Wiki Headlines
It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Clueless

"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 '90s teen culture, high school, and valley girls (so, basically, doing exactly what Emma did, only in the 1990s instead of the 1810s). 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 plot-lines as the movie but eventually going off into its own direction.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki and at IMDB.

"Sex. Tropes. Popularity. Is there a problem here? Examples everywhere":

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Christian, Frank Churchill's equivalent, is homosexual in this film.
  • Affair Hair: Dionne finds an entire braided hair extension in Murray's car, and accuses him of infidelity. When Murray jokingly suggests it may have fallen off Dionne, she reacts angrily, yelling "I do not wear polyester hair!".
  • All Women Love Shoes/Distracted by the Luxury: Cher's self-pitying internal monologue is interrupted when she passes a window display of shoes and goes "Ooh! I wonder if they have that in my size?"
  • Alpha Bitch: Amber.
  • 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.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: While most of the time Dionne and Murray are snapping at each other, Cher notes they really are affectionate with each other when they think no one's looking.
  • Big Fancy House: Cher's mansion.
  • 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
  • But Not Too Gay/Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: Christian being gay is basically Informed Homosexuality. It's only ever announced by Murray with Cher and Dionne agreeing, and Christian has never been seen in a relationship with another guy.
    • But he does get distracted from dancing with Cher by a guy at the party, and turns his attention fully towards dancing with him, something which Josh notices at the time. He also never responds to any girls flirting with him, except for Cher (in a fun, friends kind of way), but has an open, flirtatious body language around guys.
  • Catch Phrase: "As if!"
  • Cultured Badass: Christian, a Rat Pack lover, knowledgeable about the arts, and has a taste for Billie Holiday and vintage films... but you do anything so stupid that could threaten someone else's safety, he won't be afraid to confront you with the threat of a physical throw-down.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Tai takes a handful of spills throughout the story.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Josh. Cher also has her moments, especially when she's interacting with him.
  • 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.
    • She's not exactly up on her geography either, as this exchange while she and Josh are watching a news report about war in Bosnia demonstrates.
    Josh: "You look confused."
    Cher: "It's just that, I thought they declared peace in The Middle East."
  • 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.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Subverted. The scene where Cher and Josh admit their feelings for each other and kiss is immediately followed by a wedding scene... at which point, Cher's voice-over points out how gross it is for everyone to assume that it's her getting married, seeing as she's only sixteen and has only been going out with Josh for a few months by that point. The wedding is actually for the teachers she set up earlier in the movie.
  • 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...
  • Good Bad Girl: Most everyone, but especially Cher. The primary theme of the movie comes down to it being possible to be vapid, shallow and even a little naughty (Cher is shown drinking and smoking a little at a party) while still having a good heart with good intentions.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: When Murray is telling Cher Christian is gay.
    Murray: Your man Christian is a cake boy!
    Cher & Dionne: A what?
    Murray: He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand-ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying?
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lucy gets mad when Cher mistakes her for a Mexican (she's from El Salvador). After she storms out of the room, Cher comments to Josh that she doesn't see what the big deal is, and Josh says, "You get upset if anyone thinks you live below Sunset."
  • 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).
  • Jewish American Princess: Cher is a subversion of this.
  • Love Epiphany
  • The Makeover: Two: one for Tai, and one for Cher after she tries to smarten up.
  • Missing Mom: Cher's mother died during a freak complication 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.
  • The Monolith
  • Mood Whiplash: At one point, the narration of Cher's rather glum introspection on her feelings for Josh and how everything seems to be going wrong for her is very suddenly interrupted when she notices some very nice shoes in a store window.
  • 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!
    • Played with, however, in that it's not so much 'love' that Cher is oblivious to but 'lust' — it's ultimately made pretty clear that Elton doesn't really want much more than to get into Cher's pants.
  • Overprotective Dad
    Mel Horowitz: Anything happens to my daughter, I have a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anyone would miss you.
  • Parental Abandonment: 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.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: When Tai expresses a crush on Josh and seeing Cher's disapproval of it she eventually snaps and says "Why should I take advice from you? You're a virgin who can't drive." It's downplayed because Cher was obviously hurt and Tai immediately regrets saying that and they reconcile a few scenes later.
  • 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 likeable.
  • Product Placement: "Ooh, Snickers..."
    • Also there are a few brands mentioned in the movie,such as Calvin Klein and Fred Segal,and the outfit Cher buys during her walk in Rodeo Drive is from Christian Dior, as seen later on her shopping bag.
    • Cher is also seen with a Starbucks cup in few scenes.
  • 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.
  • Status Cell Phone: The main characters all having mobile phones despite being in high school was intended as a joke about how spoilt and well-off they were. Modern viewers tend not to understand why a high school student with a mobile phone is supposed to be funny.
  • 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.
  • Straight Gay: Subverted. Christian does indeed have some Camp Gay tendencies but Cher is too na´ve to realise. Her father doesn't appear to notice either, thinking him instead a Sinatra-wannabe. Must be a California thing. Murray's Gaydar is very sharp though, and Josh clues in at the dance when he realises Christian is flirt-dancing with the boys around him rather than with Cher.
  • Technical Virgin: Dionne claims to be this and that she satisfies Murray in other ways. This changes after the freeway incident, although that was waved away for the series.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Tai, post makeover. Cher's influence took a bit too strongly. Fortunately it doesn't stick.
  • 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.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: This movie screams mid-nineties. Fortunately, thanks to good writing and genuinely funny humor, the movie is still worth watching even today.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Given the type of characters that star...
  • 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.

