I've spent the last year or so immersing myself in media, trying to learn the structure of stories and the art of storytelling. I'm getting there, finally, and I am starting to have some thoughts worth sharing, so here we go.
Last week I watched Heathers. I haven't seen it in at least ten years, and I didn't think it would be very good. I just wanted to see Winona Ryder and Christian Slater again. Fortunately, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. It's an awesome movie, and you should really rewatch it. (You have seen it before, right?)
I want to be a better writer, but I have to admit I enjoy the hell out of TV too. Things that are easy for writers to convey (internal feelings, exposition) are tricky to film, and things that are easy for film (colors!) are hard to work in to written work. I've kind of fallen in love with sets and colors, and Heathers is just glorious.
Like I said, I hadn't seen Heathers in years, but I remembered that it was colorful, lots of garish 80s clothes. It's not just colorful, it's got a beat-you-over-the-head not subtle at all color theme. The Heathers each have their color - yellow, teal, red. Of course you remember the Red Scrunchie of Power, but as each Heather takes over the Scrunchie, she starts wearing red too. JD (Jason Dean? Are you kidding me, that's the least-subtle James Dean I've ever heard) is black. Veronica's blue, but watch their colors as she and JD move through the trajectory of their relationship - he adds some blue early on, then she adds more and more black as she falls into the murder gig with him. But in the final scene, she's back in blue and light grey - she's headed back toward who she once was, but you can't ever go home again - she's changed.
The other thing I want to talk about is what a kickass strong character Veronica is. Twenty-five years later, we rarely see awesome women like her, and that's a shame.
- She goes to the college party. I thought it was pretty clearly implied that dudebro spiked her drink, but maybe she was just drunk. Either way, she sees the date-rape headed her way and she just avoids it, no fuss no muss, I'm not going off alone with you.
- But it's not cause she doesn't want sex as much as any teenager. JD shows up at her window and she almost instantly falls in bed with him, with no shame or angst. (Still on my bucket list: strip croquet.)
- She goes on a double-date with Heather and the Dead Gays. Tipping cows (did anybody else really want to try that? My college friends and I were constantly threatening to sneak out of the dorm and go try to tip cows. No longer a bucket-list item, but it was for years.) Again, date-rapeyness abounds, and she's just like "no thanks, ugh." When she climbs out of the fence to go with JD, watch the other Heather - she and Dead Gay #1 are making out. He's got her on her back and she's half-heartedly wriggling around, "trying" to push him off of her, in that "no, no, don't - stop" fake reluctance way. Veronica isn't playing, though. No mixed messages.
- She gets really mad at the rumor that she tag-teamed the Dead Gays. But it doesn't read like she's mad at the rumor that she's having sex, she's mad because it's inaccurate. Maybe she's getting some, it's none of your business, but it's sure as hell not with them. No thanks, ugh.
- After sort of accidentally on purpose killing three people, she's had enough of her psycho bad-boyfriend, and she breaks up with him. She doesn't save him through her love; it's not that kind of story. She doesn't get dragged into suicide with him; it's not that kind of story either. It's a story about a teenager who makes some shitty choices (as one does) and then turns around and chooses a different path (as one does).