Face-Off: Heathers vs. Mean Girls

In our previous Face-Off, I took on the daunting task of comparing the leviathan franchises STAR TREK and STAR WARS. While STAR WARS took it down and most of you agreed with the outcome, I think we all showed a great deal of respect for both franchises and recognized that they live in different genres and are each unique and wonderful in their own way.

This Friday, BAD MOMS looks to be a welcome addition to the growing list of female-driven R-rated comedies, so we thought it might be fun to look at a couple classic tales of good girls gone bad. HEATHERS was a box office failure in 1989 before it went on to become a cult classic, while MEAN GIRLS had a very solid opening in 2004 and has continued to grow its audience since. Okay, enough word vomit, you skeezes and Swatch dogs, let's get this croquet match started.
In a movie where everyone is a bit of a caricature (including the lead), Winona Ryder walks the line nicely as Veronica Sawyer. While we don't see the transformation we see in MEAN GIRLS, Veronica balances compassion, fear, vindictiveness, and pure abandon throughout.
Though MEAN GIRLS now feels like an origin story for the real life Lindsay Lohan, her performance as Cady Heron is nicely understated, particularly in her seamless transition from demure outcast to manipulative temptress.
Shannen Doherty as Heather Duke
Lisanne Falk as Heather McNamara
Kim Walker as Heather Chandler

For a movie called HEATHERS, the Heathers take a backseat to Veronica and J.D.'s antics. Heather Chandler eats it pretty early, Heather McNamara doesn't get a lot to do, and Heather Duke only becomes a major player in the final act of the film.
Rachel McAdams as Regina George
Lacey Chabert as Gretchen Wieners
Amanda Seyfried as Karen Smith

The plastics are terrifying. With Regina George as the vindictive cliquetator, Gretchen Wieners as the desperately loyal puppy dog, and Karen Smith as the token airhead, all three characters are unique and bring something different to the table.
Christian Slater as Jason "J.D." Dean
Penelope Milford as Pauline Fleming
Jennifer Rhodes as Mrs. Sawyer
William Cort as Mr. Sawyer
Carrie Lynn as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock
Patrick Labyorteaux as Ram Sweeney
Lance Fenton as Kurt Kelly
Glenn Shadix as Father Ripper
Tina Fey as Ms. Norbury
Tim Meadows as Mr. Duvall
Amy Poehler as Mrs. George
Ana Gasteyer as Cady's Mom
Neil Flynn as Cady's Dad
Lizzy Caplan as Janis Ian
Daniel Franzese as Damian
Jonathan Bennett as Aaron Samuels
When popular high school girl Veronica Sawyer meets the roguish J.D., their frustration with the vindictive Heathers and the school as a whole begins to take the form of murders made to look like suicide- which becomes popular now that all the cool kids are doing it.

There's plenty to like about HEATHERS, but the plot itself, in both its brazenness and poignancy, is really what makes it stand out in a sea of 1980's high school comedies.
Teenager Cady Heron transfers from Africa and the world of homeschooling to the harsh reality of high school. Upon meeting the ruthless plastics, Cady unintentionally slips into a life of pink ensembles and social manipulation.

MEAN GIRLS plays like a prequel to HEATHERS in that we get to see how the regular nice girl turns into a malicious shrew. For a movie that took inspiration from the cult classic and came out 15 years later, though, the stakes are pretty low here, with hurt feelings being the only real consequence to anyone's actions (with the exception of Regina not looking both ways before crossing Cady, of course).
"It's your turn Heather."
"No, Heather, it's Heather's turn. Heather?"
"Sorry, Heather."

"Greetings and salutations... you a Heather?"
"No, I'm a Veronica."

"If you were happy every day of your life you wouldn't be a human being. You'd be a game-show host."

"Well, f*ck me gently with a chainsaw."

"Veronica, you look like hell."
"Yeah? I just got back."

"Betty Finn was a true friend and I sold her out for a bunch of Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads. Killing Heather would be like offing the wicked witch of the west... wait east. West! God! I sound like a f*cking psycho."

"You want to f*ck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly."

"How very."

"Ugh... such a pillowcase."

"The extreme always seems to make an impression."

"I just killed my best friend."
"And your worst enemy."
"Same difference."

"Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count."

"It's one thing to want someone out of your life, but it's another thing to serve them a wake-up cup full of liquid drainer."

"Great pate, mom, but I gotta motor if I wanna be ready for that funeral."

"I prayed for the death of Heather Chandler many times and I felt bad every time I did it but I kept doing it anyway. Now I know you understood everything. Praise Jesus, Hallelujah."

"Whether to kill yourself or not is one of the most important decisions a teenager can make."

"If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?"

"Heather, why can't you just be a friend? Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?"
"Because I can be."

"Heather, my love, there's a new sheriff in town."

