Artwork by Charlotte Southall
Clueless is undeniably one of the most iconic pieces of teen cinema ever made.
There’s no denying the impact this film has had on the teen genre of film as well as teens and pop culture in general. I’ve probably quoted every single line of this film either in casual conversation or as a caption for an Instagram post at some point in my life. The fashion and style of this film has gone on to inspire people decades after its release. Its influence can easily be spotted in recent music videos, fashion lines and even Halloween costumes. Recently Clueless celebrated its 20th anniversary since its release in 1995 and it’s safe to say that it has aged very well. Films this timeless are pretty rare, but the fact that this movie has managed to stay relevant even 20 years after its release just proves how classic it is and I am totally, butt crazy in love with it!
Amy Heckerling basically took a classic novel and adapted it into a classic film. Loosely based on Jane Austin’s Emma, Clueless is about Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a popular rich girl from Beverly Hills who thrives on making other peoples lives better through the practice of makeovers and matchmaking. These two things give Cher purpose. According to Cher’s best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), makeovers give Cher “a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”
Although her luxurious lifestyle is unattainable for most, under the surface, Cher is a character that teen girls can actually relate to. She’s young and maybe a bit superficial and naïve but she’s also a really intelligent and kind person. Some people are way harsh with their judgment, and look at her (and teenage girls in general) as though all she’s interested in is shopping and fashion. Yeah, her main thrill in life might be makeovers, but that one factor doesn’t define her entire personality. Underneath it all, she’s a girl who also reads one non-school book a week (which is a lot of books!), loves helping people, and could probably follow in the footsteps of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and become a great lawyer someday. This based on the fact that she can argue her way from a C+ to an A- on her report card and spends her free time helping her father (a lawyer) on his cases.
There’s a scene in which Cher is in debate class and she’s making a speech about why oppressed Haitian people should be allowed refuge in America, but when she talks about Haitians, she pronounces it wrong and says “hate-ee-ans” and I just felt like that was so real to the teenage experience. We can’t be expected to know everything at age 16 and messing up pronunciations of foreign countries is just an embarrassing part of growing up and coming of age, which is literally the name of the genre that this film belongs to. Amy Heckerling has said that this pronunciation of Haitians wasn’t in the script and that Alicia Silverstone pronounced it that way because that’s just how she read it. The rest of the crew wanted to correct her but Heckerling said, “No, let her do it that way.” I really love that she kept that in the film because that scene just wouldn’t have the same charm it does if she had pronounced it the right way.
Clueless really benefited from having a woman as its director and probably would not have had the same effect if it had been written/directed by a man. It’s a rare form of teen comedies to come out of 90’s in which the male gaze is absent, it passes the Bechdel test and it has well-developed female characters. This is why it’s so great that teens continue to obsess over it.
Over the past 20 years, Clueless, has taken its time to resonate with three decades worth of teens. Every year, new teenagers discover this movie, develop a connection with it, and make Tumblr blogs or Twitter accounts dedicated to it, and create Pintrest boards and Polyvore sets using the films costumes as style inspiration. After all these years, this movie still happens to have a growing fan base that thrives on creating things inspired by it, which is such an amazing thing!
If for some crazy reason, you haven’t seen Clueless yet, go watch it on Netflix or find it in the $5 DVD aisle at Target and watch it sporadically!
by Shaianne Hugh
Shaianne is an 18 year old student from New York, currently at university in London. She is a stand up comedian, but only in her dreams and her obsession with Twin Peaks will most likely be her downfall. Her infinite list of favorite films include The Virgin Suicides, Donnie Darko, Fight Club and everything Wes Anderson has ever made. Watch her tweet embarrassing declarations of love to members of One Direction here: @shaialabeouf