The setting: Paramount Network offices.
Showrunner makes pitch to network executives:
CREATOR: "Imagine we do Heathers, only this time the popular bullies are stereotypes of three different typically marginalized communities who are now killed by heterosexual white kids who are the real victims."
NETWORK EXECUTIVE: "We love it! Greenlight immediately!"
It's hard to imagine the pitch of the forthcoming Heathers TV show any differently since that's exactly what the show is doing. Here's the Red Band trailer:
The original cult film was considered a driving force in the birth of third wave feminism and has been praised for its dark comedic look on gender roles, body positivity, and sexuality. The material has only been even more popularized by the recent musical which is one of the most produced pieces by schools and amateur groups. Which is why Paramount probably thinks the iron is hot enough for a remake that no one really wanted.
But things are much different this time around. According to the official synopsis of the new show, "the remake’s “Heathers” are drawn from traditionally marginalized groups: There’s a “body positive” plus-sized leader (Melanie Field), a genderqueer (Brendan Scannell), and an African American (Jasmine Mathews). The story’s protagonist Veronica (Grace Victoria Cox), however, remains a straight white female."
This is as confusing as it is infuriating. While the show is fictional, the groups that are being portrayed as the villains are still actually being widely marginalized by their communities and even their government. Yet Paramount Execs and the creators of this show feel that now is the perfect time to clap back at these groups with a show that's message is that white straight people are victims too. What makes this message disturbing is that it's exactly the one being used by the Alt-Right.
Showrunner, Jason Micallef(part of the all-male creative team), defends the choice, “The reason I changed the Heathers surface identities is I think today [the characterization] rings true. 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."
Okay, so then make a show about that and not one that villifies and kills them.
It might be a mystery as to why messaging like this has any place on TV in 2018 or anywhere else but it's not when you consider the consumer base Paramount is trying to court.
Paramount recently re-branded the Paramount Network from what was originally called Spike TV. The network was known for its white male-centric programming which included countless gaming, automotive and MMA fighting shows. It also included the seminal Blue Mountain State which apparently needed advertisements like this to appeal to its viewers.
So why not appeal to the key demographic that elected Trump and gave birth to the Alt-Right movement that vilifies the very groups they're trying to stifle?
Now I imagine some might say, "It hasn't even premiered yet!" or "Give it a chance!" But my criticism is the entire premise of the show, watching an episode isn't going to change any of that. I'm not even going to get into how this new premise completely eliminates the need for Martha Dunnstock or Kurt and Ram as they were originally portrayed. However, the trailer possibly hints that Martha has a mental illness.
If the point of this show is to be a cautionary tale about how power corrupts, then there are a bunch of ways that could be done without remaking this and re-designing the characters in ways that tell plus-sized teens that it's possible they would be every bit the assholes their bullies are to them.
This is a time where groups like these are fighting for representation and equality. A show, with a premise like this, isn't the step forward we need and certainly not a remake we ever wanted. While the creators are trying to make this seem like a highly intelligent, groundbreaking move, it couldn't be more the opposite. It's forced, dumb and dangerous.
Also, Shannon Doherty, really?!?!