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Film / Clueless

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"Ugh! As if!"
Cher Horowitz

Clueless is a 1995 American teen comedy of manners, written and directed by Amy Heckerling.

The film is loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, but updates its Regency England setting for a Beverly Hills high school. The "handsome, clever, and rich" heroine is spoiled and shallow, but essentially good-hearted, teenager Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). After she successfully matchmakes two of her teachers, Cher realizes that she enjoys bettering the lives of others around her, even though her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd) doesn't believe she does it out of altruism.

Cher decides her next project will be the mousy new transfer student, Tai (Brittany Murphy). In her attempt to transform Tai into a pretty and popular girl, shenanigans ensue. Cher grows up a little and realizes that she might not be so infallible after all.

The film contains funny, but affectionate, jabs at early '90s teen culture, high school, and Valley Girls, and introduced a fresh wave of California slang across the world. Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, and Wallace Shawn also star.

Three YA novels (Cher Negotiates New York, An American Betty in Paris, and Achieving Personal Perfection) actually carried on the story after the movie's end; when the TV series was developed, the novels became based on the show.

Later inspired a TV adaptation that ran for three seasons (first on ABC and later on UPN) featuring much of the same cast as the film, with the notable exceptions of Silverstone (replaced in the lead by Rachel Blanchard), Murphy, and Rudd, who all went on to have successful film careers after the original was released.

A Jukebox Musical adaptation has been rumoured to be in the works since 2015, while a series of graphic novels based on the film (co-written by Amber Benson), Senior Year and Our Last Summer, were released by Boom! Studios in 2017 and 2018.

"Sex. Tropes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?"

