Clueless Summary and Analysis of Part 4: Cher Loses Control


The Mighty Mighty Bosstones continue to play, as Josh approaches Tai and makes conversation with her. Cher watches, pleased that Josh is being kind to her helpless friend. She gasps and alerts Christian: “Josh is dancing with Tai! He never dances!” Christian is not very interested, but Cher is overjoyed to see Josh making Tai feel included. She dances and waves to Josh, who awkwardly waves back, dancing poorly. Christian starts dancing with a boy nearby, which catches Josh’s attention, as Cher continues to dance alone, unaware. The lead singer of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones does a dive into the crowd, and crowd surfs, before being lowered to the ground.

Later, the stage is being packed up and the party has ended. Christian continues to dance, while Cher holds a sleeping Tai on her lap nearby. Josh approaches Cher and asks how she’s doing, and Cher tells him that she’s ready to go. When she calls over to Christian, asking if he wants to leave, he says that a group of guys nearby know about the next fun party. “My trainer’s coming really early,” says Cher, and Josh offers to drive the girls home. Christian says he will take them, but when Cher insists that he can stay, he takes her up on it and stays. “You are a down girl, I’ll call you tomorrow,” he tells Cher, who smiles.

In the car home, Cher thanks Josh for dancing with Tai and asks him if he has noticed any “positive changes in her.” He makes a sarcastic comment about the fact that Tai now wears shirts that bare her midriff. Cher is then struck by an idea: they should go get takeout for themselves and their father, who is staying up all night looking at depositions. Josh mocks her for using the word “dope” and the two of them laugh flirtatiously. We see the dining room table where the lawyers are working on the depositions as food is distributed among them. Cher prevents her father from biting into a hamburger, as the shot shifts to a scene from Ren and Stimpy on the television. Cher brushes her hair while Josh eats junk food. In voiceover, Cher says: “I know it sounds mental, but sometimes I have more fun vegging out than when I go partying.” Josh teases Cher about how much she cares about her appearance, and the two flirt.

Suddenly the phone rings. When Cher picks it up, it’s Josh’s mother Gail, who asks if Josh is there “cleaning out your refrigerator.” Josh urgently whispers for Cher to tell Gail that he is not there, and Cher lies that Josh is not at their house, and urges her to “try the dorms.” Hanging up, Cher asks Josh why he didn’t want to talk to his mom, and he tells her it’s because she wants him to come home for Spring Break. When Cher asks what’s so bad about that, he tells her that “Husband #4 will be there, and his whole idea of acting like a family is to criticize me.” Cher is skeptical of Josh’s plan to loaf around on his college campus for the entirety of Spring Break, and invites him to stay with them. Josh resists, saying “You’ve got your whole social world going on. I don’t want to get in the way,” but Cher insists that it would be fine. When he refers to himself as a “brother-type,” Cher assures him that he is not her brother, and that staying with them will “replenish” him in time for finals. He agrees, and makes fun of Cher for watching cartoons, as the camera shows the television, still playing an episode of Ren and Stimpy. “They’re way existential,” Cher says of the grotesque cartoon characters, which makes Josh laugh.

We shift to a close-up of a bedside telephone at the Horowitzes, as the dramatic theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey plays. Cher narrates in voiceover that she doesn’t expect to hear from Christian the next day, but he calls while she is packing her father’s luggage for a trip. We see Christian on the other end of the phone, as Cher narrates that he plans to bring over some videos for them to watch that night. Cher is flustered at the thought of a night alone with him, and invites Dionne over for support. We see the friends adjusting the light scheme in the house in anticipation of Cher’s date. Then Cher hangs a dress over her shoulders, narrating “I don’t rely on mirrors, so I always take polaroids.” Dionne snaps pictures of Cher with different dresses. The scene then shifts to Cher with curlers on the top of her head, as she drops a cylinder log of cookie dough onto a baking sheet with a thud—“Whenever a boy comes over you should always have something baking,” she narrates. In closeup, we see Cher putting on makeup meticulously with Dionne’s help. When the shot zooms out, we see that Cher’s face is red, which aggravates her. “You’re all flushed. You have to calm down,” urges Dionne. “I am so glad I never did it with someone I had lukewarm feelings for,” says Cher, implying that she intends to sleep with Christian that evening. “I am going to remember tonight forever,” Cher says as Dionne holds a tissue to her lips to “blot” her lipstick.

