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The New Heathers. Melanie Field, Brendan Scannell, Jasmine Mathews. Copyright Paramount Network. 
The New Heathers. Melanie Field, Brendan Scannell, Jasmine Mathews. Copyright Paramount Network. 

Reboot Rage: When Diversification Goes Awry

What is your damage, Paramount Network? 2018’s remake of 80s cult-classic “Heathers” is turning out to be a shoddy attempt at genuine political correctness,…

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The morning of the 2018 Oscars nominations, Gina Rodriguez, outspoken Latina actress most known for her role as Jane in Jane the Virgin and her activism work for Hashimoto’s Disease awareness, took to Twitter to express frustration over the lack of diversity in the nomination categories. 
 
"How I feel about the #Oscars this morning and the lack of Latinos... 'The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity' - Viola Davis." Rodriguez later cited Guillermo del Toro, director of the massively acclaimed Shape of Water, and Pixar's Coco, as being the only beacons of Latino talent at the 90th Academy Awards. 
 
Her anger is justified, considering the brazen underrepresentation of Latinos in Hollywood. For example, though Latinos make up roughly 18% of the United States population, less than 3% of speaking roles are given- or written -for Latinos.
She isn't alone in being peeved with #OscarsSoWhite, but Rodriguez's efforts to tap into the hearts of production moguls haven't done her (or other minority actors or actresses much). 
 
Though it is cynical, it is nonetheless true: Money has been the most significant impetus for diversifying television series and superhero franchises. 
 
With the breakout successes of Girl's Trip, Get Out, Black-ish, Orange is the New Black, Modern Family, Jane the Virgin, One Day At A Time, the newest Star Wars trilogy, and the forthcoming Black Panther film, it is apparent that diversifying sells big at the box office.
The money wrought by creating more inclusive roles, however, is beginning to cloud judgment. This is most true when the authority to diversify- to cast, to create characters -is put in the hands of people who care less about authentic portrayals, and more about the financial benefits of meeting quotas and pleasing a more socially conscious audience. 
 
Diversification for diversification’s sake isn’t always a good thing, especially when it’s done improperly and with callous indifference to the more profound implications of on-screen representation. 
 
This generation's newest Heathers is a perfect example of diversification gone awry-- and the 80s reboot hasn't even made it to regularly scheduled television yet. 
To understand why Heathers (2018) is a catastrophe waiting to happen, one must watch Heathers (1988). So, do that- if you've got a Hulu subscription, you're in luck -and get back to me. You won't regret it. 
Done? Cool. Next, watch that trailer for the television reboot again. 
 
Now, we're both pissed off. Glad to have you at my level.
 
Their first flagrant problem is not having Winona Ryder or Christian Slater in the cast, because, honestly, who can top their interpretations of coy Veronica Sawyer or cunning J.D.? Grace Victoria Cox and James Scully have huge shoes to fill, and from the looks of it, they don't even have a pinky-toe inside. 
 
More on that another time, though. This is about the Heathers, who unlike J.D. or Veronica Sawyer, have been re-imagined as a plus-size Heather Chandler, a genderqueer Heather Duke, and a Black Heather McNamara. 
 
Screenwriter Jason Micallef told Entertainment Weekly in an interview in January that "The reason why I changed the Heathers surface identities is I think today [the characterization] rings true. Today, all different types of people are more aspirational. People that wouldn't have necessarily been considered the most popular kids in school in 1988 could very well be- and probably most likely are -the more popular kids today." 
 
Um, hey Micallef, have you ever even been inside of a high school? 
 
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, African American students are the most bullied of their peers, and 74.% of LGBT students were bullied for their sexual orientation, while 55.2% of LGBT students were bullied for their gender expression. 
 
They aren't the popular kids, that's for sure, and since when is "aspiring" code for being heinous? 
 
The Heathers are supposed to be, objectively, heinous individuals. As white, wealthy, thin, conventionally beautiful women in the original film, they fit the "mean girl" trope, wielding their stereotypical (and real!) privilege to dominate, manipulate, and harass students, faculty, and each other. 
 
Even though one has self-esteem issues, the other struggles with an eating disorder and the third is suicidal, the Heathers suck. 
 
But, they're human, and they don't deserve to be killed off by a psychopath. We, as spectators, mirror Veronica Sawyer's moral conundra as the film carries on, and are finally made to realize how deeply disturbing and wrong J.D.'s "vigilantism" is. 
 
We still don't think of the Heathers as martyrs at the end, though.
 
I worry that this new Heathers reboot, for the sake of political correctness, is actually coming across as a white supremacist fantasy made possible by two normies getting away with killing off the marginalized villains in order to establish a new kind of hierarchy, one where evil minorities need to be killed off in order for the white kids to usurp their social power. Yikes! 
 
It makes me wonder how this plot was ever approved. 
 
Was it intentional? 
 
The new-J.D., in the trailer, is characterized as a "teenage Charles Manson," so... Maybe? Let's hope not. 
 
This plot twist comes at a divisive and vulnerable time in our nation, but no matter the circumstance, a "white supremacist black comedy" isn't an ideal way to diversify a reboot. 
 
There was much that could have been done with the cult-classic's material that could have played with and cleverly critiqued issues of social structure, popularity, gender, race, and sexuality as they appear in the Millennial and Gen Z high school, but instead, we're left with... whatever Heathers (2018) is attempting to be. 
 
Guess we'll just have to wait and see. 
 
Heathers is set to premiere on Paramount Network on March 7th. 
 
*A prior version of this article refers to the production team of this television series as "all-white male," which is incorrect. That information has been redacted and we apologize for the error. 
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