‘As if!’ The 20 best lines from ‘Clueless’

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

10 Clueless catchphrases you’ll never forget.

In an early scene in “Clueless,” a close-up reveals the sagging waistbands of a pack of young, SoCal teens, all loping to class in the signature Generation X uniform of baggy jeans, exposed boxer shorts and wallet chains as World Party’s cover of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” blares on the soundtrack.I honestly don’t remember the first time I saw “Clueless,” but I know it wasn’t in a theater in 1995, when I was 6 and the PG-13 film, which turns 20 this week, became that summer’s runaway hit.

Then Cher Horowitz’s (Alicia Silverstone) chipper, California Girl uptalk—surely the vocal fry of the 1990s—cuts through the straining authenticity practiced by the pack: “So OK, I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all? Has it really been two decades since I fell in love with Alicia Silverstone’s whip-smart, puddle-deep Cher Horowitz on a sweltering July night at a Vermont megaplex? Those 97 minutes of cinematic perfection not only bestowed a guidebook on how to dress, flirt and fraternise, but gave us a cool new way to speak — with a lexicon we still draw from today.

What I can tell you is that I’ve watched it around a bazillion times since then — on VHS, DVD, Netflix — and to it I owe an infant love of fashion that blossomed into a grown-up career. Even though the hilarious Jane Austen adaption will be 20 years old as of this weekend, it’s arguably gaining popularity with today’s teenaged fans faster than at any time since back in 1995.

Over the years, I’ve rewatched Amy Heckerling’s Beverly Hills reimagining of Jane Austen’s Emma — first on VHS, then on DVD and most recently on Netflix. Just think: How many times have you mouthed “As if!” to an early-morning email, or stared blankly at someone while thinking “What-everrr,” internally gesticulating W-shaped fingers? I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair—ewww—and cover it up with a backwards cap, and like, we’re expected to swoon?” Here, with a single toss of her healthy blond coiffure, Cher, the “Clueless” protagonist and moral center of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” dismisses the entire ethos of Generation X. And while the film’s strong aesthetic and witty screenwriting remain key factors in its success, Clueless resonates with today’s young fans for another reason: It represents a beloved genre that’s all but disappeared.

This timelessness prompted entertainment journalist Jen Chaney to write As If!, billed as The Oral History of ‘Clueless’ as Told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast, and the Crew. Here are 10 way famous words and phrases that couldn’t be more culturally significant had Jane Austen written them herself: To celebrate Fox’s new Movie Of The Day app, we’ve got a brand new 60 inch Sony Bravia TV to give away! Boomers, the logic goes, got all the good jobs and prime real estate, while Gen Y (aka, “the Millennials”) got a renewed sense of earnestness, enthusiasm, and optimism. Hollywood today has no shortage of movies for teenagers and about teenagers – indeed, we’re living in a golden age of American teen dramas, whether they’re indie love stories that evoke John Hughes or blockbuster action franchises. X marks the spot in between—those pissed off at baby-boomers for their narcissistic entitlement and pissed off at the Millennials for not being more pissed off.” Modeled by practitioners of authenticity like Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur and Liz Phair, and writ large on-screen in films like “Slacker” (1991), “Menace II Society” (1993) and “Natural Born Killers” (1994), Gen X preached the gospel of flannel and grunge, of fuck the police and fuck and run, and here we are now, entertain us.

Her vivid scene-by-scene recaps, insider analyses of casting decisions and meticulous wardrobe rundowns will bring you back to your own (possibly less stylish) youth. In “Clueless,” the Xer is, of course, represented by Josh (Paul Rudd), a naysaying, overly cerebral college student who is too busy mooching off of his ex-stepfather’s well-stocked kitchen to rage against the machine. Chaney, a former staff writer for the Washington Post, checked in with key players (Heckerling, Silverstone, Paul Rudd, costume designer Mona May, casting director Marcia Ross) as well as an impressive array of artists and experts whose work has been touched by the Clueless legacy. Sure, Josh sits around the Horowitz mansion in his sad plaids and Amnesty International T-shirts, complaining about Cher’s narcissism and consumerism and listening to Radiohead. The last great teen movie in this vein was 2004’s Mean Girls, which ate up several decades’ worth of on-screen teen girl cattiness (from Heathers to Carrie to Valley Girl and more) and spit it back up into a smart, satirical pulp.

