This past weekend, I finally saw 1988’s “Heathers.” Judging the movie by its cover, it’s a romantic comedy where the two leads fall in love at the end. And how could it not follow that path, just look at how Winona Ryder is smiling! Look at how Christian Slater is smiling! Well, as it turns out, the movie is a lot darker.
Throughout the movie are constant references to "Moby Dick," and upon looking into it, I came across the article “Hear me out: ‘Heathers’ is basically ‘Moby Dick.’” It’s a quick, comprehensive look at the similarities for someone, like myself, who has never read the Melville classic.
While it’s a good theory, after watching the film, I have my own… and that is that nothing in the film is real. Sounds like I cop out, but I think the events of the film actually hint at something different from what we’re seeing. It opens on the three Heathers playing croquet, hitting the ball at Veronica’s (Winona Ryder) head as it is sprouting out of the ground. She looks right at the camera, and says “Dear Diary,” talking directly to the viewer. We, therefore, act as the diary, and this cold opening tells the audience that the following is, in one way or another, all in Veronica’s mind.
Let’s look at the moments when she is writing in her diary. Another entry begins while she is angry about the party she and Heather Chandler went to. The scene intercuts with her writing (and narrating)
“killing Heather would be like offing the Wicked Witch of the West.”
When the party scene ends, she throws the diary and J.D. (Christian Slater) climbs into her window. The first indication here is the reference to “The Wizard of Oz.” Anytime literature or film makes mention of this or “Alice in Wonderland,” we can assume some things are not as they seem.
And she is writing in her diary mind you, the place where all of her thoughts can escape and remain solely hers and hidden from the outside world. The really weird detail here is that whenever we see Veronica writing in her diary, she wears a monocle over her right eye.
Here, the theory really comes into play. She doesn’t wear the monocle at any other point when she writes, so we can assume she doesn’t need the lens. But she covers her right eye each time. The right eye is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left. By wearing the monocle, she is causing a difference in her vision.
Therefore, causing a hindrance on her left brain, which is responsible for logic and analytic thinking. Her right brain, through her left eye, can then flourish, which is responsible for creative thinking and imagination. This manipulation of the hemispheres only occurs when she is writing in her diary, which we only see her do before or after someone dies.Thus it can be assumed that it’s apart of her imagination.
J.D. is also a figment of her imagination.Save for only a few moments, we only see him if Veronica is present. He serves as her “Angel of Death,” aiding her in her wildest fantasies about killing everyone. He pushes her to kill, and he only wears the clichéd black clothing and trench coat.Black, symbolizes evil and death, the two things J.D. exudes. In fact, the color of the clothing is even more indicative of this theory.
Throughout the movie, Veronica is wearing shades of blue. The color blue represents wisdom or knowledge. But when she spends more time with J.D., her clothing becomes darker, often incorporating black clothing as well (when she kills).Wisdom and knowledge seem to fade, only returning when she breaks up with J.D., returning to her blue colors.
Heather Chandler, is always in red, which is associated with strength, war, and power.She is the leader of the group that seemingly terrorizes people for fun. Heather McNamara, is always in yellow, which is associated with happiness. She is seemingly the nicest of the Heathers, and then when she contemplates suicide, she too dons the black clothing.
Finally, Heather Duke is always in dark green, which is commonly known to represent jealousy. She wants to be on top and after Heather Chandler dies, she gets that position sheds her green clothing in place of red. It's even the Angel of Death (J.D.) who gives her Heather Chandler's bow, signifying her new power.
Once the green is gone, J.D. orchestrates Heather Duke’s petition that, unbeknownst to the signers, calls for the students to agree to their death. His ultimate goal at the end of the movie is to blow up the school. Thus, unlike the article I mentioned, where it states:
“The whale = all three Heathers,”
it, in fact, represents life. If death is Ahab, then life is the whale.
When J.D. dies he says
“the only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven…now that you’re dead, what are you gonna do with your life?”
Veronica is the only witness to his death and plan. Afterward, she returns to school taking the red bow from Heather Duke saying
“Heather my love, there’s a new sheriff in town.”
Now she wears red, finding her own power over high school, social trends, and cliques. Proving this point, as the credits roll, she befriends the unpopular girl, whom she helped to humiliate at the beginning of the film.
If you’ve seen the movie, or are going to watch it for the first time, view it through this lens. And if you still don’t believe me, consider this: Veronica confronts Heather Duke, and then J.D. appears, to whom she says
“[I] was thinking more along the lines of slitting Heather Duke’s wrist open, making it look like a suicide.”
Later that night, he climbs in her window and she “dreams” that he does kill Heather. Only it was a dream. Only Heather Chandler dies, and its after she wrote it in her diary. During her dream, she returns to Heather Chandler’s house to kill Heather Duke.
That’s odd, isn’t it? She also freely walks into Heather’s house to kill her in the first place. Maybe Heather Chandler is also fake; rather she and J.D. are to Veronica what Tyler Durden is to The Narrator. She “kills” them, takes the red bow and makes sense of her world again.
One final thought. The mug in Heather Chandler’s cabinet has each of the three Heathers color positioned according to how the succession of power occurs before Veronica, whose color is at the bottom of the mug, obtains it, taking that red bow. (While Heather McNamara never gets on top, Veronica was always on the outside of the group, and would remain on the bottom, as the mug shows).
And the throwaway line J.D. mutters in German,
translates to “I’m lying.” Everything we watched isn’t real; it’s just a diary entry.