Amy Heckerling’s iconic teen classic “Clueless,” a modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma,” turns 25 this year. Set in Beverly Hills circa 1995, “Clueless” follows Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone, who is the most popular girl in school.
Cher practically has it all: a big house, a nice car, social status and a closet that is to die for. Although Cher appears to have everything a girl could want, she desires more out of life and decides to offer assistance to those she deems worthy with the help of her best friend Dion, played by Stacey Dash. Both Cher and Dion are fashionable, popular, rich and ironically not very clueless. While the aesthetics in “Clueless” are trendy and fun, the well-rounded characters are what make this film full of themes of acceptance and maturity.
Cher’s good deeds manage to highlight how selfish and shallow she is, even if she isn’t trying to be. Cher is a 15-year-old high class socialite who uses her art of persuasion to get whatever she wants. Once new-girl Tai arrives at school, played by Brittany Murphy, Cher immediately pushes her head-first into a full-on makeover, even going as far as to tell her who she can and can’t be romantically involved with. Class is a huge topic in “Clueless,” as it is in all of Austen’s novels. Disguised as high school clique culture, making it an inventive way to alter source material, the connection between high society in “Emma” and the popular kids of “Clueless” is uncanny.
Throughout the film, Cher’s thoughts are narrated, allowing for some comedic moments and expositional dialogue. It is through this narration the audience learns of Cher’s good-natured heart; she tries to help how she sees fit, even if it is shallow and in her own best interest. Cher goes through massive character development during the climax of the film after she learns that meddling in others' business isn’t the way to true happiness, ending with the biggest makeover of the movie: her own.
Mona May’s costume design has inspired fans to rejuvenate their wardrobe after witnessing Cher’s trendy style, and even the elite fashion brand Calvin Klien released Cher’s famous white dress decades after the movie’s release. Similarly, Iggy Azalea’s hit song “Fancy” had a “Clueless” inspired music video. “Clueless” spawned a television series the year after its theatrical release and a jukebox musical starring Dove Cameron in 2018. Needless to say, Heckerling’s “Clueless” is a staple in the world of pop culture. The film’s influence on fashion and its success as a loose adaptation are possible reasons no other attempts have been made to make another modern adaptation of “Emma.”
Sprinkled throughout “Clueless” are scenes capturing the essence of teen-life perfectly. While the characters may be from a higher economic class, they’re still relatable characters who find themselves participating in typical teen antics. “Clueless” has more than its fair share of memorable moments, from Dion accidentally entering the freeway to Tai’s sick burn aimed at Cher in the third act. Heckerling’s flick gave cinema fantastic female characters and a fantastic adaptation of classic literature. Although if “Clueless” gifted the world with one thing, it blessed us with Paul Rudd.