From Jane Austen scholars to Coolio to Lena Dunham and the Fug Girls, these perspectives shed new light on a movie that paved the way for Legally Blonde and a bevy of other films about shopaholic young women with hidden reserves of grit. That unspoken motto shows up in the central narrative as Cher and Dionne’s earnest effort to glamorize the new kid, Tai. “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover,” Dee says — and in one jaunty montage we see a grungy misfit turned into a candidate for Most Popular Girl in School.

Based on the pop-sociology bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes, the movie – while undeniably funny and irreverent in all the right places – ended up delivering a fairly serious message on girl-hate and bullying. We learn about the careful crafting of the language, inspired by slang dictionaries, rap lyrics and the teen lexicon; the special effects used to create the movie’s golden lighting despite record rainfalls during filming; and the many actors who were passed over for key parts. (Angelina Jolie as Cher Horowitz? Many of the most popular teen comedies that have followed, from Easy A to 21 Jump Street, have similarly tended to parse sexual stigmas, drug abuse and more with a meta, tongue-in-cheek tone. Hard to imagine, but her name was in the mix.) We’re reminded that many of Heckerling’s laugh-worthy moments have become part of life as we know it today. Is that a nod to the crispy Seattle weather or are you just trying to stay warm in front of the refrigerator?” Indeed, “Clueless” drew a line in the generational sand in the summer of 1995, marking a key transition in the way fictional youth engaged with their world; the moment youth characters went from representing Gen X—a generation of disenfranchisement and slack—to representing the generation we’ve come to know as the millennials, who are associated with hope and action.

Sure, “Clueless” addresses typical teen fare like divorce, drug abuse, premarital sex, cliques and dating, but the bright bubblegum colors of the mise en scene, the peppy soundtrack and Silverstone’s infectiously happy performance offered an antidote to the cynicism our generation was told it must embrace to be “authentic.” If anything, the film pokes fun at the idea of the “slacker” and embraces earnestness and positivity. Generational thinking—that is, explaining the behaviors and consumption habits of large chunks of a population based on when they were born–is not all that useful, as Rebecca Onion explains: “Overly schematised and ridiculously reductive, generation theory is a simplistic way of thinking about the relationship between individuals, society, and history.

Via “Clueless” I came to understand labels, and that the names attached to the stuff you put on are of actual people, and they use clothes to communicate ideas. It encourages us to focus on vague ‘generational personalities’, rather than looking at the confusing diversity of social life.” However, generational thinking can function quite well when we look not at the way real generations of individuals behave in the real world, but at how fictional generations behave in the fictional world of the movies. In other words, although real-life 1990s teenagers displayed a range of preferences and behaviors and attitudes, their filmic counterparts were far more homogenous; popular culture told Generation X that they were slackers and thugs, spectators and hecklers, misanthropists and depressives. While writer and director Amy Heckerling based the plot of Clueless on Jane Austen’s 1815 classic Emma, she drew most on the frivolous, fun tradition of twentieth-century teen cinema. You can understand why she relies so heavily on the perspectives of the creators of the film — they’re the experts, after all — but her take is so fresh and entertaining that it would have been nice to hear more from her directly.

On a surface level, the relationship I have with this female-centric comedy is not exactly the one relished by some of my (real and metaphoric) sisters. And whether it was the middle-class bubble depicted in “Reality Bites” (1994) or the inflated sense of urban danger presented in “Boyz N the Hood” (1991), Generation X was obsessed with the concept of authenticity, or not selling out. It had classic archetypes in the push and pull of a romance between different social circles (Cher and Josh), and the misfit who’s so enchanted by a social circle she pretends to be something she’s not (Tai). As a gay man who was closeted until the age of 17, it’s impossible to fully articulate my appreciation for his role — a homosexual teen free of identity struggle, who unabashedly dressed better than the prettiest girls and who was accepted by all of his peers.