  • 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 '10s.
  • 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).
  • Adaptation Title Change: Clueless is loosely based on Emma.
  • Adapted Out: Due to Christian being gay, there is no Jane Fairfax equivalent.
  • 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 herself, she reacts angrily, yelling, "I do not wear polyester hair!"
  • All Periods Are PMS: When Murray and Dionne have another one of their typical fights and they accuse the other of commiting infidelity, Murray asks her "Is it that time of the month again?". Cue the gasps of many students gathered around the couple listening and Dionne shooting Murray an angry look.
  • 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. The series makes it more explicit with Cher singing "I Have a Little Dreidel".
  • Answer Cut: After Christian ends his date with Cher early, she wonders why he didn't respond to her:
    Cher: What's wrong with me?
    Dionne: (in the car the next day) Nothing! Maybe he really was tired.
  • 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!"
  • Artsy Beret: Josh briefly has a pretentious college girlfriend, who talks condescendingly about philosophy and wears a beret. She's not quite as intellectual as she thinks she is, as she mangles a Shakespeare quote that Cher knows correctly.
  • Aw, 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.
    • Same with Josh and Cher, as most of the time when the two are bickering, neither can stand it when the other gets hurt. (Cher disapproves of Tai liking Josh because she likes Josh; Josh argues with a lawyer who insults Cher over a minor mistake.)
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Cher and Josh who spend most of the time bickering and fighting before falling for one another and eventually dating.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Cher's mansion. It's big enough to throw Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist's wedding.
    • Also Dionne’s house, which is enormous and beautiful, even if it’s not a mansion.
  • Birds of a Feather: Tai and Travis, who are both to some extent "stoners", end up becoming a couple.
  • Black Comedy: Travis seems to lead a depressing teenage life, though he faces it all with a smile. He tries to commit suicide when he sees the grades on his report card and cheerfully thanks his parents for never giving him a ride to school, hinting at either Parental Neglect or simply them not having the means to help their kid ride to school (or both). This is all Played for Laughs.
  • Blatant Lies: When Christian asks Cher if she likes Billie Holiday. Cher replies: "I love him." Christian clearly sees through the lie, even if Cher remains clueless.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Cher, Dee and Tai, respectively, with Dee as the Token Minority type. Amber replaces Tai in the show.
  • Bouquet Toss: At the end of the film, the girls have a minor catfight over Ms. Geist's bouquet. It helps that their dates made a bet on which one of them will get the bouquet.
  • 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.
  • Butch Lesbian: Cher describing her gym teacher Miss Stooger, who dresses and behaves in a masculine way but also gives good girl advice to some of her students on getting over bad break-ups form boys. She even wears a tuxedo to Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist's wedding at the end.
    Cher: And in the grand tradition of all gym teachers, Miss Stooger seemed to be same-sex oriented.
  • Can't Take Criticism: Downplayed with Cher, who thinks grades are something to be negotiated, instead of a reason to improve her schoolwork.
  • Captain Obvious: Cher helpfully explaining how to attract a boy's attention, and the reasoning behind her methods:
    Cher: Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex.
  • Clique Tour: Cher shows Tai the ropes of high school by showing her the cliques as they walk up to the school entrance. She points out the people who run the TV station, the "Persian mafia", and the popular boys before the conversation is derailed.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Amber accuses Cher of talking about "some little party" instead of their assigned debate topic, but Cher points out that it was her dad's fiftieth birthday, which is hardly little.
    • Travis thinking his record of getting to class late the most times is cause for celebration - complete with acceptance speech.
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: Cher summarizes Haitian/American relations for her class debate this way (while mis-pronouncing it as Hay-ti-uns):
    So like, right now for example. The Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all, "What about the strain on our resources?" Well it's like when I had this garden party for my father's birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. 'cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin'. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier. And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Cher undoes her pigtails to get her hair down and Josh gets distracted, much to their lawyer's annoyance, and gets called out on it.
  • Don't Tell Mama: When Dionne finds out Murray is shaving his head at the party, she gets angry and tells him she's going to call his mother. Murray, who had been mocking her up to this point, immediately gets upset and pleads with her not to call his mother.
  • Entitled Bastard: Elton, who Cher characterizes as a snob and a half after he says he couldn't date Tai because "do you even know who my father is?"
  • Erotic Eating: Cher does this eating chocolates she bought herself in order to make the guy she likes jealous.
    Cher: (narrating) Also, anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.
  • Expy: Several characters, as the film is basically a Setting Update of Jane Austen's Emma.
    • Cher is Emma Woodhouse.
    • Josh is Mr. Knightley.
    • Cher's father is Mr. Woodhouse.
    • Tai is Harriet Smith.
    • Christian is Frank Churchill.