Christian rings the doorbell, and Cher scurries to open it, wearing a red dress. She greets him coyly, waiting for a kiss, but Christian steps past her and asks if something’s burning. Realizing that she left the cookie dough in the oven, Cher runs to the kitchen, pushing Christian aside. The kitchen is filled with smoke, and she pulls out the baking sheet, which now holds a completely charred log of cookie dough. Christian jokes, “Aw honey you baked!” before taking her hand and asking Cher to show him the rest of her house. They walk outside by the pool past a number of large sculptures, about which Cher says, “Daddy says it’s a good investment.” They walk past a Claes Oldenberg statue, and Christian stops at one, which he calls “a very important piece.” Cher seems bored, and asks if he wants to go swimming, but he insists they watch the movies he brought over.

The couple lie on the bed and watch television, with Cher narrating that “Christian had a thing for Tony Curtis, so he brought over Some Like it Hot and Spartacus.” In a comic mispronunciation, Cher calls Spartacus “Sparatacus” and we see the couple laughing while they watch. In Spartacus, a homoerotic scene between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis takes place, as Cher attempts to caress Christian’s leg with her foot. When Christian looks over at her, she coyly tells him, “My feet are cold,” and he abruptly covers them with a pillow so he can get back to watching the film. Cher is miffed by his inattention, as he insists they watch the next scene, and she abruptly throws herself off the bed. Rather than rush to her aid, however, he simply looks at her indifferently and asks if she is okay. She pops back up immediately and asks if he wants some wine, but he doesn’t want any. “You notice how wine makes people want to feel like sexy?” he asks, clearly uninterested in any kind of sexual advancements. “That’s okay,” says Cher, lost in his gaze. Sensing that perhaps Cher has sexual expectations, Christian jumps off the bed and says he should go home. Cher asks if he wants some coffee, but he says he has ulcers. Calling his bluff, Cher recalls that he drank cappuccinos in her presence, and he tells her that was different because of the foam. Cher walks Christian to the front door. “You’re great, we’re friends right?” he says and offers his cheek for her to kiss. As he leaves, Cher looks completely confused, closing the door behind him and sighing.

In the next scene, Cher rides in the car with Dionne and Murray. As she wonders what she did to repel Christian, Dionne supportively insists that she did nothing wrong. “I suppose it wasn’t meant to be. I mean, he does dress better than I do,” says Cher, mournfully. Murray instructs Dionne, who is driving, to get into the right lane, but instead of putting on her blinker, Dionne accidentally turns on the windshield wipers, which makes Murray laugh. He then tells her to watch the road, urgently, and Dionne lists all the steps involved in merging—looking in the rearview mirror, checking her blind spot—before swerving into the right lane dangerously. Murray and Dionne argue, but Cher wants to keep talking about Christian, and the fact that they almost had sex. When Murray wants to know who she’s talking about, Cher tells him it’s Christian, which makes Murray burst into laughter. Dionne and Cher still don’t get it, so Murray spells it out using a number of slang expressions: Christian is gay. Cher doesn’t believe it at first, but when Dionne points out that Christian does like to shop, Cher realizes that Murray is right.

“I feel like such a bonehead,” says Cher, as Dionne accidentally merges onto the freeway, to everyone’s alarm. Everyone in the car screams as Dionne struggles to stay in her lane. Murray yells at Dionne to keep control of the car and not to panic, but vehicles swerve around them—an elderly woman gives them the middle finger as her car passes, a fleet of motorcyclists buzz around the car, and a giant truck comes up behind them. Seeing the truck, Murray looks back and screams, as Dionne gets off the freeway at an exit. Murray tells her she did a great job, as Dionne struggles to remain calm and Cher whimpers in the backseat. Dionne is on the verge of a panic attack, as Murray urges her to keep breathing. Finally, Dionne and Murray kiss in a comically passionate manner, as Cher observes from the backseat that “getting off the freeway makes you realize how important love is.” We see Cher’s face in bewildered close-up, watching the couple make out, as she details that soon after, Dionne lost her virginity. Cher also admits, in narration, “I realized how much I wanted a boyfriend of my own.”

