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Beauty in the Movies: Heathers

This week I present to you one of the best teen comedies ever, and by far one of the darkest. Heathers is one of those movies that just keeps getting better as the years go by, and you discover something new each time you watch it.

There are four girls who rule Westerberg High, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk) and Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder). They spend their days torturing geeks like Martha Dunnstock (Carrie Lynn), who they call Martha Dump-truck, doling out witty dialogue, and playing croquet. When new guy JD (Christian Slater) arrives at school, he shakes up Veronica’s world and forces her to confront how awful the Heathers really are.

When we first meet JD, he’s the epitome of the cool, mysterious new kid, he comes on the scene to save Veronica from a world of Heathers and expose the popular crowd as the self-centered assholes they are. It’s set up like other teen movies; two characters meet and seem to be a perfect match, but things go off in a very different direction from there. It’s Veronica’s story, but instead of spending the film mooning over a crush, she spends it frantically scribbling in her diary while wearing her monocle and cursing the idiocy of her peers.

The American high school is a nasty place, and Heathers was the first movie that exposed it as such. In high school everyone is labeled, every dark secret is fair game, and even death is a way to up your social standing.

Heathers came out in 1989, at the end of an era dominated by John Hughes movies where teenagers are fun, sweet, and adorable—the most bad-ass things they do involve dancing at parades and skipping out on their detention homework. The Heathers teens range from vapid to down right evil, a sharp contrast to the charming geeks and lovable jocks of the Hughes Cannon. In Heathers, house parties are replaced by funerals, and instead of the cute male lead turning out to be surprisingly sensitive, he turns out to be a murderous psychopath. Sadly, in some ways it’s a much more realistic portrayal of what high school is really like.

Heathers established its own vernacular, it gave us phrases you still hear in modern high schools, even if those kids have no idea where they came from—like “what’s your damage?”, “I gotta motor”, or “How very”. Virtually every other line is a memorable quote, who could forget “F*ck me gently with a chainsaw” or “I love my dead gay son!”?

Teen suicide has been making headlines again recently, which means it’s time to start re-running Heathers on cable, because this film actually makes a great case against suicide. It demonstrates how killing yourself just makes your hateful classmates pretend they liked you, and that they will use your death as a means to garner attention for themselves. High school is a war zone, and sometimes it spills over into college, but life does get better. There are still jerks in the world after high school, but you get to choose if you want to be around them or not. Sure, offices can sometimes recall a bit too much of that old high school cruelty, but for the most part people mature and realize life is too short to be so worried what everyone else thinks.

Heathers held up the mirror and forced us to look at the way we treat tragedy, the sensationalized accounts of death and suicide have only grown with the internet age. Teen suicides provoked (at least in part) by bullying are in the news every other week these days. The cavalier attitude and lack of responsibility from peers is always a major focus of disgust—more than twenty years later and Heathers is truer than ever, yet we still act surprised by the actions of empathy-free teens and their victims, showing that we would rather run a “shocking” news story than try to solve the problem. All I can say is, in the words of Big Fun, “Teenage suicide—don’t do it”.

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Post Bridal Shower Daze

My living room looks like a warehouse, there are empty boxes, ribbons and tissue paper which my cats have been enjoying as they rip it to shreds. There are Hawaiian leis and dozens of rolls of toilet paper (from our toilet paper wedding dress competition), there is left over carrot cake and huli huli chicken and I am sitting here in a complete daze. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have received so many beautiful things, and I have no idea where to put any of them—we have to buy more shelves.

While Chelsea Clinton was getting married upstate in Rhinebeck this weekend, down here in the southernmost part of New York, I was thrown an amazing surprise island-themed bridal shower. Though I’m sure Chelsea’s wedding was incredibly elegant and beautiful, I’m willing to bet we were having more fun down here. I was surrounded by generations of women (and a few men) who are all unbelievably kind, generous, and supportive, some of which have known me since long before I was a twinkle in my mother’s eye.

