Our Cher, who art in Bel Air, hallowed be thy wardrobe. Thy clues come, thy scheming be done, on earth, as it is in the movies.
"Clueless" turned 20 this year, and I’m still, like, totally buggin’.
For Millennials who came of age with the movie, "Clueless" offers a glimpse into a bygone era (the 1990s, how we miss thee), and a model of femininity that is preoccupied with appearance, yet yearns for insight and fulfillment.
Writer/Director Amy Heckerling’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, “Emma," revolves around teenage dream Cher Horowitz.
Yes, Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover, and she centers her life on trips to the mall, but as much as she’s a fan of traditional feminine traits — even those with misogynistic undertones — she also exudes autonomy.
My first viewing of "Clueless" was a religious experience. The film was released in July 1995, and a handful of years later, when I was 8, I randomly selected the VHS from my local Blockbuster (RIP).
The three main characters, clustered together in ‘V’ formation on the cover, represented the holy trinity of 90s awesomeness, and Cher, as played by the effervescent Alicia Silverstone, was its savior.
I was significantly below the film’s target age group, so large chunks of the plot and most of the jokes landed on ignorant ears.
I didn’t even know what it meant to be a virgin (excuse me, “hymenally challenged”), let alone the myriad cultural references the film boasts. But I gravitated toward Cher’s loving, inclusive nature. And her clothes — her clothes were mesmerizing.
I would describe my personal style as more in line with Lydia Deetz’s gothic-chic garb than Cher Horowitz’s designer-savvy, preppy parade of sweater sets and mini-dresses, but I admired her overall approach to style.
Cher isn’t defined by her clothing. She approaches fashion as a means of controlling her own image, of amplifying her own voice, of bolstering her own perspectives.
We’re introduced to Cher as she analytically selects an outfit with the latest technology: a touchscreen PC the size of a toddler.
It would be one thing if the character did not grow beyond her fashion fixation, but Heckerling makes it clear that Cher has layers.
She may do her homework with a pink fuzzy pen, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a complete badass.
Besides, anyone who can rock an Alaia body con dress, and drop a "Twin Peaks" reference in the same scene is a queen in my book.
Cher’s fashion icon status is just the first aspect of this character that spoke to me on a deep level. I envied her charm. I aspired to possess her relaxed spunk. I wanted to feel that confident in my own skin.
I’m no Cher, but I often find myself thinking WWCD: What would Cher do?
With that in mind, I present the 10 commandments of “Clueless."
1. Thou shalt live life like a Noxzema commercial.
Noxzema, the zit-blasting cream of choice for Cher and her posse, apparently produced some pretty terrific advertising material in the mid-1990s.
I mean, who doesn’t love to flirt with a cute guy at a carnival while simultaneously eliminating blackheads?
The first minute of "Clueless" is super saccharine; we actually watch Dionne (Cher’s BFF) feed a waiter the cherry off her sundae.
Just when you’re ready to change the channel, Cher cracks the crème brûlée and says: “Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?”
This line succinctly illustrates the film's ethos. Cher enjoys indulging in feminine frivolity, but she also can call it out for what it is.
There’s a balance to her personality that is at once endearing and empowering.
2. Thou shalt not mismatch.
This is pretty self-explanatory. And it’s easy to accomplish when you have software that alerts you to mismatched ensembles.
If Amy Heckerling could imagine the technology in 1995, then there must be an app for that by now.
3. Thou shalt practice good physical and mental health.
In addition to a fabulous new hairdo and some style advice, Cher also bestows upon Tai (played by the gone-too-soon Brittany Murphy) the wisdom that one must tend to body and mind.
Cher’s idea of physical fitness is alternating between Cindy Crawford’s "Aerobicise" and "Buns of Steel." Pair that regimen with a teenage metabolism and you’re good to go.
Between tennis lessons, Cher also finds the time to read one non-school book a week. And clearly she’s been hitting the dictionary, too, because her vocabulary is on point.
