Monday, June 4, 2012

Spotlight on: Clueless

'Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.'
 When those of us on the tail-end of Gen X, or birth of Gen Y were just awkward 10-year-olds with braces, bad hair, and chubby fingers, there was a film that defined everything about growing up in the 90's, and even if we were far too young for a lot of their inside jokes we relished in it, and remember it verbatim to this day.
Penned as a contemporary adaptation of the Jane Austen classic 'Emma' (1815) it told the story of a totally loaded blondie from Beverly Hills named Cher played impeccably by Alicia Silverstone who tries to improve on the shallowness and general misdirection of her peers through the cutest catchphrases of the 90's.
Sure you have your 'as ifs' and your 'whatevers' but my personal favorite is 'He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying?' which is exactly what I say to a friend every time I'm trying to convince her that her boyfriend is gay.
But let's talk about the star of the film for one second, blonde, Lolita-esque, curvy, ditsy, and cute as a button Jew Alicia who could not have been more perfectly cast. She was total jailbait but in fact had based much of her career prior to Clueless (1995) on that very shtick. She was the Frodo Baggins in the trilogy of early 90's Aerosmith videos, and by the time she hit the feature screen she was only 16, while her counterpart Stacey Dash (Dionne) was like 30 playing a 16 year old.
As a girl, I just remember wanting nothing more than to be exactly like Cher when I grew up from the soft flowy hair which she adjusts every two seconds, to the designer wardrobe (particularly that infamous yellow outfit she wears in the beginning of the film) I think I even begged on my knees for my parents to buy me one of those windowless white Jeeps that were so popular back then, of course if you hit a speed bump you'd be doing somersaults against the pavement until the car compressed into the size of a foil ball like an accordion. To perpetuate the Lolita aesthetic, she also had those ridiculous knee high socks, remember those? If you played Varsity Volleyball like me you did, because that was part of the uniform. Together with a brightly colored plait skirt and a tight baby-tee, we were all sold.
I'm still waiting for someone to bring back the oversized headband-minidress-thigh high socks look. A girl can dream.

Another Lolita-like quality of the film is the whole incest undertone. I don't know if I'm the only one, but I was and still am pretty bothered by the fact that she ends up with her step-brother (played by Paul Rudd) at the end of it all, I know they are not related by blood and step-sibling romances were a huge trend in the 90's (Cruel Intentions (1999) par example) I still found it rather icky.
But all that aside, we cannot deny that Clueless was a defining moment in 90's culture along with Vanilla Ice, Woodstock '99, and the OJ Bronco chase. Girls my age took pretty much all of their cues from this delightful little film, impeccably written and directed by New York intellectual Amy Heckerling. Aesthetically speaking, no other film better captured what it was like to grow up in the 90's, and it's just too bad that the millennial's don't have something quite like Clueless to point to and say 'this was me, I lived this'. Oh and also, RIP Brittany Murphy...I guess. I'm outty.

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