(my mom pulled the whole thing off, it was a perfect day!)

I sat there with my future husband on Sunday night, looking at the epic pile of amazing gifts we had been given and I just couldn’t understand what we had done to deserve them all. We made a big decision, we decided to choose each other as partners, and obviously that’s important, but so are dozens of other things. Starting a business, graduating from law school, moving to a strange country, these are all major life changes and accomplishments, and we should really be celebrating all of them. Deciding to marry my fiancé seemed so easy, I  can’t believe people do such wonderful things for you just because you’re happy. Looking around my shower it was easy to realize that weddings aren’t just about the bride and groom, they’re about all the people who love them. Weddings are way bigger than just you, and not because they’re expensive or over the top, but because it’s a happy occasion, and unfortunately, sometimes the joyful times in life are far outnumbered by the painful, and that’s why the good stuff is always a big deal.

(My friend, and bridesmaid, Jessica made me this gorgeous sign)

When we went around looking for wedding venues, the place we finally chose isn’t the hippest, it’s not slick, or cool, or modern, but it is welcoming, warm, beautiful, and has amenities like huge amounts of parking, and lovely clean bathrooms. Those might seem like little things, but while a wedding is a big party for you and your future spouse, it’s also really for your guests, and all the people who love you and come to celebrate with you. That’s not to say that if you want a small wedding at city hall you should go all out just because your family wants you to, but it does mean that you should consider all those people who are coming from all over the world, taking off time from work, dressing in fancy clothes, and giving you not just their time and love, but generous gifts too. My goal for my wedding is fun, my fiancé and I want to have a big party to give back to all the people who have supported us and cared for us throughout our lives, and I want them all to be happy and comfortable. When they look back twenty years from now, I don’t think people are going to remember if our chair covers were tacky, but they will remember if they had an awesome time, felt welcomed, and maybe danced their butts off too.

Weddings bring people together, they have for thousands of years. We need joy in our lives, with all the suffering and sorrow, it makes sense that when there is occasion to celebrate we tend to go a little overboard. Everyone has different opinions about what a wedding should be, to some it could be a simple dinner with friends, and for others it’s an event worthy of a lifetime of savings, either way you’re surrounded by your favorite people and the only goal is to witness your happiness and then celebrate it with you. When I think about the ban on gay marriage, or even marriages where families disapprove for any reason, I find it hard to understand how anyone’s joy can be seen as less worthy, how a celebration of happiness can ever be a bad thing, and how love can be contingent on who a person chooses to be with. If you love someone, a child, a friend, a sibling, how could you ever deny them the joy of celebration, and how could you not want to rejoice right along with them? I can’t think of anything more important.

(toilet paper wedding dresses; Tim Gunn would have been super impressed!)

(it’s called teamwork people!)

Before I got engaged I never fully understood why people got so misty over weddings, but now I know I’ll probably cry at every single one I attend. It’s not just two people getting up in front of everyone they care about and professing their love and commitment, it’s not that simple. A wedding (and all the excitement that surrounds it) is a true celebration of life, it’s the beginning of a journey, it’s a demonstration of love not only between the couple, but between family and friends. Watching all these women I know from so many different places come together to have silly bridal shower fun, I was surprised how deeply I was touched by it. So many of the wedding shows that are on today, Bridezillas, Say Yes to the Dress, Rich Bride Poor Bride, they all focus on the drama, and yes there is a lot of stress and drama that goes into getting married, but there is also a whole heck of a lot of joy and excitement, and I think we sometimes lose sight of that.

(yes I was made to wear a silly bow hat, but it’s pretty isn’t it?)

Today I feel exceptionally lucky, and eternally grateful. Even if there are parts of my life that cause me major stress and worry, I have some phenomenal people in my life, not only my fiancé, but so many more. I can’t wait to celebrate all the happiness in their lives, I’m prepared to go all out, just like they did for me, because simply being together is reason enough to celebrate!

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