"Wanna go out tonight? Catch a movie? Miniature golf?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of slitting Heather Duke's wrists open, making it look like suicide."

"Excuse me, I think I know Heather a little bit better than you do. If she were going to slit her wrists, the knife would be spotless."

"What's the up-chuck factor on that?"

"Suicide gave Heather depth, Kurt a soul, and Ram a brain. I don't know what it's given me, but I have no control over myself when I'm with J.D. Are we going to prom or to hell?"

"You're not a rebel; you're f*cking psychotic!"

"I can't believe you did it. I was teasing. I loved you. Course, I was coming up here to kill ya..."

"The only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven."

"You know what I want? Cool guys like you out of my life."
"So, uh... how was your summer?"
"I got divorced."
"Oh. My carpal tunnel came back."
"I win."

"Oh my God, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white."

"I have a nephew named Anfernee, and I know how mad he gets when I call him Anthony. Almost as mad as I get when I think about the fact that my sister named him Anfernee."

"Nice wig, Janis. What's it made of?"
"Your mom's chest hair!"

"Beware of plastics."

"Is your muffin buttered?"

"On Wednesdays we wear pink!"

"That is so fetch!"

"Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die! Don't have sex in the missionary position, don't have sex standing up, just don't do it, OK, promise? OK, now everybody take some rubbers."

"What? He's a good kisser."
"He's your cousin."
"Yeah, but he's my first cousin."

"Evil takes a human form in Regina George."

"One time she punched me in the face... it was awesome."

"Grool... I meant to say cool and then I started to say great."

"Why are you dressed so scary?"
"It's Halloween."

"Is butter a carb?"

"Cold, Shiny, Hard, PLASTIC."

"Oh, I love seeing teachers outside of school. It's like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs."

"Well, this has been sufficiently awkward."

"I'm not a regular mom, I'm a cool mom. Right, Regina?"
"Please stop talking."

"Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."

"And on the third day, God created the Remington bolt-action rifle, so that Man could fight the dinosaurs. And the homosexuals."

"Ma'am, do you have this in the next size up?"
"Sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3, and 5. You could try Sears."

"Half the people in this room are mad at me, and the other half only like me because they think I pushed somebody in front a bus, so that's not good."

" I gave him everything... I was half a virgin when I met him!"

"Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George."

"Do you even go to this school?"
"No... I just have a lot of feelings..."

"Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George's life definitely didn't make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you."
Michael Lehmann does a perfectly fine job at the helm of HEATHERS, but the film feels jarring and inconsistent in places, especially into the third act. The music and costuming also scream late 80's, but I'm sure some count that as a reason to love the film.
MEAN GIRLS could easily have felt like just another so-so SNL movie (brilliant as they are, Tina Fey's scripts tend to be downright ridiculous in places), but Mark Waters keeps one foot in reality and holds the clownishness of the gags to a minimum.
IMDB: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% (Audience Score: 84%)
Metacritic: 73 (User Score: 3.4)
Domestic Total Gross: $1,108,462
Rotten Tomatoes: 83% (Audience Score: 66%)
Metacritic: 66 (User Score: 8)
Domestic Total Gross: $86,058,055
For a film with such an underwhelming theatrical run, HEATHERS has become one of the defining films of the 1980's. Heathers: The Musical had some success off-Broadway, a sequel has been lightly discussed, and after several attempts, a television series was ordered just this year, presumably to premiere in 2017.
In the current oversaturation of content, fewer films achieve what we refer to as cult status, but MEAN GIRLS comes as close as any film of the past 15 years. The internet is awash with MEAN GIRLS memes, a poorly received spin-off sequel came out in 2011, a stage musical is in the works, spin-off MEAN MOMS with Jennifer Aniston is in pre-production (though BAD MOMS could certainly have an impact on this), and even the White House is trying to make "fetch" happen.
The finale of HEATHERS doesn't disappoint, with J.D. and Veronica plotting kill each other, Veronica thwarting J.D.'s attempt to blow up the school with everyone inside, and J.D. blasting himself to pieces while a severely disheveled Veronica looks on.
MEAN GIRLS' low stakes make for an admittedly satisfying but ultimately ordinary finale. Cady and the plastics learn their lesson and move on to healthier lives, all the foreshadowed relationships come together, and girl world is at peace.
Hmm, not sure how I feel about this one. I greatly prefer what HEATHERS is, but when you break it down, MEAN GIRLS is just a bit more consistent and well-rounded. I suppose it's a testament to MEAN GIRLS that it could transcend the teen girl genre (which it's also spoofing) and appeal to a much wider audience, but the lack of murder, Christian Slater, and shoulder pads may have some of you going the other way, which I won't fault you for one bit. Let me know what you think down below, and check out BAD MOMS this Friday!

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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