People commit mass genocide, invade countries, fight long and brutal wars and torture the crap out of each other and themselves for many years.

All to avoid sitting down, listening, and talking. The one human phenomenon that continues to boggle my mind.

Why. Why. Why is it ever so IMPOSSIBLE to sit and talk and try understanding each other? A question for the ages. I know we’ve come a long way, and we’ve longer still to go.

I do have hope.

But I just wanted to illustrate how much this avoidance of natural communication wears on humanity.

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 1

“House of Rats, Part 1” from my web serial ‘Adventures in Viktorium’ is now available. The story has officially begun!!

Adventures in Viktorium

Maxwell Ferrier took a deep breath and steadied himself by the third floor window of the abandoned villa, taking care that his face was still covered. He abhorred sneaking out of the city. Not that he feared getting himself into trouble; as an elder of the Barreau Orphanage boys, he was no stranger to that. But forming a temporary alliance with the most feared gang west of Cavarice seemed to be the only way to get their hands on Dispatcher technology. Such devices could fetch thousands on the black market. Since the orphanage received little funding from the government to keep its doors open year-round anymore, it was a necessary evil.

Outside, the sun shone hot across the deserted golden wasteland. Harsh gusts of wind kicked up dust and debris now and again. The villa itself provided little shelter from the elements as most of the doors were ripped off…

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