Exile by Vasantha Yogananthan, one of our books of the year
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The New Statesman’s 2017 books of the year

Friends and contributors tell us what they've enjoyed reading most over the past 12 months.

Read the complete New Statesman guide to the books of 2017:

 

Part one: books chosen by Andrew Marr, George Osborne, Rose Tremain and others

“Mukherjee’s deep knowledge of India and the West, allied to his never-failing curiosity about the ties that both bind us and separate us, makes him an outstanding chronicler of Bengali life.” Rose Tremain on A State of Freedom 

Part two: books chosen by Nicola Sturgeon, Alan Johnson, Sara Baume and others

“It is a beautifully written epic and will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.” Nicola Sturgeon on The Heart's Invisible Furies

Part three: books chosen by Joan Bakewell, Michael Moorcock, Olivia Laing and others

“Death haunts us, and George Saunders mines the many ways it does: the Gothic, the sentimental, the fearful and, above all, the grief-stricken.” Joan Bakewell on Lincoln in the Bardo

 

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“Lick it up, SJWs”: Will the Heathers TV reboot become a cult classic… for the far right?

Will a twist find the left embracing the show, or is it the anti-SJW screed the right wing have been waiting for? 

No one really wanted a remake of the 1988 cult classic Heathers. When the TV reboot was announced in 2016, fans of the dark comedy (which saw Winona Ryder on a murderous rampage against her school’s popular, pretty clique) were concerned. Would it be any good? How on earth could it live up to the original? Yet after the pilot episode was released online last night, Heathers fans gained a new concern. Will the TV show also become a cult classic, but for the far right?

Heathers (2017) turns the premise of Heathers (1988) on its (Diet Coke) head. The popular trio of Heathers is now no longer made up of thin, privileged, white blonde girls, but a black lesbian Heather, a genderqueer Heather, and a “body-positive” Heather (“Fat kids can be popular?” is a line in the trailer).

This change was met with scorn from much of the left, who noted that turning marginalised people into the popular, powerful and privileged was not only 1) not true to the lived experiences of many minorities, but also 2) intensely problematic when the premise of the film is that the powerful deserve to be brutally murdered.

This idea, however, has become unsurprisingly popular with those who identify as “anti-social justice warriors”, Trump supporters, and conservatives.

“I already know SJWS are going to collectively lose their shit,” reads one tweet, with nearly 500 retweets and over 1,400 likes. Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Sputnik News and an outspoken Trump supporter, replied that she “kind of loves” the show. Ian Miles Cheong – a writer for the Daily Caller and also Milo Yiannopoulos’s Dangerous.com – tweeted repeatedly while watching the pilot.

“I absolutely love the new Heathers,” he wrote. “The new Heathers completely wrecks SJWs and makes fun of their sensibilities and virtue signaling [sic]. It’s great.”

Jason Micallef, the series showrunner, has explained that actually, the Heathers in the original Heathers aren’t villains, so the new Heathers aren’t either. “In the original film, the Heathers were the ones I always loved, and it’s the same with the series. The Heathers are the aspirational characters,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

Unfortunately, barely anyone else read the original Heathers in this way, and the right wing doesn’t see the new show this way either. “They’re the bad guys,” tweeted Cheong of the series’ “SJW” Heathers, rendering Micallef’s intent immediately irrelevant.

The show’s creators should’ve been prepared for this, because it’s 2018. Pop culture is now inherently political, and new releases find their fans on either the left or the right. Beauty and the Beast (2017) was boycotted by conservatives because of its “gay moment”, while Wonder Woman (2017) became the highest-grossing superhero origin movie because of its feminist credentials. Shoes aren’t immune. In 2016, Neo-Nazis declared New Balance “the official shoes of white people” after a company representative tweeted seeming support of Donald Trump.

If the rest of Heathers episodes (released in March) continue to vilify identity politics, then it wouldn’t be surprising if every frog avi on the internet gleefully told the left to “lick it up”.

Yet, Heathers might still anger its new right-wing fans. On Twitter, the creators deny that the show is “a power fantasy about a straight white couple murdering minorities”, cryptically stating that “you’ll get it when you watch it.” Presumably, then, there’s a twist. Micallef has even tweeted that the teachers in the show get guns and it “doesn’t end well” in episode 8, which may lose the show some conservative American fans (Trump is currently suggesting that teachers should be armed to protect students from mass shooters).

So while Heathers may still become an alt-right classic, it also may remarkably end up with no fans on either the left or the right. All in all: fuck me gently with a chainsaw.

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.