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 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 of 2015, a Jukebox Musical adaptation is rumoured to be in the works.

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

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

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Even though Heather's his girlfriend (at the time) and he's been engaged in Snark-to-Snark Combat with Cher up to this point in the movie, Josh laughs at Cher's line about how she remembers who said "To thine own self be true". (see Shout-Out to Shakespeare below)
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Christian, Frank Churchill's equivalent, is homosexual in this film.
  • Adorkable: Tai and Ms. Geist show the ditzy and the Absent-Minded Professor versions of this. Travis also has shades of this.
  • 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 Periods Are PMS:
    Cher: (narrating) I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies'.
  • 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: Both Cher and Amber subvert this. Cher is rich, beautiful, and one of the most popular girls in school, but she doesn't act like a typical alpha bitch (though she is dismissive of Travis in the beginning). Amber does act like an alpha bitch, but a milder one, and Cher is higher on the high school social pecking order. Also, while the two snipe at each other, they don't seem to hate each other or try to destroy each other's lives.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Horowitzes.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Cher calls Josh for a ride home from a party because her driver abandoned her:
    "This guy with a gun held me up, took my money, and my phone and he yelled at me and he forced me to ruin my dress."
  • 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.
  • Birds of a Feather: Tai and Travis.
  • Black Best Friend: Dionne "Dee" Davenport, of the Sassy Black Woman variation.
  • 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: While they weren't actually together, Tai decides to burn the items she held on to that reminded her of Elton in Cher's fireplace.
  • 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. It's part of her Adorkable charm.
  • 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.
  • Entitled Bastard: Elton, who's a snob and a half.
  • Fashion Hurts: Cher implies that her party clothes are so binding that they make it hard to relax.
  • The Fashionista: Mainly Dionne, but also Christian and of course, Cher herself. This is the woman that gave knee socks to The '90s.
  • 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.
  • Four Girl Ensemble: Dionne (sexy and glamorous), Tai (ditzy and clueless), Amber (snarky and haughty) and Cher (conflicted protagonist).
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Cher (Sanguine), Dionne (Choleric), Christian (Melancholic) and Tai/Murray (Phlegmatic).
  • 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...
    • Also:
    Cher: (''explaining to Tai why she's still a virgin) You see how picky I am about shoes, and they only go on my feet.
  • 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.
  • Gossip Evolution: By the time news of Tai's incident gets back to Cher, it's turned into an attempted gang execution.
  • Held Gaze: One long held gaze happens between Cher and Josh towards the end which becomes The Big Damn Kiss with that as the lead-in.
  • High School A.U.: Of Emma.
  • 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."
  • Incompatible Orientation: Cher and Christian.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    Tai: Cher, you're a virgin?
    Cher: You say that like it's a bad thing.
    Dionne: Besides, the PC term is "hymenally challenged".
    Cher: It's not like I'm a prude or anything. I'm just...highly selective.
  • 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). Mr. Hall is a downplayed version of this trope.
  • Jewish American Princess: Cher is a subversion of this.
  • Love Epiphany: "Oh my God, I love Josh!"
  • The Makeover: Two: one for Tai, and one for Cher after she tries to smarten up.
  • The Matchmaker: Cher, of course, with Dionne's assistance. In this case, it's to get better grades, but since Cher is genuinely happy for her teachers it doesn't veer into Jerk with a Heart of Jerk or Manipulative Bitch territory. She also seems to want Tai and Elton to be together due to wanting happiness for Tai, and not just as a "project".
  • 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.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: Some of the trailers had a scene with Cher, Dionne and Amber in the girl's room. While Amber is checking out her '50s style hairdo in the mirror, Cher asks "Did I miss something? Is big hair back?" causing Dionne to mockingly laugh at Amber.
  • The Monolith: her phone, when she's wating for Christian to call her back.
  • 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 '90s: 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. He also likes the idea of them as a power couple.
  • Operation Jealousy: Cher starts sending herself gifts and love notes to make it appear to Christian that she's very sought after and desirable. This is a subversion since there really isn't anyone for Christian to get jealous of.
  • 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; 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.
    • Travis seems to be a case of emotional parental abandonemnt at least.
  • 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 from her shopping bag.
    • Cher is also seen with a Starbucks cup in few scenes.
  • Proud Beauty: Cher. Also - Elton.
  • 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.
  • Rip Tailoring: While making Tai over, Cher does this to her shirt to bare her midriff.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Cher and Josh - she always pushes him to go out and have fun.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: When Josh and Heather (his then-girlfriend) are giving Cher a ride home and having a discussion:
    Heather: It's like Hamlet said; "To thine own self be true."
    Cher: Uh, Hamlet didn't say that.
    Heather: I think I remember Hamlet accurately.
    Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cher, definitely. Despite being rich and popular, she is genuinely sweet to people and usually motivated by good feelings.
  • Standard Snippet: Cher's phone serves as The Monolith while Also Sprach Zarathustra 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.
  • 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. Tai is depicted as aformer stoner.
  • 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.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Given the type of characters that star...
  • Valley Girl: Several main characters are Valley Girls.
  • You Need to Get Laid: "What he needs is a good healthy boinkfest!"
  • Zettai Ryouiki: All of the girls sport this look at various times in the film. 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're back being wealthy.
  • 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.
  • Fallen Princess: Cher (when she was broke), from a rich and popular Beverly Hills princess, to a Greasy Spoon waitress, as described by Dionne below:
    Dionne: (voiceover) While forced by economics, she must use the five saddest words of Beverly Hills princess can ever utter.
    Cher: (working as a greasy spoon waitress in Bakersfield) Can i take your order?
  • Fun with Acronyms: Episode 8 of Season 3 was titled "Never P.E.T.A. Squirrel".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Cher and Dionne.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Cher, although this is revised later on.
  • Idle Rich: Every single student of the Bronson Alcott High. Too many of them seem to have some serious Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense tendecies as wall.
  • Informed Judaism: Cher and her dad, mentioned only when the plot demands it.
  • Miss Conception
  • Mock Millionaire: Sean in "Graduation" is revealed to be this by faking his address to be at Cher's house (with the help of Mel), despite actually living in South Central, which violates the law to attend public school in Beverly Hills. He did it to be able to attend a good public school, since he couldn't afford private school, due to his mom working only as a waitress at the restaurant where Mel usually eats.
  • 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 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 lampshadeed 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."
    • Not necessarily. Cher's comment was in response to Dionne's dismissing of a waiter who was obviously very fit as "puny." Obviously Dionne like very big muscles, not like the lithe form of a swimmer.
  • Scholarship Student: Sean, even though he attends a public school. See Mock Millionaire.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Mel's client in Bakersfield turns out to be this.
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare/Whole Plot Reference: "Romeo and Cher"
  • Teen Pregnancy: "PG Seventeen".
  • Tsundere: Dionne has some serious shades of this in her relationship with Murray.
  • Two-Teacher School: Mr. Hall & Ms. Geist as well as Coach Stouger.
  • Valley Girl: Cher, Dionne and Amber.
    • Interestingly, in one episode, Cher had to act and dress as one to get an after-school job in the Valley in order to buy her father his birthday present with her own money, so people from her neighborhood and also her Beverly Hills-hating boss, who happened to be her crush, wouldn't find out. Also, according to Cher and Dionne, Valley girls are unfashionable and outdated when it comes to style.
  • Very Special Episode: This became egregious in later seasons.