March 18, 2014

"Heathers: The Musical."

I loved the movie, which came out in 1989 — pre-9/11, pre-Colombine — but quite aside from the whole problem of making movies into Broadway musicals, the theme of a teenage rebel blowing up all the kids at school feels quite different. But The New Yorker says the "issues of bully-related suicide, school shootings, and bomb threats are even more relevant."

"Bully-related suicide" is an interesting expression here. The bullied kids commit murder and disguise it as suicide. It's a dark and comic fantasy of revenge against the bullies, taken to the extreme of a willingness to blow all the other kids away. That's what — post-"Heathers"-the-movie — the Colombine shooters and Adam Lanza did. So the themes from the old movie are "relevant" only in a very distorted way. Where's the comedy now in killing the mean kids at school?

(I suspect The New Yorker writer was writing from a press release and doesn't actually know the movie and what the story really is.)

27 comments:

Tina Trent said...

Many of these suicides occur during or after a youth has been exposed to "bully" syllabi at school, and in several cases the youth who commits suicide is an "anti-bullying" activist deeply involved in promoting the idea that he or she is a helpless victims of highly dramatic and ubiquitous abuse.

The anti-bullying movement seems to inspire unstable kids to seek more and more attention based on their status as victims. The adults invested in promoting and profiting from these programs need to take some responsibility.

Some grieving parents are happy to join in the chorus projecting blame onto a child's peers as opposed to his or her home life. And there are lawsuits to be filed by the parents against school districts.

madAsHell said...

I heard Diane Sawyer mention bullying on her ABC Nightly News. So, now I believe this whole idea has to be battle space preparation for....someone, or something.

Perhaps, it's to re-direct our gaze from the Putin's boot up Obama's ass.

rhhardin said...

Nobody mentions the rifle clubs in high schools when I was a kid, complete with a shooting range and kids on the bus with rifles.

Hysteria hadn't become the media focus yet.

It brings in the big bucks from advertisers, and now even bloggings about questions of taste.

Taste comes from hysteria today.

clint said...

""Bully-related suicide" is an interesting expression here. The bullied kids commit murder and disguise it as suicide. "

Ann, I think it's been a while since you've seen Heathers.

There's one legitimate suicide attempt in the movie -- by the definitely bullied obese girl, whose name I forget. And the "redemptive" end of the movie (if I recall correctly after so many years) is the protagonist rekindling her old friendship with the bullied obese girl (now in a wheelchair). So it's clearly something we're meant to notice as a part of the movie's "message".

We'll have to see how they translate the movie to the musical -- but if they're going for an emphasis on "bully-related suicide," rather than on the homicidal mania, there's *plenty* of material in the original that they can use.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's one legitimate suicide attempt in the movie -- by the definitely bullied obese girl, whose name I forget."

You're right. An attempted suicide. The deaths are murders.

rehajm said...

Rehashing a press release, New Yorker?

Whats your damage?

Ron said...

Back in the '60's there was Wooly-Booly related suicides, as in, "If I hear that song one more time..."

Ann Althouse said...

I'm sure they will change things to make the victims of bullying more sympathetic, but the story arc is about the bullies getting murdered by the bullied ones.

It is a story that has changed because in real-life bully victims have acted out the murder revenge fantasy. That wasn't true at the time of the movie.

FullMoon said...

When I read of all the disrespect regarding weakness directed towards Obama, I cannot help but think of the bullied kid who finally snaps and comes to school with the gun.

Obama has some big guns available, and a thin skin.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I reject that Lanza and the Columbine bombers were bullied. Moreover, if some sensed that those perps might have a natural nasty tendency toward violence, the best way of discouraging such violence is to put up a strong front (between the danger and one's backside). And so if people were previously mean to the perps, perhaps what this should suggest of those previously mean to the perps is merely that they had sufficient courage, foresight and understanding of human nature to try to scare the nasty perps from doing stuff analogous to what they did. Nothing encourages nasty people to violence like an appearance of weakness. True, evil people often have an excessive belief in the power of evil (mainly from exposure to the hype that fellow bad people create to make themselves more impressive), which theoretically could be corrected through civil discourse, but it is better to talk much more with people more deserving of your time, especially because evil people tend to be clueless about who might have insight toward them (e.g., they often consider morality and unselfishness as necessarily stupid). There's way too much blame the victim going on in crimes like those.

mccullough said...

