Cher is a good-natured, sweet, and popular girl, and is wealthy and attractive. She is the queen of the social scene at Bronson Alcott High School and lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her doting but hard-nosed lawyer father, whose deal-striking and negotiating skills she has inherited. She is used to being able to argue her way to success—until she receives a poor grade in debate class.
Cher is depicted as air-headed and superficial in moments, but also surprisingly savvy, moral, helpful, and thoughtful. Cher is conservative about sex, and does not believe in dating a less-than sophisticated high school boy, although most of the male students would love to date her. She enjoys bringing others together, giving makeovers, taking control, matchmaking, and, above all, shopping.
Cher is a very contradictory and satirical character, self-centered and vain without any awareness of her own spoiled privilege, but also an innocent. She has no idea that any of her more superficial characteristics are bad. She simply enjoys making others happy. Throughout the film Cher finds increasing enjoyment in doing good deeds.
Dionne is Cher's best friend, also beautiful, popular, and rich. She is a caring and sincere ally, and also serves as Cher's chief fashion critic. She and her boyfriend, Murray, have a tumultuous relationship, quarreling almost constantly. They argue when he shaves his head but bond over Dionne's bad driving experience on the freeway. Like Cher, Dionne is also horrible at driving. Dionne cares about Murray and exhibits a slightly more grounded sense of herself than Cher.
Tai is the archetypal ugly duckling who is transformed into a swan, both physically and emotionally. When she arrives at the high school, she is a druggie who just wants to slack off, but under Cher and Dionne's tutelage, she learns the ins and outs of social status. After a change in hair, make-up and clothing, Tai's confidence soars and she becomes comfortable with the popular clique. After a "near-death" experience at the mall, Tai's confident attitude goes into overdrive and almost poses a threat to Cher's social standing, but by the end of the film she has managed to regain Cher's respect and friendship. Tai is a sweet and awkward misfit who learns to believe in herself.
Cher's former step-brother is ambitious and socially conscious, and he hopes to become an environmental lawyer. He is presented as a bleeding-heart liberal, listening to alternative rock, keeping up-to-date on the news, and unconcerned with superficialities. As Dionne puts it, Josh is in his "post-adolescent idealistic phase." Outwardly, he seems to consider Cher frivolous and selfish, but as the film progresses he reveals a more protective side and demonstrates caring and concern for her. Josh is a foil for Cher, and also her perfect complement.
Melvin "Mel" Horowitz
Cher's father is a successful litigator, who is a workaholic and seems always to be involved in big cases in Beverly Hills. He is intimidating and often bad-tempered, frightening the maid, Lucy, and generally exhibiting a cranky disposition. Despite being divorced from Josh's mother he remains very involved in Josh's life because, as he puts it, "you divorce wives, not children." He adores his daughter, Cher, is very protective, and helps her see her own positive qualities when she comes to him disheartened.
Amber is Cher's nemesis at the school. Cher likens her to a Monet painting—"from far away it's okay, but up close its a big old mess." Amber constantly competes with Cher in all areas, from style and fashion to debate class to popularity and the affection of boys.
Travis is a dazed and confused stoner and slacker who loves to skateboard and has a massive crush on Tai. He is sweet but out-to-lunch, often too stoned to function in an appropriate manner at school. By the end of the movie, he has entered a 12 step program to stop smoking marijuana, and donates his smoking paraphernalia to the Pismo Beach Disaster Relief Fund. After quitting weed, he becomes an expert skater, and dates Tai.
Cher's hard-nosed and harried debate teacher, who refuses to give her a good grade. He eventually softens on Cher, when she sets him up with Ms. Geist.
The nerdy and sweet history teacher, who is constantly trying to get her students more involved with philanthropy and giving back. Cher eventually helps her, both by setting her up with Mr. Hall and captaining the relief effort for the Pismo Beach disaster.
The Horowitz's maid. She is frightened of Mr. Horowitz and becomes insulted when Cher mistakenly thinks that she is from Mexico. She is from El Salvador.
A snobby and popular boy, who invokes his powerful father when asked to give reasons why he doesn't want to date Tai. He is smitten with Cher and keeps kissing her in his car, even though she asks him to stop. He is shallow and rude.
A well-dressed and mysterious new student at the school. He acts like a member of the Rat Pack, loves modern sculpture, has "a thing for Tony Curtis," and is Cher's ideal shopping companion.
Clueless Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Clueless is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Clueless study guide contains a biography of director Amy Heckerling, quiz questions, major themes, character descriptions, and a full summary and analysis. The movie Clueless is an adaption of the book Emma by Jane Austen and provides a modern update on the social matchmaking of the lead character, Emma (Cher).
Clueless literature essays are academic essays about the movie Clueless provided for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling and adapted from Jane Austen's Emma.