On February 14, 2018 -- Valentine's Day -- a gunman terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in one of the deadliest school massacres in history. The event has already sparked a quantifiable amount of activist momentum, with surviving teens organizing the March For Our Lives rally, a nationwide anti-gun demonstration on March 24. The Parkland shooting has also had an effect on pop culture: This week, the Paramount Network announced that it would delay the release of its upcoming Heathers TV series, a reboot of the 1989 cult classic film ripe with student-on-student violence.
The choice to adapt the film for TV was a contentious decision even before the Parkland massacre, with several critics asking the question: How is this a good idea? In the original film, high school bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater) casually wields a gun at school. He fires blanks at two students in the lunchroom and is barely punished for it. Later, he shoots and kills two jocks, and poisons the popular and titular Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), framing their deaths as suicides. But J.D.'s sociopathic desire to disrupt the status quo backfires, as Heather's popularity only grows once she's dead, setting off a suicide trend at their Ohio-set high school.
It's a conceit that, in a post-Columbine, post-Sandy Hook, post-Marjory Stoneman Douglas era, sounds deeply problematic. But the 1989 film is cased in amber; it's so very of its time as a commentary on teenage power dynamics and high school caste systems. It couldn't possibly foretell the violence it portrayed satirically would become an everyday American reality. Watching J.D. get a brief suspension for pulling a pistol out in the lunchroom feels like it exists in an alternate timeline. So much has changed, and so terribly.
That's why the reboot had to work extra-hard to justify its existence, and so far, its case hasn't been convincing. The delay is a result of the Parkland shooting, yes, but early reception of the series' announcement was overwhelmingly negative for reasons that have less to do with violence and more to do with murky politics and role-reversals.