    • Travis is Robert Martin.
    • Elton is Mr. Elton.
    • Amber is Mrs. Elton.
    • Ms. Geist is Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston.
    • Mr. Hall is Mr. Weston.
    • To a lesser extent, Dionne and Murray are Isabella and John Knightley.
  • The Film of the Book: A modern-day adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Cher and Josh, who initially fight like siblings but end up getting together romantically. It helps that their parents are no longer married.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In his introductory scene, Christian (who's later revealed to be gay) stands in front of a sign saying "End Discrimination." In the scene where Cher is packing for her father and is surprised by Christian's call, he is at a museum; the painting behind him is of two men affectionately in an embrace, another foreshadow of his sexuality.
    • The films that Christian watches on video with Cher, Some Like It Hot and Spartacus, provide clues to his sexual orientation. The first movie deals with cross-dressing men (who are escaping from a mob hit). The second includes the famous scene where a Roman master (Laurence Olivier) tries to seduce his male servant (Tony Curtis).
    • The book Christian is reading during class, Junky by William S. Burroughs, is another clue and indication of his sexual orientation, as its author had strong homosexual desires.
    • When Christian first appears at the class, Cher has new hopes for high school boys. However, as the shot pans from her gaze to him in the doorway, just over his left shoulder on the wall in the classroom is a cutout headline from the newspaper which reads, "On the Road to Nowhere."
  • 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 anyone to assume that it's her getting married, seeing as she's only sixteen and "this is California, not Kentucky." The wedding is actually for the teachers she set up earlier in the movie. Also serves as commentary on the reality of Austen’s times, where girls very much did get married at 16 after four "dates."
  • 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".
  • Funny Background Event: Several. Most involving Elton. One has him admiring his reflection in one of his CD's during one of Cher's inner monologues, another has him flossing his teeth during Ms. Geist's lecture on the Pismo Beach disaster.
  • Geeky Analogy: Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Tai and Travis bond over Marvin the Martian.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Cher and Dionne give Mrs. Geist a speedy makeover that mostly consist of removing her glasses, tucking her shirt and fluffing her hair.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Dionne and Murray do this after she almost gets into an accident while driving on the freeway.
    Cher: (voiceover) And that's when Dionne's virginity went from "technical" to "non-existent".
  • Gone Horribly Right: At the beginning, Cher helps give Tai a makeover and attempts to make her "fit in" as one of the new popular girls. This winds up backfiring on her later in the film when Tai's popularity at school skyrockets due to her "near-death experience" at the mall, leaving Cher less popular (if for a while, depending).
  • 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.
  • Good Feels Good: The premise is Cher coming to realize this. She starts out meddling in her teachers' love lives to schmooze them for better grades, then befriends the new girl she originally saw as a project. By the end, she volunteers to head a donation drive at school.
  • Gossip Evolution: By the time news of Tai's incident gets back to Cher (who witnessed it), 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 AU: The work takes the Regency England setting of Emma and relocates it to a 1990s California high school.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: When Murray is telling Cher that 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 (as he's gay).
  • 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.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong:
    • The moment Cher declares high school boys "not boyfriend material", Christian walks in. (Subverted because it does turn out he's not boyfriend material, at least not for a girl.)
    • Tai enters a party and immediately falls down the stairs, and worries that everyone will think of her as the fall-down-the-stairs girl. Cher reassures her that no one even saw it, but is interrupted by a random guy asking Tai if she's okay, since that fall looked really bad.
  • Irony: Josh claims he would "die of shock" if Cher ever did something that was less than 90% selfish, and she replies that that would be reason enough for her, making it 100% selfish no matter what it was.
  • It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: Cher responds to Dionne's giving her a hard time about her fur purse: "It's faux!"
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Josh is busy making out with his girlfriend when Cher phones him to come pick her up.
  • Karma Houdini: The mugger gets no comeuppance for his assault on the high-schoolers. He vanishes into the night and is never seen or heard from again.
  • Kick the Dog: For accidentally screwing up the paperwork she helped her father label to "September files", one of the lawyers working for Cher's father gets mad and tells her to "go back to the mall or something". Cher leaves in tears and Josh berates the lawyer for doing that.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Downplayed with Heather, who misquotes Shakespeare ("To thine own self be true") only to be corrected by the thus-far ditzy Cher. The irony is that she was quoting Hamlet (with a totally un-nuanced interpretation thereof) in order to back up her (rather vocal) opinion on a subject.
  • Leg Focus: At one point Christian compliments Cher on her "nice stems" after he (and the camera) get a nice look at them.
  • Literal-Minded: Cher apparently thinks the rule to "pause" at intersections is about mentally pausing, and breezes through one without stopping.