"I've got a meaningfully marked up copy of Moby Dick."

I still have a crush on Winona Ryder from that movie.

Xmas said...

"Eskimo!"

t-man said...

I don't remember the attempted suicide character's last name, but it was "Martha Dumptruck..." Neither of the murderers (Wynona Ryder or Christian Slater) were bullied. Ryder was part of the bullying Heathers clique. Slater was a sociopathic outsider, but never bullied. Slater wasn't even trying to get revenge on the school bullies, he was getting back at his father for killing his mother.

t-man said...

Nothing encourages nasty people to violence like an appearance of weakness.

See Ukraine, circa 2014.

William said...

Doesn't the story of Carrie have Columbine overtones. Poor Carrie suffered the most extravagant case of bullying known to western civilization and exacted proportionate revenge......It's worth noting that there was also a musical made from this movie. Now Heathers. What is it about high school killers that makes people want to burst into song?

FullMoon said...



Moreover, if some sensed that those perps might have a natural nasty tendency toward violence, the best way of discouraging such violence is to put up a strong front (between the danger and one's backside). And so if people were previously mean to the perps, perhaps what this should suggest of those previously mean to the perps is merely that they had sufficient courage, foresight and understanding of human nature to try to scare the nasty perps from doing stuff analogous to what they did. Nothing encourages nasty people to violence like an appearance of weakness. True, evil people often have an excessive belief in the power of evil (mainly from exposure to the hype that fellow bad people create to make themselves more impressive), which theoretically could be corrected through civil discourse, but it is better to talk much more with people more deserving of your time, especially because evil people tend to be clueless about who might have insight toward them (e.g., they often consider morality and unselfishness as necessarily stupid).

This is a common mis-perception among people who have never known truly evil or seriously "bad People"
Beat the bully today, Tonight he burns your house down, or tomorrow he and his five friends beat you unconscious and kick your face in while you lay there bleeding.

Or, the girl pulls a razor blade from her mouth and slices your face to peices.

Or some Drano tossed in your face, blinding you.

That is the real world, Pal

FullMoon said...

You know what pisses me off?
These school shooter-murderers generally seem to miss the bully and kill the innocents.

If the football players pick on you, kill them, not the kids in the chess club.

eric said...

I read a story about a year ago about 10 horrendously bullied Christian children. It was a story about suicide and why each of the ten children had every reason to kill themselves.

It wasn't until the very end of the story, after sharing the experiences of each of the teenagers and their abuse, that none of them killed themselves, or even tried.

Tina Trent is spot on. These kids aren't killing themselves because of bullies. That's a convenient political excuse to "do something".

Matthew Sablan said...

Well, they do disguise the murders as though they were being bullied [the only one I clearly remember is where they kill the two football players/jocks and write a letter to make people think they were homosexuals.]

As for the right response to bullies: Some bullies can be cowed by standing up to them. Others are actual evil degenerates who will get revenge in some way that lets them strike out of your reach. You need to be able to tell which is which, or just avoid them altogether.

Kevin said...

What I remember from the movie is that apparently my wife and I have said "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw" in front of the children far more often than appropriate. This year they came to us and said that they had watched Heathers and now they knew where that phrase comes from.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Beat the bully today, Tonight he burns your house down, or tomorrow he and his five friends beat you unconscious and kick your face in while you lay there bleeding.

Or, the girl pulls a razor blade from her mouth and slices your face to peices.

Or some Drano tossed in your face, blinding you.

That is the real world, Pal


Like I said, it takes courage to stand up to bullies. But the greater good is served by people standing up to them. Moreover, as long as you allow the bully to save face (less good for people in general, but nevertheless perhaps prudent), being strong discourages violence against your own person. Once you act weak, the bully will think he's got your ass, and then no telling to what extent he'll try to take advantage of you.

My parents tell the story that when I was two or three and my parents' backs were turned some mean German Shepherds escaped from the neighbors, looking for kids to eat, perhaps. But I had seen my father chase them out of the yard before, and so I ran right at them, chasing them away while flailing my arms or something, and they ran away terrified. My dad always says that if I had run away from them they would have killed me.

