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'Clueless,' 20 years later: A second opinion from 2 teens and an adult

As Clueless approached the 20th anniversary of its theatrical release on July 19 (old enough to drive; not yet old enough for a brewski), I started to wonder if what I felt for the film was true love—major, total, butt-crazy love—or if youthful nostalgia was clouding my judgment.

Who better to weigh in on the lasting impact of the Amy Heckerling classic than a pair of 16-year-old girls? While I settled in for a studious rewatch on DVD (hot pink “Whatever!” Edition, circa 2005), they logged into Netflix to decide for themselves if Clueless is still dope, or totally buggin.’

Wendy H., age 33

I was 13 years old when Clueless hit theaters in the summer of 1995, but my mom wouldn’t allow me to watch it until it hit video stores a year or so later.

It was love at first sight.

I was enthralled by the beautiful fashion, and fashion risks; by the hyper-articulate dialogue and brand-new (to me) slang; and especially Cher’s romantic entanglements. Despite the “sex-related dialogue and some teen use of alcohol and drugs” (PG-13 warning), the bright soundtrack, the bold colors, and sweet romances were more my speed than Kids, or Hackers, or even Empire Records (a favorite later in life). And I’ve been lusting after Cher’s wardrobe and quoting the film ever since.

Clueless. Cher

So what did I find when viewing it for the first time with a critical eye?

The details feel dated, which shouldn’t be a surprise. When the film was released, it was fabulously hip, and there’s little room for a snapshot of teen life like that to stay fresh over time, especially when it’s exaggerated for effect. But in an odd way, I find all of those dated details sort of comforting.

You know immediately what decade you’re jumping into. The first seconds of the graphic opening credits, from the screaming neon colors and wipes to the camera movements and editing, are very mid-’90s. They’re just a bit more advanced than Saved by the Bell’s jazzy animated shapes.

Obviously the fashion, makeup, and hair are of another time, along with the soundtrack and the pop-culture references: the Mentos’ “Freshmakers” jingle; Marky Mark planting a tree; Beavis and Butthead and Ren and Stimpy on TV. Even ska superstars The Mighty Mighty Bosstones make a cameo at a college frat party.

The technology seemed like a status symbol at the time, but today feels dated: flip phones that didn’t even have GPS to help them navigate to the Val party. I absolutely coveted Cher’s digital wardrobe management system, even if I still don’t understand how it seemingly had touchscreen capabilities. Even Elton’s oversize CD binder (minus The Cranberries) and Tai’s “Rollin’ with the Homies” cassette tape probably seem so old to anyone born in the 21st century.

Clueless - Cher and Tai: You

Upon closer inspection, there are also a few social issues I’d never noticed that bother me now. The girls use the “R” word not once but twice. No one bats an eyelash when it’s revealed that Christian is gay (in fact, Cher is the only one who seemed to be totally clueless about it), but that doesn’t stop Murray from using off-putting descriptors like “cake boy” and “Streisand ticket–holding friend of Dorothy.”

As a former teenage girl, I was also disturbed by how obsessed the main characters are with body image, especially weight. When Elton dumps Tai, her first reaction is to ask, “It’s my hips, isn’t it?” To cheer her up, they indulge a calorie-fest, but probably only after alternating Buns of Steel or Cindy Crawford’s Aerobicise. Cher feels like a heifer for eating two bowls of Special K, three pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, five peanut butter M&M’s, and, like, three pieces of licorice. (The sad thing is, this sort of dialogue isn’t gone from movies even 10 or 15 years later. Remember how Cady gets back at a dieting Regina George by tricking her into gaining twice as many pounds as she wants to lose in Mean Girls?)

Clueless, Cher fails her driving testBut take the girl out of Beverly Hills, and Cher’s teen problems are still fairly relatable today. She mothers her strict father, a very sweet relationship despite his many remarriages and refusal to eat right. She’s not a perfect student, or a great driver (that came out of nowhere!), but she’s not a total ditz, either, and she has a big heart. She’s the most popular girl in school, but still battles insecurity and the power of cliques. She’s gorgeous, but still can’t seem to find the right boy to settle down with, already—including the dreamy new kid who’d rather just be friends (Christian), and the friend who wants to maul her in a liquor-store parking lot (Elton).

Find me one teen who’s never experienced jealousy, wondered where they fit in, worried they’d never find love, felt awkward at a party, or stressed over tests or learning to drive. And find me a teenager who’s never felt the joys of flirting and friendship, and making a difference, even if it’s just in your own little world.

These things are universal no matter what your zip code, or the decade in which you’re growing up.

Clueless, Cher and Josh (Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd)SECOND OPINIONS

Franny D., age 16

The old look adds a layer that you don’t see in movies today. But I was surprised at the way it was done and how dated the fashion was. It was weird.

The movie feels old, but I liked it, and the plotline is still relatable today.

The Clothes: The fashion was pretty laughable: over-the-top accessories, and especially Dionne, who wore REALLY over-the-top outfits.

The Characters: I felt like the movie was pretty relatable. I didn’t relate to how rich Cher was, and how she lived in a mansion. I DID relate to her struggles in driving.

I feel like most of Cher’s friends were one-dimensional and hard to relate to. It was good to see a platonic relationship between a boy and girl, when Cher and her ex-step-brother would talk.

The Slang, the Cell Phones, and the Soundtrack: They referred to one character as so sweet, she gave somebody a toothache. No one uses that wording or phrasing!

The music was VERY ’90s. It’s like music you’d hear in the old episodes of Scooby-Doo.

The big cell phones and pagers showed how it was back then. But those details didn’t take away from the story.

Molly J., age 16

I really liked the movie. I thought it was funny, and would watch it again.

Clueless, Cher and Dionne plot to set up Ms Geist and Mr Hall

It felt dated because of the slang and songs they listened to. I got some references, like Marky Mark and Tina Turner. But the slang is very different from today, like “buggin'” and “jeepin’.” I only recognized the Cindy Lauper song (“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”) and the very first song, “Kids of America.”

The fashion was plaid skirts for girls, and baggy pants for guys. Dionne’s hats were very crazy, and Cher’s outfits were always very preppy—way different from how we dress now.

Dionne and Murray were my favorite, because they were funny and dramatic. Elton was my least favorite, because he acted like jerk and just left Cher in the Valley.

Cher, as a whole, was not relatable to my life, but I understood a few aspects, like wanting good grades and having a strict dad. Tai was the most relatable, because she wanted to fit in and have friends.

At first I didn’t like Josh. But when he picked up Cher in the Valley, it showed that he cared enough about her to help her out. When Josh and Cher get together at the end, though, it is a little strange because they were step-siblings, and he is 19 or 20, and Cher is 16. The only thing I found strange about it was the fashion and slang. What I found funny was the fact that high school kids then were obsessed with their phones, just like how teens are now!

Clueless, Cher and Dionne cell phones

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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