  • Longing Look: Tai shows one for Travis. Travis shows several for Tai when Cher tried to fix her up with Elton. Josh and Cher exchange these multiple times to each other without the other knowing, much to a lawyer's annoyance.
  • Made of Iron: Tai is unfazed by her habit of falling and hitting her head at every party she goes to.
  • The Makeover: Two. Tai gets a new outfit and hairstyle and somewhat of a new personal regime. Later, Cher decides to "make over her soul" and become a nicer person by getting involved in charity work.
  • Missing Mom: Cher's mother died during a freak complication during a routine liposuction. Granted, Cher doesn't really remember her that much, although she does pretend her mother watches 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 so much good-doing since her mother, which seems to greatly comfort her.
  • The Monolith: Cher's phone, when she's waiting 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 suddenly interrupted when she notices some nice clothes in a store window.
    • The house party starts out fun, switches to Dionne throwing a dramatic fit over her boyfriend Murray shaving his head, and then back to the fun again.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When it's pointed out to Cher that she's genuinely done something wrong or crossed the line, she feels genuine guilt over it. For example, when she casually assumes that Lucy the family maid is from Mexico when she's actually from El Salvador, once it's sunk in that this is actually quite rude and offensive of her, she's genuinely apologetic.
  • No Antagonist: The movie has no central antagonist. Amber, the character who butts heads with Cher and her friends the most, never outright tries to sabotage them at anything and isn't always wrong in her criticisms of Cher. A lot of the conflict or manipulation from the film comes from Cher's own well-meaning (or at least non-malicious) poor decisions. Elton and the mugger are certainly antagonistic, but only for brief scenes without much impact on the main story.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Cher and Josh. Ex-stepsiblings in this case; Josh's mother and Cher's father had married and subsequently divorced each other when Cher and Josh were younger.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: To his credit, the street criminal who robs Cher doesn't even look down when she shows him her dress, explaining that it's an Alia.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Likely what happened with Heather, who was just trying to make a point about living the life you want to live.
    Heather: Excuse me, I think I remember Hamlet [the play] accurately.
    Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and [Hamlet] (the character) didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: Cher is about to head to a party (on a date with Christian) when Josh asks her dad if he's going to let her go out in what she's wearing, a white mini-dress. Cher's father asks her if that's what they're calling dresses these days, tells her it looks more like underwear and makes her put something on top. Which turns out to be a transparent wrap.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: When Tai expresses a crush on Josh and sees 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 is obviously hurt; Tai immediately regrets saying that and they reconcile a few scenes later.
  • Political Overcorrectness:
    • Cher mockingly asks Amber if she prefers to be called "ensemble-y challenged".
    • Dionne claims that being a virgin, and not just a technical virgin, is called "hymenally challenged".
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Cher and Josh are working on Mel's lawsuit.
    Josh: You look like Pippi Longstocking.
    Cher: You look like Forrest Gump. (Beat) Who's Pippi Longstocking?
    Josh: Uh, someone Mel Gibson never played.
  • Previously Overlooked Paramour: Near the end of the movie, Cher realizes that she is in love with Josh, her idealist "ex-stepbrother", who is not afraid to call Cher out on her superficiality.
  • Product Placement:
    • Cher interrupts her voiceover with "Ooh, Snickers..." when she's looking around the teacher's lounge.
    • 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.
    • Diet Coke cans are seen multiple times during the film.
  • Reconstruction: It's difficult to imagine now but the whole Teen Movie genre was moribund in the early '90s; Clueless was the first commercial and critical success in many years, perhaps because it was such an exuberant return to the optimism of the '80s genre films.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mel Horowitz. He seems scary at first but is actually open-minded and understanding. It's also implied he's aware of Josh's crush on Cher and approves.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: An unusual case in which the characters are technically no longer related. In Emma (upon which Clueless is loosely based), George Knightley is the brother of Emma's brother-in-law (her sister is married to his brother). In this film, Cher is an only child and the Knightley analog Josh is her ex-stepbrother (her father has since divorced his mother) who hangs around because he still has a good relationship with her dad.
  • Retail Therapy: Cher goes shopping whenever she's feeling down. This is actually used as a joke at one of the more serious parts of the movie, as she's mulling over how much of a mess she's unintentionally made of things while walking past a store.
    Cher's Inner Monologue: Oh, and this Josh-and-Tai thing was wiggin' me more than anything. I mean, what was my problem? Tai is my pal. I don't begrudge her a boyfriend, I really—ooh! I wonder if they have that in my size.
    [Cut to Cher walking home with a shopping bag, her monologue picking up as if nothing had happened.]
  • 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 Relationship Upgrade moment and kiss-fest with Josh flips straight to a wedding where she says, "As if! I'm only 16!" and reveals it to be Miss Geist and Mr. Hall's wedding.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Cher is a fan of Cindy Crawford.
