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The Subversive Humor of Heathers: A Cult Classic

Are you a fan of teen movies? Do you love dark humor that pushes the boundaries of societal norms? If yes, then ‘Heathers’ is the cult classic you need to add to your watchlist. This satirical black comedy film is packed with subversive humor and has remained relevant decades after its release. In this article, we’ll dive into the reasons why ‘Heathers’ has become a cult classic, and why its subversive humor still appeals to audiences today.

The Plot of Heathers

Before we dive into the subversive humor of ‘Heathers,’ let’s talk about the plot. The movie revolves around Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, who is part of the popular clique in Westerburg High School known as the ‘Heathers.’ Their group is comprised of three girls, all named Heather, who are admired and feared by their classmates. Veronica soon realizes how shallow and toxic the Heathers are, and becomes involved with a new student, J.D., played by Christian Slater, who treats Veronica as an equal. However, J.D.’s dark side is revealed as he persuades Veronica to join him in killing the Heathers, which spirals out of control.

Subversive Humor in Heathers

The humor in ‘Heathers’ is dark, satirical, and at times, a little bit twisted. It pokes fun at the societal norms of high school and the shallow, popularity-obsessed culture that exists within it. Let’s explore some of the ways in which ‘Heathers’ uses subversive humor:

Mocking Teen Movie Tropes

‘Heathers’ takes aim at the cliches and tropes that are often seen in teen movies. The character of Veronica Sawyer is a stark contrast to the typical high school protagonist. Instead of being the victim of bullying, she’s part of the popular group. Instead of finding love with the popular jock, she falls for the new guy who is considered an outcast. The film also mocks the idea that a makeover is all it takes to become popular, as well as the concept of the prom being the pinnacle of high school life. By doing this, ‘Heathers’ provides a much-needed commentary on the unrealistic portrayals of high school life in movies.

Dark Comedy

The tone of ‘Heathers’ is undoubtedly dark, and this is evident in the humor that is used throughout the film. The jokes are often morbid, and the characters are portrayed in a way that is both comedic and unsettling. For example, J.D.’s method of killing the Heathers is by making it look like a series of suicides, which is a horrifying concept. However, the macabre way in which it’s presented, such as the Heathers’ final moments being shown in a slideshow, adds a humorous element. Similarly, there’s a scene where the school’s principal delivers an assembly about the tragedy, and his reaction to the death of a student is so over-the-top that it becomes comical.

Satire of High School Culture

‘Heathers’ satirizes the toxic culture of high school cliques and popularity contests, where being popular is equated to being powerful. The film goes beyond simply mocking the popular kids and their shallow personas, and exposes the wider issues within high school culture. This is evident in the way that J.D. convinces Veronica to go along with his plan to kill the Heathers, by making it seem like they’re doing a public service. The film portrays the idea that violence can be a solution to high school’s societal problems, such as bullying and exclusion.

Why ‘Heathers’ Has Become a Cult Classic

Despite being released in 1988, ‘Heathers’ has remained relevant over the years, and has developed a cult following. The movie’s subversive humor resonates with today’s audiences, who are increasingly disillusioned with the shallow world of social media and the pressures of popularity. The film also has a relatable aspect to it, and many viewers can empathize with Veronica’s struggle to fit in and find her place in high school. Furthermore, the performances from Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are top-notch, and the film’s soundtrack, which includes hits like “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)” by the band Big Fun, perfectly complements the film’s tone.


‘Heathers’ is a movie that’s as relevant now as it was when it was first released. Its subversive humor makes it stand out from other teen movies, which often rely on cliches and stereotypes. By mocking these tropes and satirizing high school culture, ‘Heathers’ provides a commentary that’s still relevant today. Its cult status can be attributed to its ability to resonate with audiences, who are looking for something that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking. So, if you haven’t watched ‘Heathers’ yet, it’s time to grab some popcorn and settle in for a wickedly funny ride.