In between "as if" and "whatever" are smatterings of "sporadic" and "capricious." Cher’s juxtaposition of slang and 20-point Scrabble words makes the English major in me swoon.
4. Thou shalt never accept a first offer.
Cher’s (terrifying) father is a lawyer, so the power of persuasion is in her DNA.
When it comes to her grades, she refuses to accept a first offer: "Cs are just jumping off points to start negotiations."
While this is not an advisable approach to academia, it does illustrate the larger point that you should never accept things at face value, but rather, push for what you deserve.
Cher develops autonomy by setting and pursuing goals. She looks at a situation and says, "This is what isn’t working, let me figure out what I can do to fix it."
This does lead her to carry out schemes that vary in degrees of integrity, but her empathy is always present. She wants to succeed, but not at the expense of others.
When it comes to happiness, Cher believes the more the merrier. And let me remind you, it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty — or, maybe it does, I haven’t looked.
5. Thou shalt rebuff condescending and/or aggressive sleaze balls.
Whether you’re a backwards cap-sporting rando at school or a Cranberries-CD-losing snob who offered her a ride home, Cher does not take kindly to your unwelcome sexual advances.
When Elton (the aforementioned snob with a love of Irish alt band The Cranberries) basically sexually assaults Cher after a party in the Valley, she rebuffs him and gets out of the damn car.
Cher doesn’t play that way; she has far too much respect for herself and her body. And she’s not really a fan of the maudlin music of the university station, anyway.
6. Thou shalt never trust mirrors.
Cher surely grew up to become Saint Selfie. When making vital wardrobe decisions, she snaps Polaroids because, as we’ve all experienced, mirrors are filthy liars.
7. Thou shalt save thyself for Luke Perry.
Luke Perry represents Cher’s ideal, and it’s one she’s willing to wait for. In her own words: “You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet.”
Despite her status as resident virgin in her friend trio, Cher’s choice is hers alone, and she doesn’t expect everyone to follow suit.
She doesn’t question Dionne’s technical virginity or side-eye Tai’s sexual conquests. In fact, Tai is the one who reverse-slut-shames Cher, deeming her a virgin who can’t drive.
Even though this is probably the most famous (best?) line of the whole movie, it is such a clear break of the “Clueless” commandments that it reads as the climax of an otherwise low-stakes plot.
Moral of the story: You do you, and don’t throw shade.
8. Thou shalt support thy friends.
Above all its narrative threads, "Clueless" is about female friendships. From Cher and Dionne’s legendary camaraderie to her blossoming kinship with Tai, the film’s relationships revolve around support.
When Tai breaks down after Elton rejects her (even though she’s too good for him anyway), Cher comes to the rescue with a calorie fest and truancy in the name of the new Christian Slater film.
It’s true: Cher was the one who ignited Tai’s crush in the first place, but she apologizes and is there to comfort her friend.
Cher cares for all of her friends, and as she evolves, she puts their feelings and well-being above her own.
9. Thou shalt admit cluelessness.
Not even Christian Slater can solve all of life’s problems.
When Cher descends into a shame spiral following her fight with Tai (She can’t believe she wasn’t supportive of Tai’s feelings for Josh.), she must admit she’s the one who is totally clueless, and that’s never easy.
Cher not only recognizes her faults and shortcomings, but she also makes an effort to address them. Which leads me to the final commandment…
10. Thou shalt makeover thy soul.
When Cher unearths less-than-awesome truths about herself and her life, she decides to fix them. And, by the time the credits roll, this includes solutions that are more beneficial to others than to her.
Cher literally cleans closet, donating most of her wardrobe and even some sporting equipment, and spearheads a disaster relief initiative.
She makes amends with friends. She watches out for her dad. She finds her Luke Perry in the form of Paul Rudd.
Through everything, she maintains the same moxie that endeared her to the audience in the first place.
This willingness to change and adapt while staying true to you is what I take away from each and every viewing of "Clueless."
I don’t aspire to be Cher, but I do aspire to love every version of myself, to live unapologetically and, above all, to look that awesome in plaid.