Sarah Michelle Gellar is perhaps best known as vampire slayer Buffy Summers, but it is her turn as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions, 1999’s take on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that is truly her greatest role. Buffy’s a kick-ass character, sure. There’s no denying that Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a ground-breaking series. But next to charismatic, conniving, confident, cruel Kathryn, she’s just another chosen one.
Buffy is a brilliant example of a strong -in every sense of the word- female character. She can dust a vamp, form lasting friendships, work hard to achieve her goals, and lead a Scooby Gang in saving the world. A lot. And while I appreciate that Buffy didn’t play the reluctant hero for more than a hot minute, let’s not forget that she also didn’t really have a choice in her life path. She’s the Slayer. There’s only one, and she’s basically gotta die to give up her fated mission.
Kathryn, on the other hand, refuses to let anyone else decide what her life will look like. She positions herself atop of the social ladder and kicks anyone who wants to knock her off. No one can tell her who to sleep with or who not to sleep with. If they try to, she will take them down. When future hedge fund bro Court Reynolds dumps her for the virginal Cecile (Selma Blair), Kathryn vows revenge and manipulates her step-brother Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) into helping her achieve it. She’s not a role model – what with the cocaine use, the sleeping with other people’s boyfriends – but damned if she isn’t determined to be totally in control of her destiny.
She completely understands the way the world operates, and rather than simply be frustrated with the double-standards and societal expectations foisted upon her, she finds every possible way to exploit them. Kathryn plays the part of the perfect straight-A student; she’s involved in school activities; she’s willing to help out a family friend’s daughter who’s new in town. She builds this persona so she can do whatever (and whoever) the hell she wants on her own time. No one would suspect something much darker lies beneath the surface, though anyone that’s seen her Dynasty-style wardrobe should have. Even when Kathryn’s toys know she’s manipulating them, as Sebastian does, they have no idea how far her power reaches and how little control they actually have. This is Kathryn’s game. Everyone else is just her pawn.
But much as I love Kathryn, I’m not sure what to think of the prospect of her returning to my life via a TV series.
That’s right. Among the dozen or so pilots this year that are rebooting / reviving / reimagining popular movies that didn’t need to be reanythinged is a Cruel Intentions sequel-ish at NBC. Set fifteen years after the events of the 1999 film (don’t bother worrying about the math), the series will follow Kathryn Merteuil as she vies for control of Valmont International as well as the soul of Bash Casey, the son of her late step-brother Sebastian Valmont and his bet-turned-beloved Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon). The producers, which include the film’s writer-director Roger Kumble and producer Neal H. Moritz, are courting Geller to reprise her iconic role in the series.
The timing makes sense – as Hollywood is out of ideas and looking to existing properties to guarantee that at least the curiosity contingent will turn out, Cruel Intentions offers the perfect small screen anti-hero in Kathryn. Television is all about shades of grey, with deeply flawed and morally compromised characters leading the most acclaimed and most watched shows including Empire, House of Cards, How To Get Away With Murder, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, not to mention comedies like Veep, Girls, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
On top of that, the 90s nostalgia has reached a fever-pitch. Lindsey Rosin & Jordan Ross’s Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Cruel Intentions sold out in minutes, garnered rave reviews, and even earned the stamp of approval from the film’s original stars SMG, Blair, and Witherspoon. Ross and Rosin are also involved in the current project.
Which is all to say – I get it. I get why this is happening, and if it has to happen, then I’d love to see Gellar return in the role she was clearly born to play. But why can’t I just get a teen soap with a different complex, conniving, confident lead? Why does she have to be Kathryn? Why does she still have to have an obsession with her step-brother, now transferred to his offspring? Yes, I know that Cruel Intentions was an adaptation in the first place, so I can’t be too critical of the desire to draw from already-successful stories. I will, however, be personally hurt if they team my Kathryn with any sort of law enforcement agent to solve crimes. (I’m looking at you Minority Report, Lucifer, Limitless, Sleepy Hollow, and iZombie)
At least we’ll get to hear Kathryn’s thoughts on the latest internet slang.
While we’re on the topic of mining existing properties
to make some quick cash ripe for a reboot, allow me to pitch you a Hocus Pocus musical. The 1993 classic Halloween movie, starring Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, would be a perfect fit for the Broadway treatment. Three hundred years – right down to the day – after the Sanderson Sisters were hung for the crime of witchcraft, idiot virgin Max Dennison lights the fabled black flame candle bringing back the trio who must suck the lives out of the children (or at least one child) of Salem before sunrise in order to complete their resurrection.
Already the best scene of the entire movie is Midler’s rendition of “I Put A Spell On You.” Go watch it. Now. And SJP’s character lures the children to their cottage with an earworm of a song, “Come Little Children.” Add in a few uptempo tunes to make the exposition more fun, a romantic duet for Max and Allison (ooooh Allison!), and a not-so-romantic duet between ex-lovers Billy and Winifred – you’ve got yourself a nostalgic hit.
Katia Juanita | Staff Writer