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Friday, July 25, 2014

Revolutionary Politics in Heathers: An Analysis from Seriously Over-Thinking A Movie

I watched the excellent black comedy film 'Heathers' (1988) yesterday and as I am prone to do, I began over-thinking and hyper analyzing.

'Heathers' can be viewed as a political allegory. Charismatic and sociopathic leaders struggle for power in society while the bodies pile up. The ‘little’ are people merely pawns or victims to be used in the struggle for power.

I posted this thought on Twitter, and Matthew Peterson (@MightyKingCobra), responded with the following question. Followup questions resulted in expansion of the theory and this is largely what resulted with some refinements. I'd consider all this a work in progress, and will require subsequent viewings for additional support and/or refutation of any points made here.

Matthew: Whut?

The Heathers represent competing yet identical political factions, with Heather Chandler the dominant faction. The Heathers are the power elite of Westerberg High School (a microcosm of society at large) Heather Duke and Heather McNamara, as well as a few other ‘popular’ kids represent other factions of the power elite, allied with the dominant faction to control society. JD (portrayed by Christian Slater) arrives and represents a new, revolutionary faction with a disruptive agenda.

The factions all lie and manipulate others for the benefit of their vision of the 'proper' social order: The Heathers to uphold their stranglehold on that social order, JD to destroy that order. Veronica Sawyer represents the upper middle class. She is allied with the elite (Heathers) and is a beneficiary of their power. She is already disillusioned with the existing power structure and unsure of her place in it when she meets the revolutionary (JD). She becomes convinced of the corruption inherent in the system and she naively (and covertly) joins his side.

 Heather McNamara’s attempted suicide represents those elements of society that destroy themselves when the prevailing power structure begins to break down and they have no one to tell them what to do. Martha’s attempt represents the despair created by the machinations of the prevailing order, the way the power elite can crush, without regard, those considered beneath them.

The horror of what revolution represents gradually becomes evident to Veronica, but she also knows the current order cannot stand. After realizing the corruption of the elite can’t be reformed and the horrors of JD’s revolution, she re-aligns with the rest of the middle class in Betty, as well as ultimately the working class in Martha to create a third inclusive order, after the elite proves weakened, and the revolution destroys itself. As has happened historically in revolutions the Middle Class supplants the ruling class, and compromises with the revolution in the new order, to became the new power elite. Whether this becomes an equally corrupt structure among Veronica, Betty and Martha, is left to the viewer at the end of the film.

The relationships among Veronica, Betty and Martha are inherent in their names. The class distinction between Veronica and Betty are paralleled in their first names from Archie comics and their last names (Sawyer and Finn) from the works of Twain. In each instance the class distinction is present. Martha’s nickname is ‘Dumptruck’ and she is portrayed by way of her dress and demeanor as a person of the working class.

Matthew: Where do Kurt and Ram fit in?

Kurt and Ram, as members of the football team, were leading elite figures allied with the Heathers, representing the military/police (the enforcement arm of the established order). Every revolution must subvert and destroy key institutions emblematic of the prevailing social order. The staged circumstances of their deaths served JD’s 'revolution' by revealing these establishment goons as members of an easily maligned 'other,' in this case homosexuals in Reagan's America.

This event represents the power of propaganda in revolutionary politics to subvert institutions. They were also political pawns used by JD to further pull Veronica into the cause (her complicity in their murders), and immerse her into his revolution. They had to be eliminated as the prevailing physical (military) threat to JD, and he was also able to undermine their social institution (the ‘manly’ football team).

Matthew: So, let's discuss Pauline and the teacher's lounge sequences... 

Dunno, probably some baloney about academia’s role in society and how it perpetuates and is part of the corrupt power elite system. Since the school is a microcosm of society the teachers represent the ineffectual and clueless (government) leaders allegedly tasked with running things, while the unelected, shadowy, power elite (Heathers) are really pulling the strings within the culture. The teachers/principal are generally ignorant of what is actually going on, what the real problems and their causes are, and hence have no real solutions, but instead offer lots of platitudes and speeches that have no real world effects.

This commentary was originally a Facebook post, so there were an additional comment along with my response and additional thoughts.

Comment: Perhaps the teachers are NGOs like the United Nations or World Health Organization?

I see them more as the 'legitimate' power structure. The State, whose impotent actions coupled with their ignorance, prop up and allow the true powers (Heathers) to operate unchecked. Hence JDs ultimate desire to destroy the actual physical structure of 'the school' and ALL it housed, the state, the power elite, the entire sick culture. Veronica manages a compromise of power between the old way of the Heathers and JD's radical vision, with a 'Veronica' supplanting the remaining 'Heather' and creating her 'third way' power structure within the culture/society, but still outside the 'legitimate' (teachers/school) establishment structure. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Post Behind the Walls

Recently the fine fellows on the Comic Dorks podcast were discussing the recent discovery of an issue of Action Comics #1 inside the wall of a house in Minnesota, and how that book might have gotten there.

