10 Things I Learnt from… Clueless

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So OK, you’re probably going, “Is this another nostalgia-ridden Clueless appreciation blog written by a 80s-born twentysomething who acts like the movie is the be all and end all of modern cinema?” Yes, it totally is, and yes, the movie totally is. I think every adolescent of a certain age has that one teen-based movie that they first watched when they were way too young to get half the jokes and that you continue to cling to for the rest of your days: a never-ending symbol of their formative youth. That movie that reminds them of being a kid. That movie that you enjoy just as much the 80th time as you did that first. That movie that you watch in bed when you’ve been struck by a debilitating case of man-flu and literally nothing else will do. That movie that you’re fairly certain you’d be capable of performing in a one-person-show adaptation in front of an audience of tens. For those of a certain age, my generation, Clueless is that movie. And If Clueless isn’t that movie, and you’re coming to me with claims that you prefer ‘A Walk To Remember, got your life to ‘Save the Last Dance’ or unleashed your inner-queen every time a bitchy line was uttered in ‘Jawbreaker’, then you can take several seats because I won’t hear of it. Not only does Clueless remind me fondly of the summer evening I first watched it on TV after boking my stomach contents up from drinking too much Coke and medicating myself by drinking flat Coke, it really was my first exposure into anything outside the mind-boggling complexity of Power Rangers. Sex? Gay people? HAITIANS? Just what was this new universe I was being exposed to and why is it so incredible? Can I grow up to be everything that Cher Horowitz, my eternal icon, is? There is absolutely no doubt of the far-reaching moral, intellectual and deeply educational effects this movie had on what was my then-eight-year-old-mind. So without further ado, here is the 10 things I learnt from Clueless.

Technology is the way of the future

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Seriously, I want this. Also, how many pairs of pantyhose does one have in order to justify their own section?

Let’s get one thing straight, I’m from Ireland. And not ‘city-Ireland’, we’re talking ‘surrounded by fields and cows and potatoes’ countryside Ireland. I’m not even sure we had a landline in 1995. Yet what is this sorcery? Mobile devices with massive antennae where one can talk to their friends without being in the same room? Mind blown. I too, wish I could sashay around school on my cellphone discussing the previous afternoon’s episode of Pokemon. Sadly, I would have to wait at least another four or five years before I would possess one of these incredible devices, and frankly I spent most of my time playing Snake during lunchtime. And don’t get me started on Cher’s wonderful piece of kit that allowed her to select, match and plan her outfits of a morning. Every bit as amazing now as it was then. I’m still not sure whatever programme she used was actually a thing, or has since been made into a thing, but if it has, send me a text on my Nokia 5110 with the antenna.

The expanses of the English language

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As everyone is probably aware, Clueless is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma. And yes, superficially, it’s all there. Rich, well-meaning heroine interferes in the love lives of those around her before finally finding love herself with the one person who was a thorn in her side without. Whatever. My personal knowledge begins and ends with an enthusiastic teacher in school and the momentary excitement when Mr. Elton began “making violent love to her”. It doesn’t mean what you think, fact fans. It’s no surprise that Clueless with its witty, more accessible jargon was my preferred method of study. Endlessly quotable, the movie has found its way into my everyday jargon. That’s not to say it isn’t educational either. Like Tai, I too learnt what “sporadically” meant and indeed, was quite chuffed with myself by using it on the regular as a child.

It does not say R.S.V.P on the Statue of Liberty

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So, let’s get political. “Should all oppressed people be allowed refuge in America?” Mr. Hall asks during Cher’s debate class about the Haitians wanting to come to America. Cher, of course, is assigned the pro position and opened our eyes with a stirring anecdote about extra guests arriving to her father’s 50th birthday. Guests who did not R.S.V.P. But Cher is not one to be beaten, she gets to the kitchen, “rearranges some things” and triumphantly claims the more, the merrier. Quite frankly, a speech as topical in 2016 as it was in 2015. In Brexit Britain, when our (charmless) politicians are fearmongering left and right, who’d have thought a character in a decades-old teen movie would be preaching a more inclusive message? Cher Horowitz, political icon of our times.

‘Tis is a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people

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Nope. Not yet.

Now this may surprise you but I watch a lot of movies. Like, a lot of movies. As I write, several large bookcases of DVDs remain a permanent threat to my life should they topple over. So naturally viewing has taught me that one universal truth: popular people are horrible. It’s just the way of the world, right? Not so. Cher is one of the most popular girls in her school, but there is no outcast here to whom she’s the villain. No nerd she relentlessly bullies. She’s actually quite sweet. I mean, yes, Josh happily labels her “90% selfish” and while this is true, like all good heroines she goes on a journey of self-discovery and ends the movie being that much sweeter. She assisted her father, helped two teachers find love, befriended her social lesser and even found time to organise a fundraiser for the aforementioned Haitians. When will Jane Austen’s Emma be capable of such feats?

