Heathers-Winona-Ryder-cigaretteBadass Femmes is a bi-weekly column written by So from So’s Reel Thoughts about all the Badass Females in pop culture that shaped her life.

Thanks to her youthful roles in Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Reality Bites and of course, Heathers, Winona Ryder, our Princess of Darkness, will always have fans (and I) using the hashtag #Wino4Evaz on a daily basis. Out of all her films though, Heathers is the most sinister and darkest of all her younger years. As Veronica, Ryder was the fairest of them all, a sharp contrast to her shallow and soul-sucking companions – her angsty and aloof personality epitomized teen behavior in all of its cynical and nihilistic glory! To this day, the character is one that sticks out for standing her ground in a counter culture battle against the very people she once called her best friends. Though times have changed, high school remains a vicious battleground, and to make it out alive, you gotta play the game like Veronica did. Of course she saved the day by killing her ex-boyfriend and knocking her former besties off their throne, but that’s just high school drama to the next level y’all.

When the film begins, Veronica’s just recently joined the most elite high school clique, Heathers, but laments leaving her old nerdy friends for the snobby and soulless creatures that makeup her current company. Even though she enjoys the association to her newfound popular friends, she doesn’t conform to their ways, going as far as to defy their demands, cussing out queen b Heather Chandler herself to recite the famous line, “lick it up baby, lick it up!” Her defiant act alone was so enthralling to witness because it is at that moment when she fully reclaimed her own individuality despite the harrowing social suicide consequences. My pants would be on fire if I said I wasn’t a part of a group like Heathers in my own High School years, but thankfully I had Veronica’s mentality to help me through.

Despite all of her smarts, Veronica did have a weakness, we’ve been there, that one crush who seemed to possess an impenetrable power over us. To Veronica, this was J.D., played by a shockingly sinister and psychotic Christian Slater. Eventually, Veronica sees through framed suicides and a spiral of pitch black comedy and ironically has to save the people she hates when J.D.’s final plan involves a bomb strapped to his chest. All in a day’s work, navigating a minefield of Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads, amidst dismantling the toxic system of high school hierarchy and saving lives in the process.

Essentially, Veronica was an angel lost in a dark dark tunnel just waiting to get to the light at the end. It took a couple of accidental deaths and an explosion which propelled her to become a better person, but you live and you learn right? Like Veronica, I drifted from my friends and was heavily influenced by the bad boy of the school – but unlike me, Veronica mustered the courage to stand up against the bullies even if those bullies were her friends. Still, Veronica gets what she always wanted, which was to hang out with the outcasts who fully understood the way that Martha Dunnstock and Betty Finn did.

People have always said that films like Mean Girls and Clueless would be nothing without Heathers and it’s true. To this day, very few films understand popular girl cliques, dumb jocks, and goth outcasts the way this film does. No other dark comedy has presented the truthful reality of high school’s detrimental groupthink mentality in the same way, all while tackling grim subjects like suicide, murder and mental illness. It also gave us the character of Veronica, proving to us how high school problems seem so big while we’re going through them, but so trivial with distance and age. She taught us that there’s no point in following other people’s footsteps when we’ve got our own, and if you’ve got a problem with that, all I gotta say is, “what’s your damage?”

S.U.

For more of So Yun Um, visit her website  So’s Reel Thoughts, or follow her on YouTubeFacebook & Twitter.