Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 19, 2018

The brillance of Black Lightning vs. the cluelessness of the new Heathers

One of the bright spots of the new TV season for me this week has been the premiere of Black Lightning on the CW and I'm not alone in that. This latest take on the DC Comics world puts it's title hero into situations that are very real world and yet balanced with the fantastical framework of the source material just right.

Our leading man Jefferson Pierce(Cress Williams) is not the standard young hero starting out,which Greg Belanti and company have done quite well enough in their other superhero series.

 Instead, he's a man who retired from the crime fighting game in order to protect his family and decided to serve the community by becoming a dedicated high school principal instead. While he has achieved much, the rise of the criminal gang known as the 100,along with crime boss Tobias Whale(Crondon), has put the city of Freeland in even more peril than it first was.

Between that level of unrest and the need to look out for his daughters,college student Anissa(Nafessa Williams) and feisty teenager Jennifer(China Anne McClain), Jefferson brings his electrical powers out of storage.

Mind you, his girls are strong and smart but there are some threats that they can't face without powers(although there is a hint that one of them may share their father's metahuman talents) and a few that even special abilities are unable to counter. In the first five minutes of the first episode, Jefferson is subjected to police profiling with his children forced to watch in horror, a scene that many have experienced in real life.

However, his ultimate motivation in donning the mantle of Black Lightning again is to be a champion for those opposed and targeted by everyday villains, those who think that violence is the first and last solution to every situation. As Black Lightning, Jefferson shows them that fire can be met with serious fire right back at them:

However, the show is more than just awesome throwdowns. Plenty of emotional drama and character development elements are set up here that should enhance the external threats that Jefferson Pierce and his loved ones will be facing. Wisely, the CW will be replaying this premiere over the weekend not only to pick up more viewers but to give those already on board another chance to relive the joy that comes with the promise of more to come:

Sadly, my small screen joy turned to fury upon watching the trailer for Paramount Network's upcoming TV series Heathers. 

Based upon the 1988 cult classic film, the show re-images the vicious high school clique of original mean girls with the lead Heather being a plus sized fashionista and her cohorts as a gender non binary person and African American.

The newcomer to the group,Veronica, is still a white girl(a blonde instead of a brunette) and she teams up with the shifty new kid in town,J.D., who insists upon violently taking the Heathers crew down. So, two standard issue white teens plot to eliminate a trio of popular kids who are usually the ones being marginilized-what's wrong with this picture, I ask you? Well, a lot to say the least!:

According to the showrunner for this reboot, the original Heathers were "aspirational" and "they’re the people you would want to be" with J.D. being the true villain.

While I do agree that J.D. and his desire to bring about chaos makes him the bad guy, he is the greater evil to the Heathers' lesser evil. That is the twisted moral choice that Veronica in the original film has to make; stop the wrath of bitchy girls and blowhard jocks from tormenting outsiders such as heavy set  Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock and those deemed to be gay or go all in on her new boyfriend's murder spree?

The dark humor in that film,cleverly written by Daniel Waters, mocked many things such as the hypocrisy of social concern for troubled teens by adults while ignoring their kids' real problems and easily swayed teens to any cause by media attention.

 Those themes could be revisited in a modern day setting(particularly in this age of advancing social media) but this new version clearly does not get that the real victims in Heathers were those like Martha,whose desperate cry for help is discounted in favor of focusing on her more popular classmates' demises. That plot point is what causes Veronica to serious doubt her course of action even more than she already had and I serious doubt that this show is planning on doing that right.

Granted, you can't always judge a show by it's trailer(I had my doubts about Supergirl that first season due to it's initial teaser) but some things you can tell will be badly done from the start. The best thing that can come out of this impending and rather offensive looking series is that a new generation might be inspired to check out the original movie to see social satire done right:

Well, that's the balancing act that TV offers us-ground breaking material on one hand, seriously miscalculated schlock on the other. At least we have great shows like Black Lightning to offset lesser attempts at entertainment and good ones to look forward to such as season two of Glow on Netflix. Now that's a show that knows how to rally those on the sidelines of society with humor and heart,something a few other TV folks could learn a lesson from there:

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