    • Josh thinks Marky Mark might use his celebrity for something good, like planting trees.
    • While attempting to seduce Christian on a sleepover, Cher narrates how his favorite movies that they're watching are works starring actor Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot and Spartacus.
    • Cher narrates on how she compares Dionne and Murray's volatile relationship, "I think they've seen that Ike and Tina Turner movie way too many times."
    • Amber dances with a guy wearing a Dr. Seuss hat.
    • Cher also lampshades how she and Dionne are named for Cher and Dionne Warwick.
    • Subverted with Elton, who is not named for Elton John, but for the character Mr. Elton in Emma, but the fact that the name is associated with the musician is the reason why Dionne and Cher are named for singers.
    • The setting of Cher's Love Epiphany (with the fountain suddenly coming to life) is one to Gigi; this is actually Lampshaded in the novelisation, where Cher talks about the setting being just like this movie she watched the other week with Christian,where a guy suddenly realizes he's in love with a girl he's known for years. It even has the theme from Gigi playing in the background of this scene.
    • The episode of Beavis and Butt-Head (1993) that Cher and Josh watch is called Beavis and Butt-Head: The Great Cornholio (1994).
    • When Cher is waiting for Christian's call, the camera angle and shot make the phone look like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey; the music playing at that point is from the same movie.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: When Josh and Heather (his then-girlfriend) are giving Cher a ride home and having a discussion:
    Heather: It's just like Hamlet said; "To thine own self be true."
    Cher: Uh, Hamlet didn't say that.
    Heather: I think that I remember Hamlet accurately.
    Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.
  • 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: The DMV instructor refuses to pass Cher on her driver's test — with good reason.
  • The Stoner:
    • Travis He later gives up the drugs but keeps up the stoner vibe.
    • Tai is depicted as a former stoner.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: When Travis donates his bong to the Pismo Beach disaster relief Cher is in charge of, Cher wonders where to put it until she guesses in the box labeled "kitchenware". Travis responds, "That's where I always put it."
  • Suicide as Comedy: Travis tries to jump out a (first story) window when he sees his report card. Mr. Hall nonchalantly holds him back.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Cher has spent most of the movie using the power of persuasion to get her way, from earning higher grades in debate class rather than putting in actual work. Her dad encourages this behavior, as a lawyer. Then she tries the same tactics during her driving test after she makes some minor mistakes and then scrapes several parked cars. Her instructor isn't impressed by how she tries to talk her way into a passing grade and tells her that's not how life or road safety works.
  • Teens Love Shopping: Cher, Dionne, and all their friends from school's favorite hobby and way to relax is shopping and hanging out at the mall.
  • Token Minority Couple: Dionne and Murray, the only plot-relevant black characters, are dating.
  • 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 (although in the case of the novel character, that was his last name).
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Since the leads all come from families with tons of money and are interested in fashion, they are understandably shown in a variety of outfits. Lampshaded in that Cher has a computer program to assist her in matching clothes and takes Polaroids when trying to decide between different outfits.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Cher is having an inner monologue about people finding love, it cuts to a few teenage couples outside the Christmas party making out, one of whom is puking his guts up into the swimming pool while his girlfriend aids him.
  • Wedding Bells... for Someone Else: After Cher and Josh get a Relationship Upgrade, Cher's narration says that the viewer can probably guess what happened next. The scene then cuts to a wedding... it's not theirs though, it's the teachers' Cher was 'shipping at the beginning, and she berates the viewer for thinking the former.
    Cher: As if! I'm only 16, and this is California, not Kentucky.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Cher gets called out on the more self-interested aspects of her 'altruism' at several points, most frequently by Josh. She gradually takes these criticisms on board and tries to improve herself, becoming genuinely altruistic in the process.
  • Who's on First?: When Tai first meets Cher and Dionne, she asks them for an "herbal refreshment" meaning marijuana. Cher and Dionne, not understanding what she means, assume she is talking about tea and tells her that they don't have any tea to drink but they do have Coke. Tai excitedly asks if they really do have Coke here, assuming they're referring to cocaine. When in actuality Cher and Dionne were talking about the soda beverage Coke.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: While narrating how she was trying to find a suitable Ms. Right for Mr. Hall, Cher narrates how "the evil trolls from the Math department" were actually married, then momentarily gets distracted by their Snickers candy bar before moving on to describe gym teacher Miss Stoger and last but not least Ms. Geist.
    Cher: Ooh, Snickers...
  • You Need to Get Laid: In describing how unpleasant Mr. Hall is and how he doesn't have much of a life: "What this man needs is a good healthy boinkfest!"
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Cher's iconic yellow plaid schoolgirl skirt/vest combo. Dionne wears some as well.