"As if!":

  • Affectionate Parody: The episodes "Scream Murray Scream! (Part 1)" and "Scream Again Murray, Scream Again (Part 2)" are this, of the 1996 film Scream.
  • As Themselves: The band Luscious Jackson, on "Sharing Cher"
  • Ascended Extra: The actor who played Sean had a very small role in the film, but was elevated to main cast for the show.
  • Broke Episode: Cher and her father went broke in season 2 finale, "Cashless" ,until "Back from Bakersfield" in season 3 when they became wealthy again.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Though at first nearly every character from the movie appeared on the TV series, this was gradually whittled down to just the core five of later seasons.
  • Crossover: With Moesha. Shar Jackson and Lamont Bentley appeared on "Prom Misses, Prom Misses" (Season 3, Episode 20) as their respective characters, Niecy Jackson and Hakeem Campbell.
  • Disneyfication: Even though Dionne and Murray had sex in the movie, they do not hook-up until the last episode of the show.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Episode 8 of Season 3 was titled "Never P.E.T.A. Squirrel".
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Cher, although this is revised later on.
  • Informed Judaism: Cher and her dad, mentioned only when the plot demands it.
  • Miss Conception
  • Mythology Gag: In an early Cher voiceover in the movie, she says that she and Dionne were "both named for famous singers who now do infomercials." The first season episode "I Got You Babe" is, of course, named for a famous Sonny and Cher song, and brings it all full circle, since the plot centers around Cher falling for a college student named...Sonny.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Several episodes involve Cher attempting to make people's lives better in some way and failing, or, as in "Secrets and Lies," the first Season Finale, tells someone an unpleasant fact that creates trouble.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: In the TV show version Cher and Dee have a favorite restaurant to go to for lunch period, which has "the best" Chinese Chicken Salad - which they order without the chicken or dressing. They basically pay $12 for a bowl of lettuce.
  • Progressively Prettier: The original Mel Horowitz was portrayed as balding, pudgy & tough. The second was noticeably softer and had regained a full head of hair, while third one that's presented is even more relaxed, reasonable & mellow, noticeably taller as well as having, shall we say a different appeal. This was lampshaded in the voiceover in the first episode of season 2: "Thanks to a summer of my encouragement, calorie counting and booby-trapping the refrigerator my totally prominent attorney daddy ... looks like a brand-new man."
  • Recycled: The Series (obviously)
  • Remake Cameo: Brittany Murphy (Tai in the movie), Breckin Meyer (Travis) and Paul Rudd (Josh) all guest-starred on the series (respectively as Jasmine in "Driving Me Crazy," Harrison in "Do We With Bad Haircuts Not Feel?" and Sonny in "I Got You Babe").
  • Retcon: In the movie, Cher says, "I hate muscles." On an episode about a boys' swim meet, she says, "Ab alert."
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare/Whole Plot Reference: "Romeo and Cher"
  • Teen Pregnancy: "PG Seventeen"
  • Two-Teacher School - Mr. Hall & Ms. Geist as well as Coach Stouger.
  • Very Special Episode: This became egregious in later seasons.

Buffy the Vampire SlayerCreator/Teen NickDance Academy
Classic AlbumsSeries of the 1990sCoach
The CloserAmerican SeriesThe Colbert Report
ClueCreator/ParamountComing to America
ClockersFilms of the 1990sCold Comfort Farm

alternative title(s): Clueless
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy