Language and Sexual Content
Language and Sexual Content: 3.5 Stars
There are a few references to sex in Clueless, and each of these references represents real conversations between teenage girls. No one is demeaning or cruel to each other. To the contrary, the girls seem to support each other’s interest and confusion over the topic.
There are, however, some unfortunate exchanges in which Dionne’s boyfriend Murray refers to Dionne simply as “woman” and on one occasion, even calls Cher and Dionne "bitches." Thankfully these moments are rare and playful, and on at least one occasion, Dionne quickly lets Murray know that the term “woman” is unacceptable.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women 1.5 Star
Although there is more to Cher than one might expect, she is primarily self-centered and superficial. She's uninterested in academics or current events and puts all of her energy into shopping and maintaining her social status. When she receives a bad grade in debate that she's unable to argue her way out of, she decides to start using her popularity for the larger good. But it's easy to see that most of Cher's good deeds are primarily self-serving. It isn't until the very end of the film that she actually raises her hand to volunteer for a noble cause without any real expectation of benefitting from it.
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars (Spoilers)
Josh is one of the more genuine, down-to-Earth characters in Clueless. He’s not vain or entitled and appears willing to put in the work necessary to make something of himself. He’s not dead set on going into corporate law and making piles of money, and appears to have a genuine interest in making the world a better place. He’s not the trendy dresser or confident dancer that Cher expects to fall in love with, but he has a good heart.
It is a bit frustrating that Josh seems to be the sort of man who is interested in finding an educated woman, but ultimately falls for Cher. At one point, Josh is dating a college girl named Heather, someone who seems to share his interests and can intelligently discuss social issues with him. But Clueless does a terrific job of turning her into someone who is more annoying and pretentious than insightful. In the end, Despite Josh's pretense that he finds Cher to be both clueless and ego-centric, he eagerly chooses to be with her rather than someone with a bit more substance.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Clueless definitely sends the message that being attractive and fashionable is more important than being driven or intelligent. Although Cher is a kind person, her popularity revolves around her money and her individual style. She claims to want to be friends with Ty, but immediately sets about transforming her into a miniature version of herself. The fact that Ty is willing to go along with Cher’s “make-over” of both her appearance and her personality suggests that all of us, even those that have our own peculiar, unpopular sense of style, secretly want to be turned into Barbie dolls. That we want to be taken under someone’s wing and transformed through some bizarre version of Cinderella.
The film does score a few points for including some diversity in its cast and portraying a high school universe where even awkward and pudgy girls can become popular and well-liked. Despite these few bright spots, however, Clueless does more to reinforce superficial beauty standards than to derail them.
Plot: 1.5 Stars
Cher is clearly a leader within her circle of friends. She’s a trendsetter who shapes the standards and ideals of her social clique. Unfortunately, despite her claim that she’s going to start using her popularity for something good, she never devotes her power or influence towards larger goals or anything beyond her elite, high school universe. She has no interest in running for student council or helping her community. As far as we can tell, she saves one unfortunate young girl, Ty, from being picked on and excluded. Although this is noble, Cher doesn’t do much for the other social outcasts. She never makes the claim that everyone at school can be part of the elite crowd. That if Ty turned out to be cool and interesting, despite not quite fitting the mold, maybe there’s something cool and interesting about everyone. Instead, as Josh aptly points out, Ty becomes little more than a puppet to look up to Cher and validate her. She’s no longer free to be herself, or even date the one guy that she’s truly interested in. And at times, it’s difficult to say how much of a favor Cher is really doing for Ty.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Cher doesn’t change much over the course of the film. In fact, she spends more time changing others than improving herself. She changes her teaches in the hopes of getting better grades, she changes Ty into someone she can relate to, and in time, she even changes Josh. She does have her moments of insecurity that make her relatable and human. Moments when she realizes that she’s not invincible and that she can’t always get what she wants by flirting and playing dumb. She does come across as a more genuine person towards the end of the film. Someone who’s learned something about what it means to truly help others and support them as they are. But her sense of entitlement and her materialistic values, remain more or less intact.
Love: 2 Stars
Cher and Josh have very little in common, but it doesn’t stop them from “falling in love." And Clueless doesn't do much to convince us that this mismatched romance is based on anything more than physical attraction.
Cher is pretty candid and even proud of the vain and immature ways she goes about attracting guys. A full 90% of her efforts, if not more, are focused on hair, clothes and make-up. She also plays juvenile games to make men jealous, rather than simply approaching them with conversation. But everything about Clueless suggests that Cher's instincts are spot on.
When Cher begins to doubt her ability to win Josh over, her father encourages her by telling her how beautiful she is, reinforcing the idea that looks alone should be enough to convince any guy that she’s worth the time and effort of a relationship. Similarly when Cher and Josh finally reveal their feelings for one another, Cher calls him out for thinking she’s nothing more than a ditz with a credit card. He doesn’t counter with any substantive compliments, but simply tells her that she’s gorgeous. The empty flattery suggests that Cher has the right idea in focusing so much attention on her appearance. Because apparently, that’s all it takes.
Family: 3 Stars
Cher’s father, Mel, might have been a more progressive father figure if he'd had a bit better follow-through. He occasionally encourages Cher to be more than she is, telling her that he’d like to see a bit more drive out of her and that she needs to start thinking about her future. But he never sits down and has a serious conversation with her about it. To the contrary, he seems to allow her to perform poorly in school and skirt through life on her good looks and social status, as long as it continues to give her a concrete advantage.
Friendship: 1 Star
Cher and her friends are the perfect embodiment of every stereotype of female friendships. They go shopping when they’re stressed, give each other make-overs and talk about boys, but there’s little true substance or sincerity behind the drama.
Clueless does include one scene where Cher and Dionne have a somewhat serious conversation with Ty about drug use. But the conversation is more of a lecture than a discussion. If anything, it’s a warning regarding her new “dos” and “don’ts” now that she’s one of the in-crowd. Ty clearly doesn’t have a voice in the matter. Cher and Dionne also spend some time comforting Ty when she loses Elton, but they don’t offer her much sympathy over the guy she really likes, Travis. Everything in Clueless suggests that female friendships are far more trite and shallow than they truly are.
Cher is a privileged young girl from L.A. who helps a misfit new student, Ty, fit in with the popular crowd. Cher introduces Ty to fashion, guys and parties in an attempt to boost her social status. Over the course of Ty’s “make-over” Cher takes an interest a new student named Christian. But when Christian turns out to be not quite the right guy for her, she finds herself falling for someone she never expected.
Kelly is a labor law