90's-vember: Clueless (1995) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
1Nov/112

90’s-vember: Clueless (1995)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

The 1990's were about one place: Los Angeles. While a majority of our country's natural culture has been focused on New York City, it's brief detour into being restructured into some vague Disneyland-lite took it briefly from the national conscious, giving LA with its beaches, babes, and cold hard cash its turn in the sun.

Points of reference: "Beverly Hills: 90210", the surfer aesthetics of the Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, of course, "Baywatch."

This is the world that pop culture and MTV were enmeshed in during the decade, which is where Amy Heckerling took half her inspiration from. The other half comes from another trend of the 90's, which involved teen movies getting crossed with literary classics, in this case Jane Austen's Emma.

The result is Clueless. It propelled Alicia Silverstone to a brief respite of temporary fame, created a comic language all its own, and proved to be the beginning of a renaissance for teen movies. No longer were they the ribald and cheap sex comedies, but now they could flourish as statements of the flashy, sassy modern condition.

Being this pretty ain't easy.

How does this film exemplify the '90's?

Clueless is overwhelmingly aplomb in referential moments that brand the film to its exact date. For expediency's sake, here's a brief list:

  • "I can't find my Cranberries CD!"
  • Cher debates the pros of letting in Haitians to the country (pronounced by her here as "Haiti-ens").
  • Tai and Josh play a quick game of hackeysack.
  • Name drops for "Real World" and Buns of Steel.
  • Copious pager use, and the cell phones are around in their mid-90's walkie talkie-ish style.
  • The Mighty Might Bosstones show up and do a song! How is that not the mid-90's?
  • They watch some "Ren and Stimpy" ("They're way existential!"), as well as a Mentos commercial.
  • The two heartthrobs mentioned by the girls are Christian Slater and Luke Perry. Hehehe...

Outside of this multitude, the film actually spends a great deal of time on crafting its own lingo: "As if!" and "Whatever!" both reached their popular culture zenith after being featured here. And while I, personally, can never be accused of being "hymenally challenged", that phrasing will be forever stuck in my head.

Another thing I caught was the sheer proliferation of Starbucks cups in practically every scene. Starbucks still only had about 250 locations when this movie was released, a far cry of the 17,000 it enjoys now.

You don't see many outfits like those nowadays.

What makes this my pick?

The stars, darling. Besides Silverstone, who is an excellent physical comedienne, we have up and comers Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, and Brittany Murphy. On top of that there's some excellent support work from Dan Hedeya and Wallace Shawn.

Outside of them, this has to be the most "90's" film that's been made, bar none. Outside of the literary reconfiguration, every scene revolves around idolizing the hip, the happening, and the jive of the teenagers during this time. What wasn't gleaned from sitting in with actual teenagers was influential enough to create its own motif.

I will admit that much of the humor from this film comes from nostalgic imperatives, as it's so steeped in mid-90's lingo, it's be nigh impenetrable nowadays. Hell, I was still lost on occasion, but Clueless serves as a time capsule for a specific world, and with enough comedic trappings that it still works.

Posted by Danny

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  1. Well, here we are. We’ve come to the point where the youth of today will have no fucking clue what movies like this are on about. They’d probably laugh at their pagers. But I do really love this one. I agree that Silverstone is a good physical comedienne. I really wish she kept her career going.

    That’s hilarious about Starbucks. I guess the advertising paid off.

  2. It’s weird, because I’m so used to seeing Starbucks cups everywhere, it took me a second to catch on.

    Yeah, Silverstone lucked out with this one, because she had and had after this almost nothing but shit roles. The only other exception I see is the unbelievably charming Blast from the Past, but that’ll have to wait for my Brendan Fraiser nostalgia to kick in.


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