Every couple of years, I crave this one specific movie about frivolous high school girls from the heart of the frivolous 90s. It’s called “Clueless.” Have you seen it?
It’s not the most elite cultural artifact the way “The Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” might be – at least, not yet. “Clueless” is about a few rich Beverly Hill Valley girls (Wikipedia has a remarkably thorough description) whose lives center around boyfriends, clothes and popularity. In general, that’s it. The IMDB synopsis goes like:
A US West Coast teen lifestyle parody centered around Cher, a popular high school girl who spends her days playing match-maker, helping her friends with fashion choices, and looking for a boyfriend.
Relatively few people are scavenging their public library for this iconic chick flick masterpiece. If they are, one would probably and correctly predict that they are young women (e.g. me and Melanie, hee hee).
But here we go: I’m about to get serious about “Clueless.” As we watched and laughed for an hour and a half at Cher and her seemingly half-brained world, it registered for the first time how much there is to miss.
– For one, the script is filled with intellectual digressions and references to 90s-culture ironies that all feel sneaky and strategic because they pass so fast. Every time I watch it, it’s like: I definitely did not hear this the last time. Was I even listening?
– For two, I remembered that at one point, I had looked up to Cher and her high school maturity; at another point, I had understood her confusion about crushes and qualms about clothes; still later, I had begun to understand Cher’s stepbrother’s complaints that her only concern is staying pretty and popular, and doing good deeds for others to look good herself…
– Which leads me to point three, which is that there is a lot of uncredited truth about how many of us really lived, or wanted to live out, high school, buried in “Clueless.” Re-watching it this time around, there were many moments to laugh incredulously at Cher – before I felt a tinge of discomfort and realized I was just laughing at myself.
Why do these observations about reality in “Clueless” lose out to the more well-known fake-ness? Maybe because it’s a self-accepting “chick flick,” and Cher is the ditzy, blonde hot-type and whines a lot. Maybe because she talks in the “likes,” “ums,” and “as ifs” of her stereotype. I asked Melanie what about the movie made Cher’s ideas about materiality, sex and insecurity seem so, you know, totally–not-me, and I agree with her concise summary: Delivery. It’s packaged into a light piece of entertainment for tweens and 20-somethings; thus it’s easy to forget that Movie Cher is only living what most Real Life Us really did and still do think is cool – better clothes, a high-status significant other, the worship of other people. Priorities like that are not frivolous fiction – they are real, modern-day choices.
Not all things change with age. Many issues and insecurities that plagued us in high school did not end when we graduated like we often assume, but rather started on a very permanent journey with us. Perhaps it’s too easy to look down on younger youth, their slang, their focus on externals, bad planning and complaining. Seriously, watching “Clueless,” I found I was mocking things that were way more relevant to me than I thought.