"In her world, she's an ordinary troper" - Tropes featured in the TV series include:

  • 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"
    • Salt-N-Pepa, whose song "Shoop" appeared on the film's soundtrack, make a cameo in an episode.
  • Anti-School Uniforms Plot: The season one episode "The Party's Over" sees the school gain a new principal, who is disgusted with what he saw as the students' lack of discipline. His decision is to institute uniforms overnight, leading to Cher imagining the school becoming a place of robotic clones. The episode ends with Cher reworking the "I Have A Dream" speech into a speech about individual freedom with the principal conceding he was wrong.
  • Ascended Extra: The actor who played Sean had a very small role (as a different character) in the film, but was elevated to main cast for the show.
  • Broke Episode: Cher and her father went broke in the season 2 finale, "Cashless", until "Back from Bakersfield" in season 3 when they're back to being wealthy.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Though at first nearly every character from the movie appeared in some capacity on the TV series, this was gradually whittled down to just the core five of later seasons.
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: On "City Beautification", the students are assigned to interpret the phrase "no man is an island". None of the students do it right (except Cher), as they instead tell about actual islands along with their experience vacationing there, how the phrase is actually a typo, and even how the phrase (and words in general) unfairly put the word "man" in it, instead of woman.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Cher and Dionne's makeover to Felice unintentionally causes a sweet, nerdy, studious, smart girl turning into a beautiful, school-skipping, flirty, (deliberately) stupid girl.
  • 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.
  • Doting Parent: Amber's dad spoils her rotten, so rotten that he is willing to move his entire family to Cher's house when her family is broke and later move back to his family's old house when Cher regains her wealth, all because of Amber. His wife despises him for being one.
  • 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) Were forced by economics, she must use the five saddest words a 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".
  • Informed Judaism: Cher and her dad, mentioned only when the plot demands it.
  • The Makeover: Just like the movie, Cher and Dionne also give a makeover in the TV series to a nerdy Teen Genius, Felice, who tries to dumb herself down to get guys, because they want her to have both beauty and brain. It works, but sadly, it makes her a flirty Dumb Blonde who focuses more on the boys than school.
  • 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 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 the famous Sonny & 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 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."
  • 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: Dionne's house in the movie is shown as Amber's house in the TV series.
  • Rich Bitch: Amber. She's bitchy and snobby enough to make one guy she dated (who's from the Valley and would later (briefly) date Cher as well) hate everyone from Beverly Hills, thinking everyone from the area is just like her, causing a problem when Cher later tries to date him on her undercover mission to buy her father a gift with her own money.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Bronson Alcott High is full of these.
    • Cher's friends laugh when they find out Cher plans to get an after school job, they think she's joking. Dionne even calls her plan drastic.
  • Scholarship Student: Sean, even though he attends a public school. See Mock Millionaire.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Amber on taking her SAT and getting into Harvard:
    Amber: I spoke to daddy and he told me not to worry about this pesky test, he'll just... make a substantial donation to Harvard, so don't be surprised if next year there's an "Amber Hall".
  • Shout-Out: In "The Party's Over", after Cher hears that the new principal might institute uniforms at Bronson Alcott High, she envisions a dystopian nightmare much like the music video to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare/Whole-Plot Reference: "Romeo and Cher"
  • Teen Pregnancy: The episode "PG Seventeen" focuses on the characters helping a classmate who finds out she's pregnant.


Video Example(s):


McDonald's As Featured In Meal

McDonald's is so ubiquitous in pop culture that they can make commercials consisting of nothing but references to, parodies of, and product placements for the fast food corporation and its products. This August 2023 commercial is for their limited-time "As Featured In" meal based on these references and also serves as a cross-promotion with Loki's second season (note the "Streaming October 6 on Disney+" message) as well as Palace Skateboards, who started a collaboration with McDonald's at the same time. (Palace doesn't have a TV Tropes page; we don't cover lifestyle brands.) Note that, as of the uploading of this video, the 30 Rock episode "St. Valentine's Day" does not have a Recap page here yet. Also, the commercial doesn't mention the episode title for The Office (US) episode used in the ad ("Hot Girl").

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

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