To Thine Own Self Be True

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Mel Gibson as Hamlet. A once acceptable crush for a teenage girl. Apparently.

Not an excerpt from a Buzzfeed-esque list of inspirational quotes that soon find itself on the Facebook status of the every average attention seeker. Rather a Hamlet quote that Cher corrects Josh’s annoying soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend about (Polonious said it, not Hamlet FYI). It’s not merely a throwaway line, it’s pretty much the main moral lesson of the movie. One of Cher’s rare, if good-intentioned, missteps is to change her new friend Tai by route of classic Hollywood makeover and steer her towards the generic popular guy instead of the skateboarding slacker. I’ll give you one guess which one is the nice guy and which one isn’t. Needless to say, by movie’s end, Cher trailblazes through the social barriers of the high school regime and accepts everyone, regardless of their interests. Which brings me to…

It’s totally okay to fall in love with your step brother

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Mild incest is irrelevant.

Especially when he looks like PrimePaulRudd™. Clueless is one of those unusual movies where the heroine goes without a love interest throughout most of the movie… Well, apart from a brief attraction to the world’s most obvious homosexual, for which I can’t blame her but I digress. This is, of course, until the end of the movie where the most iconic lightbulb moment in movie history happens and Cher realises she’s been in love with her at times annoying, condescending stepbrother all along. Because it’s Paul Rudd. Josh is the perfect foil for Cher, helping her be the best she can be and proves the perfect sparring partner. The movie skips around the ick factor by making it seem like they spent very little time being raised together and we never do find out what their divorced parents think but who cares? He’s cute, he’s intelligent, he’s befuddled, he’s attainable. You just would.

The best seduction technique in the world

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Burnt to a crisp and there’s still a soggy bottom

If there’s one thing I learnt from Clueless, above all, it’s Cher’s go-to, can’t fail, tips on the perfect night in. Now, admittedly, this blow up in her face when she accidentally tries it with a homosexual but that’s beside the point! A lighting concept? Check. Anyone will tell you of the importance of good lighting in a bid to replicate your overly-exposed, filtered selfies in a real-world context. Costume decisions? Check. You can never underestimate the make or break aspect of a poor outfit choice. Show a little skin? Always. Have something baking? Totally. Who wouldn’t be attracted to someone exposing their inner-Mary Berry during a cosy night-in? These golden rules have never set me wrong yet and I’ll have you know my Victoria sponge has punctuated many a successful date.

The existence of ‘the gays’

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Subtle hint is subtle

Oh, how my mind was opened. There was Christian, Cher’s perfect man. Handsome, well-dressed (better than Cher herself according to her commentary), a good dancer (debatable but moving on), he loves to shop (who doesn’t?). There’s just one problem, he’s “a disco dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding, friend of Dorothy.” A what? Gay? I’m sure I had no idea what it meant at that time but that was it, my first induction into the world of all things homosexual. And what an introduction it was. Despite the accuracy of the quote above, Christian wasn’t a mere stereotype or a figure of fun for us to laugh at. It’s Cher who we laugh at when her attempted seduction goes wrong and the universal acceptance of Christian without issue is alarmingly refreshing in films now, nevermind twenty years ago.

There is nothing worse than being a virgin who can’t drive

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Yeah, well, you have bad hair…

The ultimate burn. The darkest shade ever thrown. A knife in the heart to every chaste, public-transport riding individual. I had no idea why Cher was so hurt by Tai’s damning indictment of her situation and in hindsight, I’d have thrown Tai in my electric fireplace for daring to talk to me like that, but I’m not as forgiving as Cher. Like all good and virtuous Austen heroines, Cher is virginal and unable to drive a car – something Tai mocks her for. But really, is there anything wrong with that? Clueless is far from sentimental and Cher lacks the overly earnest storytelling approach a character in her situation might have in any other teen movie like this. It’s not a massive plot point, she’s not waiting for marriage, she’s just waiting for the right guy. He happens to be her step-brother but alas. And as for not being able to drive? Well, maybe the streets are a better place without her.

There is no outfit than can’t be saved with a statement accessory

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Fluffy pens. Knee-high socks. Plaid. Lots and lots of plaid. Berets. Faux-fur backpacks. They say fashion comes in cycles and this is nowhere more evident in Clueless where some of the more iconic looks in the movie have come back in full force. And why not, plaid on plaid is timeless? If all else fails, never forget the most important lesson of all:

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Wear a big hat.

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One thought on “10 Things I Learnt from… Clueless

  1. Tessa

    AMAZING. I so loved this review. You’re hilarious (although I can’t believe you left out Alicia Silverstone and Jeremy Sisto reuniting in Suburgatory) 😉

    Clueless remains one of my favourite films of all time, and I can’t see it ever going out of fashion. They just don’t make ’em like they used to. I can’t actually think of a single thing I don’t like about it.

    Can’t wait for more reviews :’)

    Like

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