What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Amy Heckerling’s Clueless? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison
Director: Amy Heckerling
Production Co: Paramount Pictures
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon and Emily Dunbar
Clueless’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Clueless, a cult classic beloved by generations for its complex take on femininity, starring Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Wallace Shawn, and Dan Hedaya.
Our protagonist is Cher Horowitz, a supposedly Jewish teenager with too many of her father’s credit cards and not enough of her father’s thick, luscious eyebrows. Her best friend is Dionne, a carbon copy of Cher whose defining characteristic is that she has a boyfriend. All the other humans pretty much let Cher do whatever she wants except for her brother Josh, whom the movie takes great pains to assure us is definitely a blood relative.
When her numerical value starts to drop, Cher tricks two of her teachers into f***ing, since who doesn’t enjoy the mental image of their two favorite high school teachers rubbing their naked bodies all over each other to sweaty completion? Then, pleased at the early returns, Cher decides to embark on a full-time career as a sex trafficker. She befriends a loser named Tai in order to replace her gregarious charm and natural self-confidence with a perm and a speech pattern that goes up like this? Even though it’s not a question? Oh god, I can’t stop? Someone please help me?
Cher tries to set Tai up with Elton, but their plan develops a slight wrinkle when Elton sexually assaults Cher and leaves her for dead. Meanwhile, Cher meets a Rat Pack member named Christian and wants to join his congregation. Unfortunately, Christian chooses to be gay instead.
As if the plot hadn’t gotten complicated enough, things spiral out of control when Tai gets a crush on Brother Josh. What’s a rich, attractive Jewess to do? Well, in this case, it’s to suddenly decide Josh is the perfect guy to take for herself, despite the fact that he’s her biological sibling that she’s lived with since she was born. Tai, who draws the line at incest, makes fun of Cher for not knowing how to drive.
Rather than make even a half-hearted stab at retaking her driver’s test, Cher completely abandons that storyline and starts being Cher-itable. Sorry. She does the canned food drive or whatever, which causes everyone to go back to being best friends. The two teachers sign a piece of paper in order to legitimize their union, and Tai settles for a guy who isn’t a sexual predator. As for Cher? She and Josh get together — even though they’re identical twins who shared a womb for nine months — and pop out a bunch of mutant babies who learn how to fight crime.
Clueless is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, without all the arrogance that comes from being a book. The two works contain parallels out the wazoo: privileged hottie with a wealthy widowed father, clueless newcomer project b****, brother figure turned lover figure, and a honky cat named Elton who’s fixated on his rocket, man. But instead of the peaceful vistas of 19th century England, Clueless centers around the war zone that is a Beverly Hills High School.
The film portrays the follies of focusing on social hierarchies, from the jocks to the nerds, allll the way down to the faculty. For many in this world, status is paramount, and anybody who doesn’t care about such distinctions is considered, if you’ll pardon my French, a f***ing Frenchman. The purpose of dating is not emotional connection, but social elevationship. And school is for socializing, not learning. While Cher has demonstrable intelligence, it can only be utilized through a very specific filter, probably one that turns your face into a hamster or some shit.
At the beginning of the film, Cher buys into this philosophy of shallowness like it’s a Ponzi scheme. She assumes that upping Tai’s boink factor will make her happy. But as Cher pushes Tai’s personality further from its natural crunchy state, the cancerous qualities of the superficial elite begin to metastasize within her, and not in the good way. When we meet Christian, he is shown reading an analog Kindle, hinting that there’s something complex below the surface. But all Cher sees is handsomeness, missing the obvious clues that he’s a “cake boy,” their words. Then again, they also show Josh reading and Cher is totally oblivious to his handsomeness, so really Cher’s philosophy is inconsistency.
It’s only by letting go of her fixation with social trappings that she is able to discern the true value of human beings, which still rounds down to zero. She begins to appreciate the positive qualities in her one-dimensional friends. She sees that beneath the veneer of Elton’s good looks and rich family lies not one, but 1.5 people. It seems that sometimes all the effort to keep up with the Kardashioids is a little constricting.
Absent the ability to validate herself through material things, Cher opts instead to validate herself through a lack of material things — by giving them away. Ultimately, it isn’t necessary for Cher to change; only for her to recognize the positive qualities she already possesses, like being an orphan. So the lesson here is that if you’re already rich, you can be a better person by being slightly less rich.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. I’m out-y.