High on Color * vol. 01

Winona Ryder and Christian Slater

Color provides the most adequate perception about reality, given the fact we live in a world that is full with colors. In film, this gives freedom to play with the character in different ways to portray personality. The film Heathers, is an American film created in 1988 directed by Michael Lehmann and starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. This film is a clear example of how color is used in a playful way in order to give personality to the characters. The director uses the psychology of color in a way the viewer can associate the characters with familiar thoughts that come to our minds when we think of certain colors. The use of color in the clothes of each character corresponds to the behavior they have in the film. I am going to analyze the film and the way the decisions made in the clothing of each character correspond to their behavior.

Veronica Sawyer is a 17 years old girl who belongs to the group of the most popular girls in Westerburg Institute in Ohio. This group of girls besides Veronica, consists of three rich and beautiful girls who have the same name: Heater. Heather Chandler is the leader of the group, Heather Mcnamara is an evil cheerleader supposedly to be the nicest of the group, and Heather Duke who is a bulimic girl obsessed with literature. Even though these girls are the most popular girls of school, everyone hates them and are afraid of them because of their cruel behavior towards all the other students. When “J.D” Jason Dean, a new student with a rebel personality arrives to school and is bullied by other male students there, he pointed a gun at them in order to scare them and veronica finds herself fascinated with his behavior.

Veronica decides to attend a frat party with Heather Chandler and rejects having sex with some guy and ends up throwing up. Heather gets upset at her and threatened her with the end of her reputation. She then finds herself having sex with JD and deciding that she wants to have revenge towards Heather Chandler making her throw up. JD and Veronica went to her house and gave her a drink, Veronica though it was just something that would make her feel sick to her stomach but soon found out they had killed her. They wrote a suicide not in order to make it look as if she had killed herself. This goes on as later Veronica and JD kill another two students who have said she gave them oral sex. Veronica and JD kill these students and left them as well with suicide notes. Later then an overweight student Marta Dunnstock puts a suicide note on her chest and starts walking in the traffic, she was trying to act as all the other popular students who have “committed suicide”. As Heather Chandler had died, Heather Duke became the new leader of the group and shamed Heather Mcnamara leading her to taking a full bottle of pills in order to commit suicide but veronica find her and saved her. Veronica found out JD and his behavior was not leading her in a good path and told JD that she would not contribute to any other of his assassinations and faked a suicide so he thought she was dead. JD had a plan to explode the school with a bomb and Veronica confronts him and shoots him but even though he is hurt he follows her with a bomb in his chest and the bomb explodes. The movie ends with Veronica confronting Heather Duke and telling her there is a new sheriff in town and Veronica invites Marta Dunnnstock to go out and watch a movie with her.

After an introduction of what the movie is about and how the characters behave, I am going to analyze each character and why are they dressed always in a particular color. How the director played with color in order for the viewer to make associations about their behavior. I am going to analyze what are the associations we have to each and every one of the color these group of girls wear and what do they mean.

Veronica is known for always wearing blue, grey and black. She is the main character of the film but they do not show a lot of her past life. We know she used to be friends with a girl from the school but changed her in order to form part of the heathers group. We know she is a very intelligent girl because her fathers wanted to move her out of the sixth grade because of her IQ. It is very intriguing why the colors associated with her personality are grey, black and blue. While reading about the psychology of color I found out the most common associations with these colors in terms of personality for people. I found out first that the color blue is associated with the world serenity, which is contradictory to her behavior because of all the killing and violence involved in this movie in which she was a part of, but it makes us think about her life before all these events. She seems to be a smart girl which blue is also associated with intelligence so that makes sense. Blue also has associations with lack of emotions which I could relate because Veronica seems like a girl who does not show affection or anger so often, she may be feeling it but she is not very expressive. Grey on the other hand is supposed to be the color of conformism and not having a personality of their own, and Veronica seems like a girl who let herself be manipulated. I believe at the end she stood up for herself and knew she was going into a dark side so she came out, but she let herself get involved with the behavior of the Heathers and then with the behavior of JD. It is also associated with people who try to protect themselves from the world around them, which she did in an evil way because she wanted revenge but she was seeking protection. She also wore a lot of black in combination with these two other colors. Black is associated with power, death, evil and mystery. This color I believe is the most accurate color to describe her because of her behavior throughout the movie. Black has many different connotations but for me personally the first association with black is mourning and grief. I believe Veronica is a character who was mourning with herself and the acts she had done, but at the same time it is a color that gives a lot of character and personality since it is a very strong color. She was a strong person to go through everything she did and still manage to come out and try to amend her acts.

