Clueless Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Clueless mock the upper class of Beverly Hills?

    The film is a biting satire of upper class privilege in many ways. Cher is depicted as air-headed and un-self-aware, cheering herself up with a trip to the mall with her father's credit card, and characterizing herself as a "normal girl," even though she has access to extreme wealth. The mockery of Cher's privilege gets particularly strained when Cher is disrespectful to her El Salvadorian maid, Lucy. The film is undoubtedly a cutting satire, meant to make fun of wealth. However, as the film progresses, Cher reveals herself to be well-intentioned and good-natured, in spite of her blind spots. The film continues to satirize her air-headedness, as when she divides the food donations for disaster relief into appetizers and entrees, but it does so affectionately. Clueless maintains an ambiguous tone, both biting and warm.

  2. 2

    How is music important in Clueless?

    The music in Clueless reflects what 90s kids were listening to at the time, and shows how the young characters etch out identities for themselves. In class, Elton asks if he can go to the quad to get his Cranberries CD. Josh listens to mournful radio, which Cher mocks as overly emotional. At the party, rap music plays and Tai and Elton share a moment of dancing to the Coolio song "Rollin' with the Homies." After Elton rejects Tai, the song torments Tai and reminds her of her failure, and she wants to burn her tape of the song. Additionally, the soundtrack is filled with gems from the mid-90s, representing the youthful energy of the characters. Music helps transport the viewer into the setting and time, and follow along with the momentum of the narrative.

  3. 3

    How do the outfits and fashion illustrate the film's overall tone?

    In one of the first scenes of the film we see Cher picking an outfit for the day on her computer and retrieving it from a giant closet. This immediately shows how important concerns like fashion choices are to Cher. Cher's passion for fashion is depicted as over-the-top throughout, often comedically dissonant with the gravity of the situations she is in—as when she spots an outfit in a store in the middle of a mournful inner monologue, or when she refuses, though threatened at gunpoint, to lie on the ground for fear of ruining her dress—but this never deters her. When Cher and Dionne meet Tai they want to make her less "clueless" when it comes to personal style. Rather than teaching her more valuable and substantive lessons, they just give her a makeover. Through its depiction of fashion, the film shows us that Cher is often concerned with superficialities, and this keeps the film light. However, the film never disparages Cher for her investment in clothes; rather, it urges the viewer not to judge her simply based on her femininity and girlish interests. There is more to Cher than meets the eye, and the film's satirical tone challenges the viewer to hold off on judging what appears to be just a vapid shopper.

  4. 4

    What distinguishes Clueless from other teen movies?

    While Clueless makes many pop culture references, depicts ditzy teen girls embarking on retail therapy at the mall, and tells a classic love story, the world of the movie is witty, tonally complex, campy, and richly depicted. Clueless might look like a pointless trifle, but it vividly encapsulates a moment in time, and makes an ironically articulated intervention, showing the ways that we underestimate the influence and powers of teenage girls. The film never takes itself too seriously, maintains a satirical tone throughout, and is full of vivid and authentic slang and near-constant references. In this way, it becomes not only a quintessential example of a mid-90s teen comedy, but a self-referential comment on the genre of teen comedy itself. With its witty screenplay, inspired comedic performances by a young cast, and seductive visuals, Clueless defines the teen comedy genre.

  5. 5

    What is the main lesson that Cher learns in the film?

    By the end of the film, Cher learns to listen more closely to her intuition, to stop trying to control other people's lives so much, and to appreciate the goodness of the individuals in her life over the hierarchies that define them. Cher is status-conscious and superficially motivated at the beginning of the film; she invests passionately in the social hierarchies of the school. This prevents her from seeing the natural chemistry between Tai and Travis, leads her to try and control her surroundings at the expense of her own well-being, and prevents her from seeing her own attraction to Josh. Later in the film, when she grows unconsciously jealous of Tai's affection for Josh, Cher has a "come-to-Jesus" moment, in which she admits to herself that she has been just as "clueless" as everyone else in her life. Having failed her driving test, she realizes she cannot negotiate her way into being a safe driver. Having insulted her friend Tai, she realizes she hasn't let Tai be her own person and develop in her own way. Having dismissed Josh as an uncool loser, she has completely repressed her own love for him. Cher realizes that she needs to appreciate people in her life for who they are, and she sets to work trying to put her powers of social influence to good use.