This reminded me of some framed newspaper pages from April 15, 1908 hanging on the walls of a rental house in Silverton, Colorado. The pages were serving as makeshift insulation from when the home was built and were discovered intact and in pretty decent shape when a remodel took place some years back. This story was detailed in the guest book for the house.

From the front page, a surprisingly relevant political cartoon showing us that politics hasn't really changed much in 105 years (click for larger):

From the sports section, more cartoons we can file under 'the more things change the more they stay the same'. These strips concern the impending Grizzlies baseball season (click for larger)

And a detail of the left strip (click for larger):

These two images book ended the front page header (click for larger):

The left image seems to indicate that it may, in fact, be opening day for baseball. I am unsure what the right hand image with women breaking some kind of record at a registration office is all about. When did women get the vote in Colorado?  In retrospect I wish I'd photographed more of the stories for subsequent reading, but at the time I was mainly interested in the style and amount of comic illustration in the newspaper.

The sports page illustration on the left is very reminiscent of George Carlson's work, but I can't find any evidence he ever spent any of his life or career in Denver.

The next time I get back to Silverton and this house I will definitely take more photos of individual stories and try to get some better pics of the illustrations as well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Couple of Disasters

I recently came across an image of an otter holding a hammer and it amused me immensely, as you can well imagine.  I don't usually go for the cute meme-thing, but I put together a couple of Otter Disaster images with this helpful little fellow in mind anyway. (click for larger)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Broom-Hilda Tries to End the Fed

I sometimes get asked where my anti-authoritarian, libertarian streak comes from, and I always have to answer, 'Well...lots of places.' One early influence in that area had to be comics and cartoons. Bugs Bunny is about as anti-authoritarian as they get. Every politician portrayed in Bloom County was shown as corrupt and incompetent. Even Garfield had nothing but contempt for Jon, the only 'authority' figure in his life. One of my favorite comics when I was very young, was the Wizard of Id. The King in that strip was a lowlife. He was corrupt. His people despised him. The King is a fink! I found this book in a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago, it is the very first Wizard of Id collection, full of anti-authoritarian goodness:

Alongside that book I found this one from 1982:
Now, I've never really read Broom-Hilda, but is was only $2.00 and skimming through it, I found I liked the art, and the gags were funny. I'm always on the lookout for good comic reference material. Once I got it home and started reading it I was delighted to find a 6 day sequence about Broom-Hilda and her friends trying to 'End the Fed'. I love it when my interests and passions collide in weird ways. Click images for Larger.
I love the not-subtle-at all name of Senator Bullbleep. We can all fill in the bleep, I'm sure... The message here is as relevant today as it was then...the Government can't and won't do anything about inflation, since it causes the problem in the first place with terrible monetary policy. Good stuff. As I continued reading I found a couple more strips with Libertarian appeal:
I have no idea what politics the strip's creator, Russell Myers holds, but these strips have really piqued my interest. The collection also had a series of strips about banks, one about solar energy, and several appearances by a group of Arabs and the power they wield with their oil money, all fairly political stuff in a strip about a witch, a troll, and a buzzard. This book is out of print but is available used. There don't seem to be any contemporary reprint collections of Broom-Hilda available either. I enjoyed the strips, and am going to seek out additional Broom-Hilda collections from this era. I'd like to see if there are any more gems with a pro-liberty message like the ones presented here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Inevitable Meeting of Death and Taxes

They say only sure things in life are Death and Taxes.

Ham fisted, like all political cartoons, to be sure. I'm just stretching my drawing muscles a bit while working on my new ongoing strip to be announced soon...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Discordian Quote Comix: Quote 00052

This is the last episode of Discordian Quote Comix so as an exclamation point I decided to feature Eris herself. I decided to end the series with the original Discordian quote, brought on by the Original Snub, the words that kicked off the whole blessed thing. In a wonderful bit of Discordian synchronicity today is 5/23. DQC began as a personal training exercise a year ago, vowing to do a panel a week for one year, in an effort to improve my art, work on a schedule, and eventually work toward more narrative comics.

I learned quite a bit on this project, mainly that my art will always be a work in progress. I also learned that setting goals is a good way to produce, that having a publishing schedule that needs to be met will assure that things get done. One nice side effect of DQC was the launching of SPOILED! a weekly gag strip at Major Spoilers, that spun out of my Bistrips-based Major Spoilers Adventures. I now literally have a new project on the drawing board, and I'll say more about that when the time is right.