Wuthering Ho: A Review of MTV’s “Wuthering Heights”

Oct 20th, 2003 | By | Category: Columns

What a Piece of Literary Crap!

So it all began innocently enough, when I, forced to my mother’s couch by horrible sickness, found myself watching MTV’s “musical” version of Wuthering Heights.

If you all don’t know, Wuthering Heights is a classic novel by Emily Bronte about star-crossed love. If you haven’t read the book, here’s a short synopsis: Catherine, a farmer’s daughter, meets Heathcliff, an abandoned gypsy boy who comes to live with her mother, brother and maid after her father takes him in. They grow up, fall in love, she leaves him for a rich guy, he leaves in general, comes back successful and pissed, exacts revenge, she dies from heartbreak, he is inconsolable, and she haunts him for the rest of his life.

Okay, maybe in those simplistic terms it seems a little strange, but this novel basically fueled the term “gothic romance,” and Heathcliff has since then been the prototype that fuels every dark male character you see in literature today. And yes, even those horrible bodice ripping romance novels.

And despite friends warning me not to watch that “crap,” I was very sick and my Lord of the Rings DVD was downstairs.

First of all, the story took place in a lighthouse. That’s right, a lighthouse named “Wuthering Heights.” Why the hell would a lighthouse be named anything, especially that? And also, why was Catherine’s dad looking like he had been on the cover of “White American Trash Weekly” one too many times? Of course, this was MTV, so dad was pretty much shoved in the background, barely uttering two sentences of dialogue, while Catherine, a blond girl who looked like a very well fed Julia Stiles, made mewling faces at a blonde, scruffy Heathcliff.

That’s right – blonde. Heathcliff is supposed to be tall dark and striking. This Heathcliff was blonde. Blonde and pouty. And named “Heath,” because being named after a candy bar is so much cooler. Heathbar and Catherine also looked like brother and sister, which gave the movie a nice, intimate incestuous feel when they made out. Also, the actress not only looked like a well-fed Julia Stiles, but shared her acting depth.

Catherine’s brother, Hindley, had a name change. His name was now “Hendrix.” Wow, I wish I was named after a musician who humped his guitar and died of a drug overdose. Also, Hindley (I’m sorry, Henderix) is supposed to be a tad older than Heathcliff and Catherine, and also kind of mean. So MTV made him into a punk; gave him some earrings, tattoos, strangely spiked hair and ripped up clothes.

I’m sorry, I’ve seen scarier guys at a Gay S&M Bikers Club. But hey, he and Heathbar were really hot. But imagining an Eileen sandwich with those two guys as my white bread didn’t help the plot that much…

As the “musical” went on, the story spiraled deeper and deeper into “Makes No Sense Land.” See, Catherine is supposed to be this free-spirited, cool chick and Heathcliff, well he’s pretty sweet early on in the novel, completely devoted to Catherine. But the person who wrote this screenplay had better ideas, because the beginning of the movie was playing out like some after school special on violent relationships.

Every scene would cut to Heathcliff’s angry porcupine face as he whined to Catherine to promise to be with him always. At one point, he and Catherine run into some rich kids on his motorcycle (yes, they are all destitute and live in a lighthouse, but he has a motorcycle…). Catherine wants to hang out with them, but Heath wants her all to himself, kinda like a dog with a chew toy. He runs away, gets on his motorcycle and drives up to her, yelling “Catherine!” then “vroom-vrooming” on his motorbike.

Modern bikini update.

Wow, that’s pretty sexy. I can just imagine my boyfriend going “Eileen!” *vroom-vroom*, “Eileen!” *vroom-vroom*, until the sound just drives me insane and I take a bat to his skull. But Catherine follows his orders and jumps onto his bike like a good little abused girlfriend. Hey, MTV, did you even read Wuthering Heights? Or even the cliff notes for Gods sake?

Heathbar also takes Catherine to the best places, namely his shack next to the lighthouse. You see, Heathbar is a musician. This is why MTV called this a “musical.” Because Heathbar plays guitar, Henderix plays guitar and Edgar plays cello. The girls don’t do anything much but sometimes sing off key and drool over their male counterparts. The music is pretty bad too, kinda like if John Tesh and the lead singer of Staind were locked in a basement and forced to make beautiful music together.

At this point I’m wondering why Catherine’s father doesn’t seem to care that his daughter is mixing it up with the kid he took in and raised as a son. Because he most certainly did in the novel. But then I realized that people over twenty five on MTV aren’t allowed to have that many lines of dialogue. Unless of course MTV decides to release Kurt Loder from his sensory deprivation tanks for his annual news brief.

In one scene Catherine is complaining about how she wants to see the world. The well-fed Julia Stiles is adamant: she wants to go somewhere special. She wants to see the world. So Heathbar kisses her. She is confused and returns a: “What?!”. So he replies huskily, “You said you wanted to go somewhere special, so I’m taking you somewhere special.” and then proceeds to make sweet shack love to her.


Okay, lets get this straight guys. When a girl says “I want to go somewhere special,” she means “Paris,” or perhaps “London.” Not, “Your Pants.” If a girl had to pick between a trip to Europe and you giving her a “night to remember,” she’s going to pick the goddamn plane ticket, idiot.

As this train wreck of a film continued, I quickly realized the whole movie only plays out the first half of the novel, and when Heathbar does go away, he returns the same as ever: angry and ready to throw things. After awhile, you almost wonder what Catherine sees in this idiot anyways. I mean, her drunken older brother is looking pretty good by now. Also, I might add, the actor who plays Edgar, the guy Catherine leaves Heathcliff for, is probably the only one that can act.

His sister, who is supposed to be all young and pliant (later seduced and made miserable by Heathcliff in the novel) is turned into a slut bunny, hopping around in a short skirt, hoping that Heathbar will “take her somewhere special.”

Because he’s hot, that’s it.

This guy is just hot.

He can’t act and he certainly can’t sing.

Thank God my cold medicine took effect and I passed out. I awoke to find the horrible movie over. So thanks MTV, you are a true talent. You managed to make one of the greatest classics into a forgettable piece of shit. Cheers to you.


Eileen – lovely name, by the way – Eileen, I think you’re taking this all too personally. Every archetype is updated by the following generation, which helps keep the story alive, as alive as that lovely long hair of yours.

Wuthering Heights is, at its heart, a story of two rebellious lovers whose passion drives them not only apart from each other, but into sex, whether it be sprawled nude in a field of daises, or tastefully photographed in a nautical setting.

Can I get a little Pinoit Noir? Thank you, Cindi.

As I was saying, if stories cannot be adapted to be contemporary, they die out. It is a sign of the resilience of a classic that it can be reinterpreted. This manifestation finds its audience with rock music, much as today’s G-string is the modern descendant of the original cheek-flashing bunny suits worn by so many classic beauties.

In conclusion, Eileen, your sparkling eyes are flashing with unneeded anger. You are, of course, welcome to hold the original dear to your heart, as an adolescent might frame his first centerfold. However, every adaptation of Wuthering Heights brings more and more people back to the original novel. As a businessman, I can tell you that Charlotte would like nothing so much as a strong, nay, a nearly rabid fan base willing to not only pose for her delicious novel, but also attend lavish and press worthy parties.

I salute all the actors involved with Wuthering Heights, especially the lady in the swimsuit, who is more than welcome to drop me a line. Thank you.


Frequent target of fallen angels, Eileen hides from their seductive wrath in the hallowed confines of Defenestration HQ, where she hopes to erect a wall of words between herself and the forces of evil.

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