Sporadic thoughts on Clueless

I've been trying to make my hair look like this since 1996.

I’ve been trying to make my hair look like this since 1996.

I watched Clueless today for the first time in probably….I dunno, five years? Eight?

I wanted to write something coherent and insightful about this movie, which so significantly shaped my adolescent thoughts about hair, clothes, boys, friends, sex, vocabulary, Tony Curtis, and the way I cross my legs. But I imagine this has already been widely done in the blog- and social-media sphere.

What I think is most important about this movie (besides the fact that it is still freaking hilarious after all these years) is that it paved the way for movies like Mean Girls and Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect. What these all have in common is that they’re primarily about learning to get over yourself and stop being an ass, which (secondarily) makes it possible for you to be a better friend. The cute love interest is the icing on the cake but comes in third place in terms of driving the plot.

Other than this, though, I find it hard to organize my thoughts about this movie. So, watch it with me, won’t you, for the first time in a long time? 

That opening sequence…the first image that registers in my brain is: pink knee highs!

Whois that guy in the background? You know, they feed him a cherry like one second later in the opening sequence. Is he some kind of Beverly Hills soda jerk?

Ah, the yellow plaid outfit that changed my life. But so what? Is there a woman of my generation for whom this is not the case? For me, it led  me to bright colors (win), but also to a long, sad, unrequited crush on plaid pleated skirts. I’ve tried on every one I come across, for years and years and years and years. To this day. I still have not come to terms with the fact that they do not work on me.


I kind of love Cher’s dad. We hear that he’s a scary litigator. We hear him refer to his parents as brain-dead lowlifes. He grouses at Cher. But then the first time he really puts his foot down, it’s to say, with a scary look in his eye, “You divorce wives, not children.” He’s a family man at heart.

Although this does make it all the weirder in the middle of the movie when he gives us that knowing look, revealing that he totally knows the guy he vehemently claims as his stepson totally has the hots for his daughter, and is fine with it.

Cher describes having her learner’s permit and I suddenly realize my “baby” cousin Sammie also has her learner’s permit and is the same age as Cher. Insert mini-panic attack about college boys, drugs, and sex.

We’re less than 5 minutes into the movie and already on the 4th perfect song of the soundtrack (I’m just a girl)

Speaking of vehicular sex…..

This is one of those wonderful lines that I didn’t quite catch until I’d seen the movie a dozen times. And then it suddenly clicked and the movie was new all over again.

Can’t we all just party with the Haiti-ans? And….

Could the suicide attempts please be postponed til next period?

Wallace Shawn is so good in this movie. So many great lines. “Tolerance is always a good lesson…even when it comes out of nowhere.” He has his trademark slightly hysterical high-pitched voice, but instead of being crazed like in The Princess Bride, he is so very dry.

“Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way to 1972.” This is just one of those tiny punchlines that almost slips under the radar. Or at least it did when I was 11 and 1972 seemed like ancient times.

Hm, black mesh blouse with floofy cuffs and purpley lipliner. Yikes

Why does it look like Cher is eating carrots out of a giant Pyrex dish?

Why does it look like Cher is eating carrots out of a giant Pyrex dish?

“Just because your mom marries someone else doesn’t mean he’s your father.”

“Actually, Kato, that’s exactly what it means.”

One of the best things about Clueless is that it is so very un-Clueless about its own moment in time. This is, of course an O.J. Simpson trial reference. You could watch this dozens of times and catch new references.

Here comes dad again, calling everyone chuckleheads and being awesome.

All three of them interrupting family dinner by checking their cellphones at the table? Positively primeval!

Yes! More Wallace Shawn:

I assume you’re referring to women’s troubles.

Also, surfing the crimson wave? This movie speaks more openly about menstruation than anyone I ever knew in my real adolescent life. Make of that what you will.

Bwahaha, Josh is reading Nietzsche by the pool! Paul Rudd looks like such a smug baby:

Where would I find such a loser?

Where would I find such a loser?

“Would you call me selfish?”

“No, not to your face.” Snort.

Never forget Dionne’s red pleather miniskirt:


Never forget Dionne’s red pleather miniskirt

Cher taught me that caffeine stunts your growth. But the more important lesson–“legs crossed toward each other, that’s an unequivocal sex invite”–has crossed my mind literally every time I have ever crossed my legs in the last two decades. Who am I crossing them towards? What am I communicating? Surely I am not alone in this.

Cher’s description of what she ate today (2 bowls of special K, three pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, five peanut butter M&Ms and like three pieces of licorice) sounds basically like what I ate every day in high school. I went years without eating an actual lunch. I wasn’t trying to not eat. I just didn’t bring a lunch with me, and grazed from vending machines.

Girls just wanna have fun. But gym class is not fun. And these black and white gym uniforms were/are so bewildering to me. It turned out to be a myth that in high school you can just wear anything you want that is black, white, and silver to gym.

Not representative of my P.E. experience

Not representative of my P.E. experience

Ah, here it is: Cher gives us the spaghetti strap tank top over a white T-shirt.

This exchange appeared in the trailer for the movie, and as a result my mom wouldn't let me see it. I had to wait to see it on video two years later.

This exchange appeared in the trailer for the movie, and as a result my mom wouldn’t let me see it. I had to wait to see it on video two years later.

This is how the spaghetti strap  infiltrated my middle school. I remember when the t-shirt and cami were sold as a set. Within a couple of years we were dropping the t-shirts and revealing our bra straps for all to see.

“Murray! I have asked you repeatedly not to call me woman!”

“Excuse me Miss Dionne. OK, but street slang is an increasingly valid form of communication. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones.”