We then see Cher and Christian riding up an escalator at the mall together, as Cher tells us that Christian and she have become good shopping partners. At the top of the escalator, Christian asks where Tai went, and Cher tells him that Tai is with some guys she met at the Foot Locker. The camera shows Tai, sitting on a railing over the ground floor talking to a group of guys. Christian pulls a jacket out of a shopping bag and asks Cher if she thinks it’s “James Dean or Jason Priestley.” Cher urges him that he looked good in it and they look over at Tai, who asks the two guys she’s with if they would catch her if she fell. Cher is unimpressed with the guys, who she labels “generic.” Suddenly, the guys are lowering Tai down over the railing and she screams for them to bring her back up. Christian and Cher run to her aid. Christian gets there first, and Tai comes back over into his arms. Christian pushes one of the guys, telling them, “Someone could have been killed,” and Tai rushes to hug Cher. Tai is beside herself, alarmed at the dangerous experience, and Christian comes over and puts his arm around her. “Let’s get you home for some R & R ok?” he says, as they walk off. Cher lingers behind, slinging the shopping bags over her shoulder and thinking to herself, “Considering how clueless she was, Tai sure had that damsel-in-distress thing down.”

The scene cuts to outside the high school, as Cher sarcastically narrates that everyone is gossiping about Tai’s near-death experience at the mall. We see Tai in the middle of a group of students who ask her about what it was like to almost die. When a boy asks if she saw a montage of her life in the moment of peril, she clarifies that it “wasn’t really a montage.” Summer walks up to Cher and asks “is it true gang members tried to shoot Tai at the mall?” Cher denies that that happened, rolling her eyes, and watching the flurry of attention surrounding Tai. She goes over to sit at the lunch table where Tai and Dionne are, and Tai has to tell the boy sitting next to her to make room for Cher. Amber prompts Tai to tell them more about her brush with death. Dramatically, Tai tells them that before one dies, one’s mind gets very clear. Cher tries to interject her own story about getting mugged on the way home from the party, but is interrupted by the boy sitting nearby who wants to hear more from Tai. Cher suggests to Tai that they go buy a gift for Christian for saving her life, which Tai wants to do before remembering she has a plan with Amber. Cher tries to make a plan for another day, but Tai’s calendar has filled up considerably, and her next availability is the following week. Miffed, Cher sits by as Dionne and Tai greet Travis. Tai now treats Travis disdainfully; when he hocks a loogie into the air and catches it in his mouth, she tells him, “Don’t the slackers prefer that grassy knoll over there?” Travis is dismayed by Tai’s sudden coldness, and looks at Cher, confused. Cher also looks confused, as Travis walks away. Dionne asks Tai if she has ever had sex underwater, and Tai says that she has. Cher is confused and distraught.

The scene cuts to Cher sorting through a gigantic pile of clothes, as she prepares to go and take her driving test. Calling to Lucy, Cher attempts to find her “most responsible-looking ensemble” She needs a particular shirt, and goes to find Lucy, who is emptying the dishwasher and tells her that the shirt is likely at the cleaner. As Lucy wipes down the countertop, Cher tells her that she needs to tell Jose the gardener to clean out the bush, but Lucy tells Cher to tell him. Offensively, Cher insists that she doesn’t speak “Mexican,” and Lucy gets upset and storms out of the room. Cher is confused, and Josh, who stands nearby, tells her that Lucy is from El Salvador, an entirely different country. When Cher doesn’t understand why her misunderstanding was offensive, Josh reminds her, “You get upset if someone thinks you live below Sunset.” Cher is fed up, feeling ganged up on and storming out of the room.

