REQUIEM FOR A FILM: Clueless
Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, Clueless is one for the ages. 21 years later, it is still one of the most current pieces of feminist prose I have ever seen. I first watched this when I was 9 years old with my brother. It was a Friday night, my mum had friends over, and she needed us to be distracted. Clueless on VHS tape seemed to be the only right choice.
Upon initial viewing, Clueless is your usual hot-cool-girl comedy, featuring many nostalgic references that a spice girl’s self-confessed 90’s kid like myself, (97’ counts right?) cannot resist. However, under a close magnifying glass of Calvin Klein slip dresses and the soundtrack to 10 Things I hate About You playing in the background, Amy Heckerling’s 90 minutes of frivolous teenage fun in Beverly Hills is actually a feminist example of gals sticking together.
Through Heckerling’s clever character development of her privileged and attractive group of teenagers, we see a strong sense of friendship and loyalty that to me, a girl and somewhat of a self-confessed feminist, is everything females should be. The girls are respectful to one another, particularly once the topic of sex is brought up. Cher, the group’s ringleader, and her wing woman Dionne have different views on virginity, but neither judge the other or question their decisions. Cher’s respect to herself and resistance to conform to being objectified as a sexual object used by men, only challenges the typical view of women in traditional society. “As if” is retorted to a male who tries to grab her randomly in the school hallway. This infamous line that can be seen on many Tumblr’s around the world, signifies Cher as a girl who will not just be anyone’s. As she shouts these gloriously empowering words, girls everywhere shouted “yeah you go girl”. Well I did anyway.
Although 21 years ago, the power of well, female empowerment, is still very much an important zeitgeist issue to this day. The feminist icons of today’s society might not all be clad in knee high white stockings and flounce around in matching two-piece plaid skirt suits that feature a matching purse, but they do provide the young women of today with the same inspired feeling I felt that Friday night when I was 9. Another female inspiration I grew up with was Hermione Granger. Harry Potter’s savvy and independent best friend provided me with all the glass ceiling shattering material I needed.
J.K Rowling aside, Hermione’s non-fictional counterpart, Emma Watson, provided her own stance on the world of feminism. In September of 2014, Watson stood in front of the UN and spoke on not just on the topic of feminism, but also encouraging men to start being more aggressive in promoting feminist ideals. The speech was in one word iconic. She was brutal but not insane, strong but not intimidating, a female but not in any way shape or form returning to the weak traditional ideals that have been reinforced for centuries. I started thinking of Clueless’s heroine, Cher Horowitz and how she is still relevant to today’s ever changing society.
Okay to be fair, the characters of the 1995 ‘girly film’ are every bit the girly girl you would stereotypically believe them to be. Some may argue my choice of a feminist empowerment film is a terrible example. But to my critics I say, “as if!”. Cher may be a very feminine character in that she cares for her appearance but being a feminist does not mean you have to look and act like a tomboy. A feminist in my perception is a human, not always necessarily a female, who is supportive of the equality of both genders. Which is quite possibly the most important lesson Heckerling has presented to her audience in a quest to smash any pre-conceived misconceptions you may have over feminists’ and feminism as a culture. Feminists are not fire-breathing man-haters who detest anything stereotypically feminine. They are accepting and encouraging of equality. The characters in Clueless are not only equal to each other, but any possible marginalised characters are seen to be friends, rather than the outsider (Tai), or the token dark-skinned character (Dione).
Clueless is a lot more than people give it credit for. Feminist themes aside, it is a well written, funny take on what teenagers like myself could possibly call “a boring” novel that your teachers make you read in school. Other themes such as drug use, being secure in yourself, and proving your worth to others around you truly make this film a lot more than the average teenage comedy. Just with more Kneehigh’s and expensive makeup.