The voluminous pleated pants and tucked-in tees I champion now are no doubt a subconscious ode to the would-be James Jean. “He always wants things to be beautiful and interesting,” Cher says of her friend in a series of sweet epiphanies at the end. Sure, was it was rooted in stereotypical, air-headed portrayals of blonde, shopaholic teenagers, but it was also deeply concerned with timeless girl-world concerns: virginity, relationships, friendship, trying to wrestle with a world that thinks you’re no more than an idiot. Today, those topics are often either secondary sidebars to drama-filled plots in films starring young women (see The Hunger Games and Divergent) or ignored entirely in films that hone in on male leads. Films like Boyhood, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Spectacular Now, The Kings of Summer, Palo Alto and the forthcoming Paper Towns are nuanced depictions of young masculinity that largely skip tired tropes – but they’re no replacement for Clueless. Before burying his brother, Doughboy (Ice Cube) concludes, “Shit just goes on and on, you know.” A similar skepticism of capitalism and the American Dream can also be found in the previous decade’s generational, coming-of-age films.

In 1980s teen pics like “Better Off Dead” (1985), ”Pretty in Pink” (1986) and “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987), the wealthy were not to be trusted. The bright world of films where the biggest problems were facing your school bully, trying to get your parents to remember your birthday, and kissing your crush seemed to collapse after the film’s 1995 release. The late Nineties saw a darker wave of the ensemble teen genre, including Kids, Romeo + Juliet, Election and Cruel Intentions, along with a slew of horror and thriller films like Scream, Jawbreaker and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The rich could only be redeemed through contact with the authentically poor or middle class, hardworking teens like Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey),who learn the hard way that money “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1987).

Then it was off to the 2000s, a land of Moldy Peaches-soundtracked teen pregnancies, heart-warming traveling pants, and Gus Van Sant-directed school-shootings. For example, during speech class, Cher explains how the American government should handle Haitian immigrants with an anecdote about a garden party and place settings: “And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. Her solution to Haitian refugees is the correct one—make do with less to accommodate more—but lacks an understanding of the complex social, political and economic factors required to solve the issue.

Cher’s fabulous wardrobe, impossible for anyone but the wealthiest of Americans to afford, highlights her high social status and Beverly Hills area code. Two decades after Clueless was made, it seems there’s still a powerful appeal for teens in a fluffy, style-over-substance treat – especially one that’s a little smarter than Rich Kids of Instagram. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again.

Similarly, Travis (Breckin Myer) only becomes a suitable boyfriend for Tai after donating his bong to charity and finding a way to monetize his skateboarding skills. As Cher helpfully explains, “It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day.” Thus, “Clueless” argues that money—or being within the orbit of the kindly altruistic rich–can truly solve all of our problems.

In addition to its relentless optimism and faith in American capitalism, “Clueless” also illustrated the fantasy of diversity my peers and I had been raised on—a blindcasted vision of teen unity in which white, black, gay, straight, rich and poor can help each other through their exposure to difference. In the 1990s, fictional white young adults were searching for meaningful employment or pondering the universe in “Singles” (1992) while black young adults were getting shot at or locked up in movies like “Juice” (1992).

The fact that Dionne is black and Cher is white is never overtly addressed in the film, just hinted at through moments in which Dionne and her boyfriend, Murray (Donald Faison), engage in lovers’ quarrels over lost hair extensions. In Cher’s blazing orbit skateboarding stoners get their lives on track, nerdy teachers find their soul mates, and grades are, to quote Cher, “just a jumping off point to start negotiations.” The future is no longer doomed and hopeless but bright and malleable.

Cher, with her bright yellow knee socks and can-do attitude told Gen X our generation and its malaise was officially out of touch and irrelevant and, in true Xer style, we sat back and watched to see what would happen.

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