In the car, we hear Cher narrate, “I had an overwhelming sense of ickyness,” as she tightly clutches the steering wheel. The camera pans over to the driving test administrator, who looks at Cher with deep skepticism, and when the car zooms out, we see that Cher is driving halfway between two lanes. Cher narrates, “Even though I apologized to Lucy, something was still plaguing me. Like Josh thinking I was mean was making me postal!” The driving tester interrupts her inner monologue to tell her to move into the right lane. Cher continues to think only of Josh, and her mental fixation on his opinion of her. As she merges, she nearly hits a bicyclist, who yells. “Oops! My bad,” Cher says contritely to the driving tester, who scolds her for driving in two lanes at once. She accidentally hits a car as she merges, but continues down the road. The tester tells her to pull over. When she asks if they’re going to go somewhere to practice left hand turns, he tells her the test is over, which confuses her. Earnestly, she asks, “How’d I do?” smiling. The tester laughs sarcastically and goes through all of the things that Cher did wrong in the test—everything—and deciding that she failed. Cher is indignant and asks to take it again, telling him she is dealing with a personal problem. When she asks if she can speak to someone else from the DMV, he fires back, “Girlie, as far as you’re concerned, I’m the messiah of the DMV.” She gets out of the car and they switch seats.

Dejected, Cher walks back into her house, narrating in utter surprise, “I failed something I couldn’t talk my way out of?” Out by the pool, she encounters Josh and Tai playing hackey sack. Josh asks how it feels to have her license, but she sadly admits that she failed, before preemptively scolding him for lecturing her about what a big responsibility driving is. “I didn’t say anything,” he says defensively. Tai rushes up to Cher as she goes back into the house, carrying a shoebox. The two girls sit beside the fireplace, which Cher turns on with the flick of a switch, and Tai tells her that the shoebox is filled with things that remind her of Elton, which she wants to burn because she’s “over him.” First she burns the towel that Elton used to wrap up the ice when she got hit in the head with the clog at the party in the Valley. Then she tries to burn a cassette version of “Rollin’ with the Homies,” but Cher stops her.

Getting up, Cher tells Tai that she’s happy for her, but asks, “what brought on this surge of empowerment?” Tai tells her that she’s met a guy that has made her completely forget about Elton. While reluctantly supportive at first, Cher is miffed to discover that Tai is interested in Josh. As Tai details the ways that she thinks Josh is interested in her, Cher becomes more and more dismayed, frowning and on the verge of tears. When Tai asks her if anything is wrong, Cher makes the excuse that she had “two mochaccinos” and feels sick. Tai empathizes with her nausea, and likens it to how she feels when she talks to Josh. Cher interrupts her to suggest that maybe she is incompatible with Josh, but Tai is insulted by what she interprets as Cher’s suggestion that she is not smart enough for Josh. When Cher tries to lightly suggest that Tai and Josh are not compatible, Tai gets upset and begins insulting Cher. “Why am I even listening to you to begin with? You’re a virgin who can’t drive,” Tai says. “That was way harsh, Tai,” Cher says, but Tai seems remorseless, and tells her they’ll talk later, before grabbing her shoebox and strutting out the door. Cher laments that she’s corrupted Tai with popularity, and rushes out of the house. “I had to get out,” she narrates.


While there have already been glimpses of this development, it is in this section of the movie that we see Josh and Cher’s relationship start to shift from confrontational to intimate. Their relationship is complicated by two factors. First, they have very different interests; second, they are former step-siblings. Their differences are marked from the start—where Cher cares about superficial things like clothes, grooming, and social politics, Josh is interested in environmental justice and is markedly unconcerned with his social capital. As the story progresses, however, these differences become less points of contention and more vectors of interest and intimacy between the two. At the start of this section of the film, Cher is delighted to see Josh looking out for Tai at the party; through his kindness, Cher sees that Josh is a good guy, and that endears her to him. Additionally, while Josh rolls his eyes at Cher’s superficiality and Cali-girl ditziness, he is surprised by her beauty when she descends the staircase for her date with Christian, and begins to see that she is a smarter and savvier person than he first suspected.

