Clueless Turns 25: A Teen Film With Feminist Undertones That Still Remains Relevant
In the era of Netflix binge-watch, when a lot of us are revisiting old classics and iconic films, there’s no way we can overlook the legacy of Clueless. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, this pop-culture gem is relevant to highschoolers even today. A brief trip down memory lane and this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma is replete with feminist undertones that make it so unique and pass the test of time.
There might be a few spoilers, but we don’t apologise- if you haven’t seen Clueless yet, you deserve it.
The first factor- the film’s protagonist, Cher, played to the tee by Alicia Silverstone. On the surface, she comes across as a spoiled, vain brat with a penchant for snobbery. However, she defies the ‘poor little rich girl’ trope, as she is a strong, independent young woman. She takes charge of the Pismo Beach disaster relief effort with strength, utilising her organisational skills to do good without expecting anything in return. With extensive knowledge of fashion and matchmaking, she also turns into a matchmaker and pairs two lonely teachers, Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist(who get married at the end of the movie.)
Though this is originally a manipulative scheme orchestrated to scam better grades, she becomes personally invested and ultimately ends up being a bridesmaid at their wedding. Her kindness is evident in how she ‘adopts’ a shy new girl, Tai, and seamlessly includes her into her innermost circle which formerly only contained her friend Dionne.
- Classic teen-comedy film Clueless has completed 25 years.
- The iconic film has multiple feminist and women-centric themes.
- The despite, being two and a half decades old, manages to stand the test of time.
Another noteworthy theme is the overarching inclusivity -in terms of sexuality- in the movie. In a scene where the BFF trio discusses their sexual experiences (Dionne is ‘technically a virgin’ and Tai is not, whereas Cher is ‘saving herself for someone) there is zero judgment. In Cher’s words, she is “not a prude, just highly selective.”
The film is rooted to on the concept of unapologetic femininity, arguably the most relevant of its themes today.
The ‘shallow’ and ‘vain’ implications of being invested in one’s appearance are not depicted as disempowering, and all the characters take pride in their appearance without putting other women down (unless provoked.) Cher’s “main thrill in life is a makeover because it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos,” showing how powerfully she owns her interests and uses them for good. While terrible at ‘independent’ tasks like driving, she takes responsibility for her actions, cares unapologetically for her loved ones, and consistently pursues her goals.
Cher lets Tai in on all ‘girly’ aspects of life in high school– makeovers, workouts, shopping, and goes the extra mile to include her. She looks out for her despite having barely known her, and comes to her rescue whenever she needs her. When they fight, their emotional reconciliation shows the strength of their bond. Such realistic portrayals of female friendships are still a blip on the media radar, as contemporary chick flicks with toxic BFFs like Mean Girls proved more popular. Clueless was obviously ahead of its time.
Twenty-five years down the line, as the inspiration for Iggy Azalea’s chart-topping Fancy and every 90s fashion trend that is being milked even today, Clueless is a film so giant that cannot be forgotten. In Cher’s own words, if anyone has negative things to say, the response is “Ugh, as if!”
The views expressed are the author’s own.