New World Pictures
When Heathers hit movie theaters in 1988 there wasn't even a phrase yet to describe the A-list alpha clique that Winona Ryder's character found herself a part of. Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees and Wannabes was still 14 years away from being released, and Tina Fey's Mean Girls, based in part on said book, was an even more distant entity.
With an off-Broadway musical version of the dark teenage comedy just debuting, and Mean Girls streaming on Netflix for its 10 year anniversary, it's time to throw some love at the original that spawned it all.
Heathers was not a hit movie. The film had a modest $3 million budget and still didn’t make it all back, earning a little over a million dollars at the box office (for comparison, Mean Girls made $129 million, though inflation is responsible for part of that discrepancy). Even in the days when the subject matter of high school murders was less "taboo," it wasn't an easy concept to market.
It took word-of-mouth at the local video store — remember when that was a thing? — to start the movie on its way to a cult following. While almost no one saw the movie in the theaters, by the early '90s, seemingly everyone under the age of 30 had seen it either on video or cable.
Heathers shined a light on a different kind of high school clique: one where the girls had little to no regard for other people's feelings and seem to be on a track that will either lead to them marrying rich or running a fortune 500 company, or both. Boys were just kept arond as playthings. Lesser students were to be used and abused. Heathers showed us a side of high school that other movies hadn't... but that we all had seen in the flesh growing up. That's why the film was so effective: we knew, and understood, so much of it.
When Ryder's Veronica wanted to be like the Heathers (Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk, and Shannen Doherty), we understood. And we understood why she hated herself for wanting to be like them, too. And when the lead Heather vowed to ruin Veronica for not putting out at a frat party, we understood why she wanted to hit back… hard.
Of course, what makes Heathers different from other teen revenge flicks is the way in which she gets back at her rivals. Hooking up with Christian Slater's psychotic J.D., suddenly Veronica is staging murder-suicides and starts a trend that has local counselors working overtime. Veronica figures out that she has power and then soon has to come to terms with the ramifications and responsibility. It's a coming-of-age teen revenge fantasy played out to the Nth degree.
Heathers ended up giving us language to start the dialogue about how teenage girls interact. It quickly became apparent that many wanted to be a Heather but felt like a Veronica — or one of the cast-aside "others" — and a few too many saw the Heathers as role models. Its influence can be seen in everything from Clueless to Jawbreaker to Jennifer's Body.
So, before you stream Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan fighting for supremacy in Mean Girls, go back to the original and rewatch Heathers. All these years later, it will still blow you away, especially its explosive conclusion.
After hearing that a movie titled Mean Moms was slated for production, I was filled to the brim with glee at the thought of a second round of Mean Girls, just as any other female of my generation would be. Because, come on, who didn't love watching Cady Heron — Lindsay Lohan in her prime — and the rest of The Plastics scribble in their infamous pink lipstick-coated Burn Book: "Amber D'Alessio. She made out with a hot dog."
Unfortunately, the title for Mean Moms is misleading — it is in fact not a sequel to the Tina Fey-scripted cult classic. Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfreid, nor Lacey Chabert are set to pop up this time around it seems... yeah, I teared up a bit too.
Mean Moms, which Beth McCarthy-Miller (Saturday Night Live) is set to adapt for the big screen, is based on the novel Queen Bee Moms and King Ping Dads: Dealing With The Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and Counselors Who Can Make – or Break – Your Child's Future from Rosalind Wiseman, the same author as the book Mean Girls is derived from. According to Deadline, Mean Moms focuses on a mother who confronts malicious suburban moms, a far cry from the high school halls of North Shore.You may not know this since it seriously tanked, but a sequel to the hit comedy, Mean Girls 2 already happened, airing on ABC Family as opposed to in theaters... because let's be real here: it's quite a trek to follow the footsteps of the legacy left behind by the original classic.
I know your cheeks must be bright red from all the crying, but there is a silver lining, believe it or not! While McCarthy-Miller was a director for SNL, she worked alongside Mean Girls mastermind Tina Fey and supporting player Tim Meadows. So maybe they'll lend McCarthy-Miller a few pointers?
All we hope is for Amy Poehler to reprise her role as Mrs. George and bust into Mean Moms insisting, "I'm not a regular mom, I'm a cool mom".
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If you've seen Heathers Clueless or Jawbreaker then you've seen Mean Girls. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is the new girl having moved from Africa where she was raised (one of many comic head-scratchers that goes nowhere) and now trying to win
friends in a hostile new high school environment. On the verge of becoming--gasp!--friends with two geeks one gay and one Goth she is invited to join "The Plastics" (Rachel McAdams Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried) the coolest girls on campus. When she develops an unfortunate crush on the head Plastics' ex-boyfriend (Jonathan Bennett) the girls declare war on each other and all hell breaks loose. Saturday Night Live regulars Tina Fey Amy Poehler Tim Meadows and Ana Gasteyer fill in the adult roles and Fey wrote the script as well.
Lohan has star power in spades and enough going on behind the eyes to at least suggest the inner life and back story absent from the script. She conveys Cady's
sudden character changes with aplomb and her comic timing is excellent. McAdams makes the biggest impression with the showiest "Plastics" role and is certainly someone to watch for in the future. Her Regina George is one of the funniest nastiest high school girls since Election's Tracy Flick. Bennett is likeable in a one-note jock role and Daniel Franzese and Lizzy Caplan are similarly stereotyped as the Gay
and the Goth respectively. Of the adults Poehler
who is always funny stands out as Regina's alcoholic mini-skirted mother. Fey wisely and selflessly wrote herself a straight-man role as the calculus teacher. And Meadows as the principal quite simply has never
been funnier. Whether he has ever been funny before is another question.
To take on a project already burdened with two strikes--Teen Comedy and SNL Movie--is either a bold move or career suicide but director Mark S. Waters doesn't need to worry. He does a nice job of staying out of the way and tells the story simply without relying too heavily on fruit-flavored set design drowning every scene in music or ruining the witty laughs with too much slapstick. And it is a very witty script sharply observed and rich in detail. (The Halloween party scene showing every single girl wearing lingerie and a different set of animal ears stands out.) Fey adapted sociologist Rosalind Wiseman's nonfiction
best-seller Queen Bees & Wannabees and the interaction between the various species of teen is note perfect. That said Fey seems to have been given a lot of leeway due to her stature on SNL and it shows. One example: everyone has trouble pronouncing
Cady's name which wasn't funny the first time and still isn't 500 times later. The movie also attempts to impart a message of female solidarity but by building the characters on the same cookie-cutter stereotypes it denounces its girl power is undermined. Plus the movie seems cut to within an inch of its life. If it is possible for a comedy to move too quickly Mean Girls does as Waters furiously connects the dots without consideration for the characters or the audience. It's like watching schizophrenics at a track meet--but maybe that's the point.