Part of Cher and Josh’s contention is their status as former step-siblings; they banter as though they are related, but they are in fact only former step-siblings. In this section of the film, Cher begins to see Josh as less of a sibling figure and more as a peer. When she invites him to stay at their house over Spring Break, instead of lounging around in his college dorm or going home and submitting himself to the criticism of his latest stepfather, he is skeptical, and suggests that Cher wouldn’t want a “brother-type tagging along.” Cher is adamant that Josh is not her brother. On one level, Cher’s assurance is a way of inviting Josh to be her friend, a way of extending a social olive branch. On another level, however, it is opening up the possibility of romance; while it would be inappropriate for step-siblings to date, Cher is correcting Josh that he is not her brother. By drawing attention to the fact that they are not siblings, Cher invites attraction, as well as obliquely communicating her own feelings of interest.

Also in this section of the film, more hints are dropped about the mysterious Christian, and his apparent disinterest in Cher, finally culminating in the revelation of his homosexuality. He dances with a boy at the party, wants to keep partying with a group of guys after the party instead of driving Cher and Tai home, has an extensive knowledge about contemporary sculpture, and wants to watch two Tony Curtis films with gay undertones rather than have sex. While Cher is mystified by Christian’s detachment, the viewer can begin to see that Christian’s interest lies elsewhere. Through subtle use of stereotypes, writer/director Heckerling implies that Christian is gay, and that his interest in Cher is strictly platonic. His priorities are in comical contrast with Cher’s desire to lose her virginity to him. While she wants to go in the pool, he would rather look at sculpture and discuss art. While she wants to play footsie, he wants to watch a homoerotic scene from Spartacus. When she throws herself off the bed in a comic flourish, he is not the chivalrous date she might have hoped, but simply a confused friend, wondering why she launched herself onto the floor for no reason. The film seeks to satirize the trope of the disinterested homosexual, as yet another way of highlighting that Cher is completely “clueless.” Everyone but her can tell that Christian is gay, and not interested. Thus, while Cher is savvy about so many things, when it comes to her own personal life, she is almost always in the dark.

The film continues to take itself lightly, and even when dealing with more serious topics, does so with an ironic and over-the-top sense of satire. Cher’s realization that Christian is gay is promptly interrupted by Dionne accidentally taking an exit to get on the freeway. Dionne is a horrible driver, unable to stay calm and follow basic rules of the road. This moment of vehicular danger becomes a broadly comic moment, however, as the girls scream in alarm, Murray seeks to keep order, and nearly every other vehicle on the road—including a car carrying an elderly couple—seeks to intimidate the teenagers as they pass. The chaos is abrupt and over-the-top, all girlish screams and panic. The scene is undoubtedly played for laughs, but it also serves to remind the viewers that, however adult and sophisticated these high schoolers think they are, they can barely survive a moment of highway driving. The scene satirizes the naive convictions of youth, and the comic proportions those convictions can take when tested. The title of the movie is also its main comic thrust; at every turn, the characters prove just how “clueless” they are.

Cher loses control of her social situation when Tai has her near-death experience and inexplicably becomes more popular. Cher initially admitted that makeovers gave her a sense of control, but now, she has no control of the girl whom she helped make over. Suddenly, Tai, whom Cher has felt so much responsibility for throughout the film, doesn’t need her anymore, and seems to wield more social power than Cher herself. Cher is frustrated to realize that helping Tai has only eclipsed her own grip on her high social standing, which registers as a deep betrayal. Not only is Tai suddenly more popular, but she also eschews her initial authenticity in favor of flaunting her newfound status. When Travis tries to open up a friendly interaction, she puts him down, calling him a “slacker”; in the beginning, she identified with and liked him, but now she is arrogant about her own seat at the popular table. Through Tai’s transformation towards mean-spirited powermonger, Cher begins to see the superficiality of her own social project. To add insult to injury, Dionne and Tai share in their having both lost their virginities, while Cher remains tragically unattached. “You’re a virgin who can’t drive,” Tai tells her when she questions Tai’s attraction to Josh, and Cher realizes that she’s “created some sort of a monster.”