Clueless is a satire, which means it’s satirical; it makes fun of something in one of two ways, irony, or exaggeration. This can be seen throughout the film although it is only satirical about one thing in particular: the youth of contemporary America. The film does tend however to mock just one person as opposed to the whole youth of America and that person is Cher. Cher is portrayed as a spokesperson for her generation and we are led to judge most of her friends and relatives by how she behaves.
The story, therefore, focuses on the life of Cher, a 15 year old ‘spoilt rich kid’, who feels she has to be in control of the life of her friends as well as her own. The main turning point in Cher’s life is when her plan to makeover Tai backfires on her: ‘I’ve created a monster’. As Tai becomes more and more popular and self-centred Cher ‘makes over her soul’ and sees her life and her friends for what they really are; shallow and selfish. At this point Cher changes drastically, she is now involved fully in her friends’ wants and needs and even tries to help with the ‘Pismo beach disaster league’.
She loves to be the centre of attention and I think that might be one of the reasons why she buys so many outfits, to be different and to stand out, in order to be noticed. Cher is quite nai?? ve, after being told to lay down on the ground and count to one hundred by a man armed with a gun, for example, it is obvious that she was more concerned about ruining her dress than leaving her life at stake. In the end she lay on the ground, counted to three, then got up. This use of irony exaggerates the personality of Cher. Amy Heckerling also exaggerates the way rich American teenagers act.
This is shown as Cher tries to donate her skis to the Pismo beach disaster. She had no idea what the necessities in life actually are. For someone who has lost all their belongings has surely no need for skis! Throughout the film we see clever use of interior monologue, where Cher’s internal thoughts and feelings are displayed to the audience in particular. This is very useful as it helps us to understand her feelings towards her friends and the way they sometimes act, the downside is that we can’t see what her friends really think about her.
The use of music is also effective, Amy Heckerling has used a lot of very American popular music to accompany this film which will obviously draw young people to watch it. There is also an orchestra that plays quite often and although it is not that noticeable there is one piece of music which is repeated throughout the film. This tune is changed almost every time it’s played either with a faster tempo or it’s cut down to a select piece of it. I think that the music matures with Cher and it reflects her feelings and not those of the other characters.
For example, just before Cher realises her feelings for Josh the song ‘All by myself’ by Jewel plays, portraying how lonely she feels at the time. Despite the exaggeration, Clueless gives us lots of information about how rich people in Beverly Hills live. For instance it shows their wealth, which in clueless is as shallow as it gets, but we must remember that it’s also a big part of the lives of children in Beverly Hill’s and therefore a part of their culture. In reality they are quite like how Amy Heckerling portrays them only, perhaps, less overstated!
They’re not in control of their schools, for example, the teachers are and I’m sure they are nowhere near as vain or beautiful! An event that highlights the importance of image in Beverly Hills society is shown as Josh is talking about his Tree People meeting. This is obviously a meeting where they plant trees. He expresses the fact that they might be able to get ‘Marky’ Mark to plant a celebrity tree illustrating the point that celebrity’s don’t often go out of their way to plant trees except maybe in Beverly Hills!
The mall also appears to be a big hangout in Beverly Hills it is portrayed as somewhere significant to ‘hang-out’ and be noticed. Another example can be the time when all the girls were having their PE lesson; Amber’s excuse for opting out was ‘my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose’ this obviously shows that she is more into her image then her curricular activities as well as the seeminly normal event of having her own plastic surgeon.
Travis is one of the characters in the film who doesn’t care about his image, he is an individualist, someone who tries to be different and stand out from the crowd. He doesn’t follow the trends like most other people at his school instead he’s obviously found a style he likes. Although this started out five years ago: ‘skateboarding – that is so five years ago’. He is classed as a ‘loadie’ but is obviously thought of as a nice person. As soon as Tai enters the picture Travis likes her; she is into the same things as him…
until the makeover, but this doesn’t block his feelings for Tai as there is still an old part of Tai showing through. He ‘journeys’ throughout the film which brings him to ‘higher levels’ of his skateboarding as well as his own self-awareness. Most of the characters in ‘Clueless’ undergo certain ‘journeys’ during the film the most obvious of these is Cher who has a total personality flip. She starts off very ‘clueless’ and totally unaware of almost anyone other than herself then, as the film progress, she changes, and the route of her change is definitely Tai.
She becomes almost selfless, and caring. Two other characters that change drastically are Dion and Murray they are transformed as they find themselves in a life-threatening position whilst driving on the freeway. As a result of this frightening experience where they were dependent upon each other they become ‘more considerate of each other’ although it is mainly when people aren’t looking. Although Josh sees himself as the ‘brother type’ hanging around the house and annoying Cher we can see his caring instinct throughout the film and he obviously cares a lot about Cher.
When she went to the party with Christian, for example, he insisted that he accompanied them so that he could keep an eye on her. He is also very involved with the community, as I mentioned before he goes to ‘Tree People’ meetings and cares ‘about what’s going on in the world’. To conclude I think that Amy Heckerling portrays the youth of contemporary America well although she does tend to exaggerate in order to emphasis a point clearly.
All the characters in ‘Clueless’ have their own different personalities although they follow trends and imitate each other, which is similar to youth culture anywhere. The exaggeration needs to be remembered when we watch the film, however, for the youth culture in contemporary America – even in Beverly Hills is not as contrived as this! Also, the film portrays a very small section of a very rich part of America and in reality American youth culture and the way people live is very different from this.