Heather Chandler is the leader of the group and she is known for her outfits which always include some kind of red in it. Red symbolizes her power in school and in every aspect of her life. She is known to be a very cruel and manipulative, which makes sense because the color red always comes with associations like blood, strength, determination, danger. It is a color that can be associated with positive things such as love, warmth and energy and very negative things such as, defiance, aggression, strain and danger. This character had a lot of power and determination in herself and in all the other people. I also associate this color with political power and a way of ruling which she did in the school. It is a color that immediately draws attention to the eyes of the viewer since it is so powerful. The scene when Heather and Veronica attend a party was so significant for me in the movie because there is a red light all over the party. This red light made the scene so mysterious and as if something dangerous will happen. Then the scene where the boy wanted to have sex with Veronica happened and the color red has also a lot of associations with sexual desire and passion which was very notorious in this scene.

Heather Mcnamara’s symbolic color is yellow, this color is associated with a lot of light and shine. It has a lot of influence on the brain of someone who sees this color. It has connotations with cheerfulness which is relative to Mcnamara because she wanted to be a cheerleader and is supposed to be the nicest person in the group. Also, the color yellow is supposed to give some kind of anxiety which I could relate to the character in the movie in the scene where out of anxiety she decides to take a whole bottle of pills in order to commit suicide. It also has associations with people who are very critical regarding her own person and others around them. I believe this character is the most naïve and insecure of the group while also forming part of the “evil” girls but in a more decent form. Yellow is a color that is supposed to feel the ego and self-esteem which I believe it suits Mcnamara because she needed to be stronger in the way she perceived herself.

The last one is heather Duke, which is known for always wearing green in some kind of way. Green is a color that is associated with renewal and growth. I could relate these words in her character because the power she obtained when Heather Chandler died. She stepped up to be the leader of the group and rise to power. Color green in the psychology of color associated with people is known to be intellectual, logical and perfectionist and that is what Heather Duke was about. She manipulated her way to be the leader of the group when she saw her way. They are thought to be independent thinkers which I also think is very accurate in the way she behaved because we did not saw a lot of her interaction with other people. She managed to get power by herself.

In conclusion, this movie shows in a very direct way how color is manipulated into building personality to the characters. The director choices in color where very specifically chosen in order to associate in different way the behavior the characters had in the film. This film shows how the psychology of color shapes the way the viewers look at something, not only in the clothing but in everything. It makes us associate the colors with familiar things. It makes us feel something in an effective way that provokes different emotions and reactions in ourselves, through colors our psyche was manipulated. I believe this film uses color in a very successful way that shows us how we can manipulate the emotions of an audience by this formal element that somethings we do not notice the importance it has in order to create deepest meaning into a work of art as this film is in this particular matter of color usage.

References

Heathers. Dir. Michael Lehmann. Prod. Denise Di Novi and Jon Hutman. By Daniel Waters, Francis Kenny, David Newman, and Norman Hollyn. Perf. Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, and Penelope Milford. New World Pictures, 1988.

“Color Psychology.” Color Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

“Heather McNamara.” Heathers Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Veronica Sawyer.” Heathers Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Heather Chandler.” Heathers Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Heather Duke.” Heathers Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

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