Movies / Television

Mediapothecary V: Things for When Summer Had to End (…Back to School)

Students, Teachers, and Janitors with Hearts of Gold,

We saw it coming. The days got shorter again. Our burns faded into tans. We finally cleared time in our schedule to see Monsters U, and there it is, like the shambling specter we thought we’d just about lost last May…

Summer’s over, and school’s back in session.

Now I know not all of you are immoral cougars like me, and therefor do not have significant others who are still in college, but it’s undeniable that with September we usher in the official Back-To-School season with the same autumnal zephyr that whisks the foam on our tenth anniversary PSLs. And after all, back to school means any number of things. It means the end of summer. It means new beginnings and, dare I say reinventions??? I was never the kid who lost twenty pounds over the summer, but maybe you were and if so, here’s to you for keepin it tight.

I digress. The point is that the back-to-school season can seem menacing and somber, but it’s on us to keep in mind how great and exciting it can be. Opportunities for learning! Opportunities for a new, better reputation! Opportunities to finally kiss any person! Strap on your ballerina bunny backpack; Here are some things to help keep your back-to-school season in perspective.

1. Heathers.  This 1988 dark comedy has been called the precursor to Mean Girls, which is essentially true if you take Mean Girls and remove a lot of the quirky-but-wise Tina Fey role model elements and replace them with blow jobs, bloodshed, and Christian Slater’s panty-dropper half smile. It was the 80’s, there were no rules.

So get this. Heathers is an artifact of the 80’s in that it stars Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty, and a bunch of shoulder pads. It’s a coming-of-age movie in that it’s about a high school girl-gang of chicks all named Heather who rule their school with an iron scrunchie, and the one Winona Ryder with the courage to stand up for non-populars everywhere. It’s a completely twisted, surreal mind-fuck in that the way Winona accomplishes her goal is by murdering (accomplice-to-murdering) various students at her high school and then penning their supposed suicide notes as diatribes to society about how popularity is empty and morals don’t exist anymore. Welcome to Heathers.

It all starts when J.D. (Christian Slater and his devious sex-face) literally rolls up to Westerburg High on a motorcycle. J.D.’s crazy Jack Nicholson voice and single earring are just the catalyst Veronica (Winona Ryder)—popular girl with a brain and should-know-better conscience—needs to snap out of the trance of popularity and shake things up a little. Unfortunately, J.D. is the son of a demented demolitions expert who (spoiler alert) presumably led J.D.’s mother to suicide by way of sneaking into an exploding building while baby J.D. watched the shit go down, smiling and waving. Needless to say, Christian Slater’s bedroom smile comes with major baggage and a not insignificant body count. But oh man, is he cute and eccentric.

Under J.D.’s guidance, Veronica goes on a killing spree that leads to a national crisis surrounding the apparent outbreak of teenage suicides, which obviously comes complete with it’s own hit radio-ready single, “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)”.  Along the way, Winona learns a lot about first loves, popularity, friendship, body image, scrunchies, explosives, and social ethics. A complete must-watch for anyone forced to move within a social sphere.

2. Hark! A Vagrant. Like a gorgeous, hilarious cheat-sheet for anyone in a history or literature class, drawn by illustrator Kate Beaton. Complete with jokes at the expense of Napoleon’s weight problem.

3. Freaks and Geeks. Oh, what’s that? A coming-of-age television series produced in the 90’s but set in the early 80’s, chronicling the trials and tribulations of certain high school social outcasts, created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow and starring everyone you’ve ever enjoyed watching on a screen? Also with a great soundtrack? I.E. WHY HAVEN’T YOU WATCHED FREAKS AND GEEKS YET, DUMMY?

Yeah, that’s right, James Franco before he was JAMES I WILL DO EVERYTHING FRANCO, along with half the cast of every Judd Apatow movie you’ve seen since. The series loosely follows the lives of siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir (Linda Cardellini and John Francis Daley) throughout their high school experience. Lindsay is a reformed nerd and mathlete who’s decided she’d like to wear her grandfather’s army jacket to school and hang out with kids who do drugs sometimes. Sam is a teeny tiny cricket/human hybrid who just wants to talk about Star Wars and have people believe that he’s not seven years old. Lindsay discovers The Grateful Dead. Sam discovers porn. Lindsay discovers romance. Sam discovers Shia Laboeuf. Oh, and this guidance counselor:

It’s Paul Feig (ehem, Bridesmaids) so it’s super cringey, but also honest and hilarious and lovely and on-the-nose. And who doesn’t, every now and again, long for the convenience of an entire social world wrapped up around a row of lockers and a couple of awful songs that everyone knows?

4. Mean Girls. You get it, you know it, I don’t gotta tell you.

5. Wizard People, Dear Reader. For the uninitiated: this is either virtuosic comedy, outsider art, fanfic, serendipitous hobby-crafting, or the insane ramblings of a strange man in his basement. Or, duh, all of the above.

Originally, WPDR was an unauthorized “soundtrack” for the first Harry Potter film that comic book artist Brad Neely put together without having ever read the books or watched anything other than the first film. It’s framed as an audiobook version of Harry Potter, in which everyone’s names (except Harry’s) are changed and shit gets super real. Ron Weasley goes by “Ronnie the Bear” and is a “pot of coffee by day, bottle of wine by night kind of guy,” to which Harry responds, “double that and you’ve got me!” Snape is almost exclusively referred to as “the hideous woman.” Everyone swears, everyone’s angry, and the highest of drama ensues.

Neely originally intended the series to be an audio track dispersed on its own over the internet that tech-savvy users could download and then synch up to the Warner Brothers movie on their own. But by now, as with most things, the middle man has been taken out, and the entire movie is available in chapters on youtube. Enjoi mes bebes!


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