When I was at Ann Arbor, I had a dorm neighbor more-or-less threaten to shoot me if I complained any more about the racket he made (after I complained about his noise he knocks on my door and says: "I just want to tell you that I bought a gun..."). Within an hour or so I went to campus police about it, which confronted him concerning the matter, and the University allowed me to move to another dorm. If I had been weaker after a threat like that, no telling what would have happened. Still, I admit I tried to resist in a way that wasn't too public, and had an opportunity later to let him know after moving that I was done fighting him now that I had no personal reason to continue doing so. Of course, if you really are powerless, say because the authorities are powerless or the bullies control the authorities, then, yeah, maybe there's not much you can do but move.

I have heard said that criminologists have determined that kids who fight, kick, scream, etc., when they are being forcibly abducted tend to fare better than those who are more quick to consider themselves powerless.

Tibore said...

"That's what — post-"Heathers"-the-movie — the Colombine shooters and Adam Lanza did..."

Actually, it's rather important to read Dave Cullen's book Columbine because he speaks to this. By Cullen's own admission, the notion that the Columbine shooters were bullied was a mistaken picture created by journalists, himself included in the aftermath of the shooting.

Harris actually ended up being a bully instead of a victim of one. Klebold defied easy characterization, but it was still clear he, too, did the same (excerpt: "They liked to pick on younger kids. Dylan had been caught scratching obscenities into a freshman's locker. When Dean Peter Horvath called him down, Dylan went ballistic. He cussed the dean out, bounced off the walls, acted like a nutcase."). Neither were oppressed high schoolers in the vein of the nerds in Heathers. Klebold and Harris may not have fit easily into any of the archetypes portrayed in Heathers, but they certainly weren't the Martha Dumptrucks, the Betty Finns, or any of the unnamed kids Ram and Kurt tormented. They were occasionally like Ram and Kurt, occasionally like J.D. (especially with Harris's J.D.-like misanthropy), occasionally like any of the background characters, but not cleanly fitting any of those roles. The comparison breaks down because reality simply doesn't track against the fictional narrative set out in the movie.

Anyway, the mistaken, inaccurate "fact" that Klebold and Harris acted out because they had been bullied is one of those pieces of lore that's entered American consciousness and is taken as gospel, but yet is demonstrably wrong.

Freeman Hunt said...

I love the movie "Heathers." I imagine the musical will be insufferable.

Kieth Nissen said...

I have not read that Adam Lanza was bullied. He may have been, certainly; he was exceedingly vulnerable, looked the part of a victim. But his victims were clearly not bullies. Starting with his mother.

CatherineM said...

If u read the interview with Lanza's father, you know the kid wasn't bullied. He was nuts and over indulged by mommy, who allowed him to withdraw from all social behavior, ignored by dad when he allowed him to shut dad out. He should have been in an institution with a solid routine and not allowed access to guns.

Heathers was also in reaction to the rash of "notice me" suicides when I was in high school. One kid would do it, see all the attention lavished on the corpse during the wake and funeral n think, "they will notice me/be sorry. They were too young to be aware that their problems were temporary, but death is permanent.

Jamie McArdle said...

Casting my mind way, way back: "Self Defense For Women," a course I tried to take as a freshman (until my then-boyfriend convinced poor little me that the woman teaching it hated men and "if you care about me, then you'll drop that class" - oh, the things I did as a spineless girl) made the same point Stephen Meigs makes - fighting results in generally better outcomes than submission. (Fleeing is also an option, of course.)

Generally better. You can get hurt. You can get badly hurt, or worse. But - a plane-crash analogy also from long ago: a pilot writing about what to do when something goes wrong on a plane summed it up as "Fly the plane. Fly it all the way to the ground." Don't give up - try everything. You may still crash, but by not giving up, you may improve the situation enough to make the crash survivable. Taking your hands off the controls pretty well guarantees that you'll smack into the ground like a rock and die.

So, if you're under attack, whether physical, mental, verbal, or emotional, try to change whatever variables you can, and keep trying. You may not be spared all of the pain, but changing something may make the situation survivable.

Jamie McArdle said...

And Heathers is still a guilty pleasure of mine. And I agree that the musical is probably going to suck.