Staying on brand, I waited until the year of our lord, 2020 to watch the 1995 classic Clueless. Unlike a good amount of media content from the ’90s, Clueless aged fairly well and deserves the label of classic. Sure, the clothing choices show how folks were ensembly challenged, fashion victims in the 90’s. Yes, diet and exercise regimen of Cher and her friends is somewhat concerning. Focus on the positives: the quotability, the underlying themes, and the fact that no matter how much money you have, high school isn’t a great time. Honestly, I enjoyed Clueless, and truly it might be the only way I consume the story of Emma – sincerest apologies to any Jane Austen fans, I am an uncultured swine when it comes to literature.
*This contains spoilers, not that it matters because this movie literally came out 25 years ago.
On the surface the characters of Clueless didn’t strike me as the most exciting or even very likable. While I understand that the goal isn’t to necessarily make all characters likable, I struggled to wrap my head around why people loved this movie so much when upon first glance everyone is so wrapped up in themselves. In the beginning of the movie, Cher comes off like an airhead with a father too engrossed in lawyering to pay attention to his only child, Dionne appears to be a subpar friend too wrapped up in a crap relationship with Murray, Tai seems like a stoner with the most potential for likability, and Josh is a millennial before his time. Over the course of the movie, each character has their moment and mostly all become likable. Murray remains kind of stupid, but because Donald Faison plays him, he’s endearing, Amber stays rude but I think it’s because Cher low-key bullies her, and Elton straight up sucks.
Cher’s growth throughout the movie does make one believe she is not a completely self-focused, control-freak airhead. However, her altruistic pursuits do make a case that nobody is truly altruistic because an ulterior motive drives the behavior. In Cher’s case, she wanted to impress Josh, not that she really needed to because it becomes obvious he’s interested in her the night she gets mugged. Her journey from seeming to only care about being popular to wanting to give back is cute and fun, so while her motives to do good are based on another person, she becomes better for it and her need for control is used for good. The end justifies the means.
Dionne points out Cher’s quest for control when they meet Tai and decide to give her a makeover, she says, “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover. It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.” Instead of focusing on making someone else conform to her standard of beauty, Cher should have focused on writing better debate speeches, but I digress. Cher and Dionne try to teach Tai the ins and outs of who she can be friends with, how to dress, how to stay fit, and how to speak. Sounds like good friends. Fortunately, by the end of the movie Cher seems to give up on trying to control her friend, and you know what we call that, growth.
As I said before, Clueless’ quotability contributes to keeping it fairly timeless:
“Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.” Cher says as she drives up to a mansion in her dope Jeep.
“Ugh. As if!” Cher when a high school guy hits on her because she says she doesn’t date high school boys, that is until Christian arrives (and even then, is it considered dating if one person thinks you’re just friends?).
This exchange between Cher and Dionne where Cher asks “Would you call me selfish?” Dionne responds with “No, not to your face.” A real friend would call you selfish to your face.
Cher describing her friendship with Dionne, “She’s my friend because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us.” This is an early line in the movie that lowers Cher and Dionne’s likability.
Dionne low-key bullying Amber in PE when Amber says, “My plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls are flying at my nose.” Dionne’s rebuttal of “Well, there goes your social life.” flies under the radar slightly, but wow is it funny.
And finally, the moment Tai shines in the meanest way when she says, “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” Right after Cher fails her driver’s test. It’s probably a little problematic, but it’s a great burn.
An unexpected dialogue in the movie occurs between Dionne and Murray when he says “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily in misogynistic undertones.” After she tells him not to call her “woman” (a valid request). I don’t know why, but I assume the worst of the ’90s and didn’t realize misogyny was a topic of conversation. My bias towards the years before the 2010’s is that nobody was trying to flex and be “woke” so of course mainstream media didn’t incorporate topics like misogyny. Point Clueless and I will be revisiting media from before the 2010’s to educate myself (if you have recommendations, please send them my way so I don’t rewatch Top Gun for the millionth time).