This year's Teen Editorial Staff spent an evening watching the film Clueless, and brushing up on their review writing as they prepared for the launch of the 2020/2021 TeenTix Newsroom. Read on to hear what today's teens think of the '90's teen classic!
One could argue that the film’s haphazard plot structure serves to emulate Cher’s ditziness. Unfortunately, her character also confuses me. Near the beginning of the movie, Cher holds up a test to a picture of her mother, who died during a routine liposuction, and cheerfully says, “98 in geometry; pretty groovy, huh?” Cher is smart enough to get 98% of her answers correct… and she uses words like “impotent” and “capricious” in her everyday speech. But, at the same time, her logic leaves much to be desired in her other classes; she thinks her El Salvadorian housekeeper speaks Mexican. There’s a distinct disconnect here that is left unexplained. How can Cher be a brainiac but at the same time be so utterly clueless? How can she be logical enough to write proofs in geometry, but fail to structure a coherent argument in debate??
There’s a reason Clueless has maintained its position in the upper echelons of movie rankings--excellent slang that clearly places its characters in the pre-2000s, fabulous outfits, and a timeless message about not judging others and looking below the surface. Nevertheless, those pros, while admirable, do not outweigh the utter bewilderment I subject myself to every time I click “watch.” Every time, I believe I’ll unearth some deep secret, a clue as to what makes Clueless so classic. Every time, I’m left disappointed.
Clueless provides this satirically lavish and at times aimless depiction of high school for a reason. It is much easier to watch something that feels removed from our own lives and experiences and some of the most uncomfortable moments in the story are also some of the most real. For instance, when we first see Josh and Cher speak, Josh comments to Cher that she is “filling out.” Comments about women’s bodies are—regrettably—a more realistic aspect of Clueless. Because Josh becomes Cher’s love interest, the film, in effect, glamourizes Josh’s comments and plays them as flirtatious. Later, when a male classmate named Elton drives Cher home, he tries to kiss her. Cher shoves him off and tells him to stop before getting out of Elton’s car. This moment is sickening and intentionally so. Perhaps Elton’s is merely a tool to juxtapose Josh; to portray Josh as an endearing, mature, and sincere love interest for Cher. Josh does drive her home when she has to leave Elton’s car. But this attempt to soften Josh is ultimately feeble as his treatment of Cher makes their relationship unconvincing.
On the surface, Clueless seems like a fun and light-hearted teenage drama, but the movie contains a number of tropes that range from the unnecessary to the blatantly uncomfortable. From the movie’s pieces of sexist commentary included for comedic value and the constant emphasis placed by Cher and Dionne on concepts like looks, virginity, and proper femininity to Cher’s stereotypical gay best friend and her relationship with her much-older stepbrother, the movie is filled with things that make it uncomfortable to watch at times. Maybe this type of humor was funny in the ’90s when the film was made, but watching it 20 years later, it feels unnecessary and off-putting. But that doesn’t make it entirely unwatchable. Clueless isn’t the movie to see for an inspiring heroine or a story about true love and age-appropriate romance, but it’s still a fun and light-hearted flick perfect for a socially-distanced movie night—just be sure to watch for the great ‘90s fashion, not the plot."
Clueless remains relevant today, representing the ever-familiar dilemma of dealing with change in one’s life. The world is slipping into chaos right now, and as a teenager stuck in the middle of it all, it’s easy to slip into hopelessness. How can we believe that this will ever get better? Well, if Cher is anyone to go by, we should take it one satin-heeled step at a time.
Throughout the film, the mood remained light with an upbeat soundtrack and frivolous lifestyles highlighted by countless costume changes. The soundtrack included the opening song “Kids In America” by The Muffs, and this movie’s equivalent to a theme song “Rollin' with My Homies” by Coolio. With fancy cars, huge mansions and elaborate outfits that visually added to much to the film, it is clear the problems our characters face are not to do with any physical need. Yet, this light mood may have been too extensive, as even when the standard sad song, “All By Myself,” played, it felt more unearned than anything else.
Clueless is a good movie when looking for something lighthearted and silly to watch with friends; less so if wanting to start a deeper conversation about any serious topics. Though it does touch on the issue of sexual harassment, that scene is never revisited after the fact, and the harasser never faces any repercussions for his actions. Likewise, while the movie accentuates problems of wealth and class, these problems are never resolved. Though Cher does attempt to cultivate her empathy by helping to organize a charity event, she remains incredibly ignorant through to the end of the film.