Heathers means a lot to me. Everyone has their own 80s touchstone – The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing or Say Anything – but mine is this blackest of black teen comedies and watching it more than twenty-five years later I’m glad to say that it still holds up.
Veronica’s character arc is very different to other teen films with female protagonists. She doesn’t learn to become her best self through some sort of external transformation. That’s already happened when the film starts. She also doesn’t compromise her internal values to win a boy she’s desperately pining for. The film asserts that Veronica is a confident and sexually active young woman, who will say yes or no to sex as it suits her.
Here, the key emotional journey is Veronica’s shift from follower to leader. Through her diary we learn that Veronica considers Red Heather a bitch, but chooses to be complicit in her vicious schemes (it’s Veronica who writes the note for Martha Dunstock) to maintain social status.
When the party at Remington goes badly, and Veronica is faced with being ostracized, she hooks up with JD. He’s literally an outsider, the new kid, who is immune to the strictest rules of the Westerberg hierarchy. But as they descend into their murderous rampage, Veronica finds herself again a follower. She lets JD give Heather the cup and believes his transparent lie about the “ich luge” bullets.
In the third act, Veronica puts down her diary and picks up her agency. She fakes her own suicide and, when she confronts JD in the boiler room, she isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. As JD says in his final speech, Veronica discovers that she has power, power even he didn’t think she had.
And this time the red scrunchy will be used for good not evil.