Clueless

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Clueless poster 1.jpg

Ugh, As if!

Clueless is a 1995 teen comedy from Amy Heckerling, starring Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash and the late Brittany Murphy.

Set in Beverly Hills and focusing on spoiled, shallow, but essentially good hearted teenager Cher Horowitz. It was actually an unofficial updating of Jane Austen's Emma, adding funny, but affectionate, jabs at early 90's teen culture, high school, and valley girls (so, basically, doing exactly what Emma did, only in the 1990's instead of the 1810's). Introduced a fresh wave of California slang across the world.

Inspired a TV adaptation with many of the same actors that ran for three seasons, first on ABC and later on UPN, starting off with many of the same plotlines as the movie but eventually going off into its own direction.

Tropes used in Clueless include:
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra: Cher's phone serves as The Monolith while this plays in the background. Cher explains that boys calling when they say they would is extremely rare, so she is appropriately surprised and impressed when Christian does call the following day.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Horowitzes.
  • Black Best Friend: Dionne "Dee" Davenport.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Cher, Dee, and Tai, respectively, with Dee as the Token Minority type. Amber replaces Tai in the show.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Cher Horowitz is a good example of the smarter (if still shallow and naive) version and is also unusual in being the actual protagonist. She's also sweeter and more considerate than the usual example in several ways, in that she's constantly fretting about her father's stress levels and need to have a proper breakfast, and reaches out to make friends with the awkward and unfashionable newcomer to the school (for pretty shallow reasons at the time, but still).
  • Break-Up Bonfire
  • The Ditz: Tai Fraiser's amiable airhead. To a lesser extent Cher herself -- she is not actually unintelligent as such, but she certainly isn't a deep thinker or especially perceptive. Cher has a sharp mind (unlike Tai), she just doesn't really use it all time.
  • Driving Test: Failed, spectacularly.
  • Fashion Hurts: Cher implies that her party clothes are so binding that they make it hard to relax.
  • The Film of the Book: Emma by Jane Austen.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Cher and Josh.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Cher's feather boa on the movie cover, and an outfit in the movie that her cell phone clashes with.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Cher's report card. The comment from her (male) geometry teacher is "Nice shapes".
  • Geeky Turn On: Tai and Travis bond over Marvin the Martian.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:

Amber: I'm not supposed to indulge in any activity where balls fly at my nose.
Dionne: There goes your social life...

Murry: Your man Christian is a cake boy! He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying?

  • Invisible to Gaydar: Subverted. Christian does indeed have some Camp Gay tendencies but Cher is too naïve to realize. Her father doesn't appear to notice either, thinking him instead a Sinatra-wannabe. Must be a California thing. Murry's Gaydar is very sharp though.
  • It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: "It's faux!"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mel Horowitz is a feared litigation attorney who terrifies everyone around him with his blunt manner, but he clearly loves Cher and is a devoted father to her and Josh (see Parental Abandonment below).
  • Love Epiphany
  • The Makeover: Two: one for Tai, and one for Cher after she tries to smarten up.
  • The Monolith
  • The Nineties: An odd but valid example -- the whole movie seems really dated looking back, but at the time it was made, nobody dressed or talked like the characters in Clueless. The movie influenced the 90s, not the other way around.
    • It should be noted that some of the clothing, specifically the looks sported by the teen guys, is still relevant and prevalent as of The New Tens.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Step-siblings in this case -- or to be more specific, ex-step-siblings.
  • Oblivious to Love: Cher is adamant about setting Tai up with Elton, despite the fact that Elton clearly has a thing for her instead. If not just how he looks at her, how about how he's always grabbing her from behind & kissing her cheeks whenever he gets the chance. Hello!
  • Overprotective Dad:

Mel Horowitz: Anything happens to my daughter, I have a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anyone would miss you.

  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Cher's mother died during a freak accident in a routine liposuction. Granted, Cher doesn't really remember her that much, although she does pretend she's watching over her and greets the large picture of her at the front door. Josh also teases her about this being her motive for wanting to make over Tai and treat her like one of her dolls. There is one surprisingly touching scene where, when she's insecure that she isn't a good person, her father tells her he hasn't seen such good-doing since her mother, which seems to greatly comfort her.
    • Subverted with Josh, however; despite being divorced from his mother and having no blood relation, Mel makes a point of being a devoted father to him.

Mel Horowitz: You divorce wives, not children.

  • Politically-Motivated Teacher: Miss Geist, who wants to inspire her students to save the environment and aid disaster victims. She's portrayed as dorky, but likable.
  • Product Placement: "Ooh, Snickers..."
  • Reconstruction: It's difficult to imagine now but the whole Teen Movie genre was moribund in the early 90's; Clueless was the first commercial and critical success in many years, perhaps because it was such an exuberant return to the optimism of the 80's genre films.
  • Retail Therapy: Whenever Cher's feeling down she goes shopping.
  • Setting Update: Of Emma. Most of the plot stays the same, except it gets rid of some of the Values Dissonance of the Jane Austen novel, such as the marriage focus (having the Frank Churchill stand-in, Christian, turn out to be gay rather than secretly engaged, for example) and the class issues. Cher lampshades the former difference when her They Do moment and kiss-fest with Josh flips straight to a wedding where she says "Ew, no, I'm only 16! As if!" and reveals it to be Miss Geist and Mr. Hall's wedding.
  • She's Got Legs: At one point Christian complements Cher on her "nice stems" after he (and the camera) get a nice look at them.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cher, definitely. Despite being rich, she is genuinely sweet to people and usually motivated by good feelings.
  • Stern Teacher: Mr. Hall is the only teacher Cher can't sweet-talk or 'negotiate' her grades with, and is a bit long-suffering with the eccentricities and antics of his students, but is a fairly reasonable fellow otherwise (not least since Cher probably didn't entirely deserve getting her grades adjusted). He certainly lightens up considerably after being (unwittingly) set up with Miss Geist.
  • The Stoner: Travis
  • Technical Virgin: Dionne claims to be this and that she satisfies Murray in other ways.
  • Theme Naming: Cher and her friend Dionne share first names with '70s singers, apparently so the leading male character could be called Elton, like his counterpart in Emma.
  • Valley Girl: Several main characters are Valley Girls. This film cemented the trope in popular culture.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Not the first Western example, but probably the first one to make most Westerners sit up and take notice.

The show provides examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]