Oh, now Josh is making a very sloppy sandwich and I can see that the “baking dish” of carrots from earlier was actually a refrigerator drawer. And apparently all the turkey is laid out in its own drawer as well? What is going on in their fridge, that each food item is removed from its packaging and placed its own drawer? I think someone needs to have a conversation with Lucy.

There is a whole generation of women who will never forget the definition of “sporadic”

Wait, they go to Bronson Alcott high school, but when Cher is listing off the available boys, one of them is also Bronson? That seems like a mistake. Thoughts?

Ah, the using photography to get guys to put their arms around your friends trick. Been there.

Ah, the using photography to get guys to put their arms around your friends trick. Been there.

That photo of Tai that Elton asks for a copy of is probably the weakest part of the adaptation from Emma to Clueless. In the book (ok, fine, in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie), Mr. Elton asks for a copy of Emma’s painting of Harriet. In Clueless, he asks for a copy of the photo because he has a crush on Cher’s photography skills? I don’t think so.

Also, everyone remembers when Cher calls Amber a “Monet,” but did you catch the part where she says Tai looks like Botticelli chick? Apparently Cher is secretly into art, which is weird, because she looks bored out of her mind when Christian tries to tell her about sculpture.

OK, now we’re at the Valley party and Travis spilled his drink on Cher’s shoes. Like Cher, I have screamed in frustration when a paper towel leaps out of my hand. I like to think that was an accident and they left it in the final cut.


Ugh, Jeremy Sisto, you are permanently shunned for your role as Elton. And your turn as Earl in Waitress didn’t did do you any favors. I haven’t seen you in Law & Order or 6 Feet Under, but I can only assume that there is no redemption to be had there.

And if you have to sing like a creeper, can you at least do it with the music, instead of at your own special tempo?

There is definitely a beret double standard in this movie. Cher can wear one, but when Heather does it, she’s a crazy beatnik college nerd?

You and berets just don’t mesh.

Ok. This, this is the exact moment when I graduated from, like Ryder Strong and Devon Sawa to something much, much better.

Totally unprepared was I, to face a world of men.

Ah, Christian and the infamous feather pen, making an entrance at almost exactly the same moment:

Poor Christian, he is basically the only member of the cast who doesn’t look better at 40 than he did at 20, according to the EW Clueless reunion photo shoot:


The GiGi theme playing when Cher comes down the stairs–so great.

“Josh, go to the party. Go, go go.” “I’ll watch her for you.” “You do that.” Yeah, here’s that moment. Mel is apparently cool with all of this.

The first time I saw this movie (and upon several subsequent viewings), I definitely thought Tai was wearing roller skates when she came into the party and fell down the stairs. But no–just silver hi-tops.

“They’re CHARging for BREWskis.”

Ah, Cher’s lavender sweater set and those flippy clippies. I had all of that. All of it.

We’re not all as naturally adorable as you

There is so much lip liner in this movie.

Sporadicus. 🙂

The freeway scene reminds me of every driving experience I had under the age of 18. Actually I think this movie predisposed me to be terrified of driving on the highway. Freaking out was apparently the natural reaction, so that is what I did. Without a little white lace cap, though, to my shame.

My 8th grade graduation dance dress was more or less modeled on Cher’s mall shopping dress. I wasn’t consciously imitating her at the time, but the influence seems obvious now. Empire waists! Poofy little sleeves! Huh, it’s actually a nice little nod to Jane Austen, too, now that I think about it:

Dionne asks Tai: “Does the sponge work in water?”

Timely reference or mistake? I’m not sure! As we know from Elaine Benes, the contraceptive sponge was removed from the market at about this time. Wikipedia says it became unavailable in the U.S. in 1994.

“I had to find my most responsible looking ensemble!” This is basically what’s happening in my head every time I pack for a business trip.

“You’re a virgin. Who can’t drive.” Way harsh. Tai has major dagger eyes in this scene.

I really like the part where Cher realizes that each of her friends has their own talents, points of view, and unique good qualities. I just do.

Ah, the Pismo Disaster Relief drive: my first exposure to bongs and 12-step programs! OK, yes I was super naive. I definitely thought this was some terrifying sexual implement. But would I ever ask anyone about this? No. Years later I figured it out.

Kitchen supplies?

And after all that tension about the September 3rd call and Cher’s braids and purple pants, the silly ending, and the first blatantly obvious French kiss I remember seeing in a movie.

It’s in the bag

And yes. There was a time when I thought it would be a great idea to have my bridesmaids wear sailor hats with veils.

It is a happy relief to report that, unlike Christian, Clueless has aged well and, unlike some movies, holds up under the scrutiny of the years-later-viewing. So get ye to a VCR! Just kidding: it’s streaming on Netflix.


10 thoughts on “Sporadic thoughts on Clueless

  1. Pingback: Sporadic thoughts on Clueless | ChristianBookBarn.com

    • Ha, thanks! I actually started the movie over 20 minutes into it because I wanted to go back and capture all the weird memories that were surfacing.

      I laughed at all the same stuff the second time through.

      Also, A LOT happens in the first 10 minutes of Clueless. They don’t waste any time.

    • That sounds right. Wasn’t he some kind of unitarian proto-communist, friends with Thoreau and stuff? I’m getting some of this from a children’s coloring book about Louisa May Alcott and some from the novel March, which is a fictitious work about a fictitious character so…I might not be quite on target here. But Bronson is such an unusual name, it seems odd to me that both the school and an unseen character would both have it. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Pingback: Why you should be drinking coffee | Loafers and Lattes

  3. Pingback: “Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable” | Chameleon in Boots

  4. Did you notice that when Tai is at the dance, after she falls and says, “now I’m gonna be known as the girl who fell”, that as she’s standing awkwardly on the sidelines with no one to dance with, she changes the way she wears her shirt a few times?? One time it’s actually on her head. HILARIOUS!!!

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