BY ASHLEY KOWALEWSKI
For twenty- and early thirty-somethings making their way through adult life, Clueless has become a classic. Cher’s the adorably clueless, envy-inducing teenager with a closet to kill for, but at the end of the day, she’s just like every normal teenage girl trying to navigate her way through high school. The Amy Heckerling film made its foray onto the silver screen in 1995 and has since become a point of quote references and rainy day movie lists. It’s also a particular favourite among the Filles (not to mention the first time this particular writer fell in love with a baby-faced Paul Rudd). But, almost 20 years later, is it still relevant? Can this be a multi-generational film that can carry on into 2014 teens’ lives? I say it can be (even though it’s not).
For starters, what many people don’t know (and I actually didn’t until my fourth year university Jane Austen course) is that Clueless is actually loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Emma. There are quite a few parallels between the novel and ’90s flick, such as the general plot (sure, it was updated a bit, but it’s basically the same storyline), characters (Mr. Elton vs. Elton) and even some of the small details (the painting of Harriet Smith vs. the picture of Tai Frasier—may she RIP). While it may just be us late twenty-somethings who are still watching this flick over and over again for wardrobe inspiration (though I can’t fathom why–a quick poll of my teenage cousin’s girlfriend and friends showed that none of them have actually seen the movie, much to my shock and chagrin), I still maintain this movie can and should be popular across the new crop of teens, but some reason, it doesn’t appear to be resonating.
Clueless shows the lifestyles of the rich, famous and inherently oblivious teenagers—and isn’t that exactly what this younger generation enjoys doing, watching things like that god-awful Kardashian show and inspiring movies like The Bling Ring (thanks to the teens who inspired the flick, by the way). And isn’t it the teenage hipsters who think retro is cool? Not to mention Clueless really embodies those middle class–pardon the term–kids (well, really their parents) who are fuelling the “want it, need it, gotta have it” culture we’re in the midst of? And realistically, isn’t Clueless just an older account of the same issues and complex relationships teens face now (I know it was like that when I was in high school all those moons ago)? Things like dressing for school in the morning, liking a boy who likes someone else, liking a boy that likes other boys—it all still happens, doesn’t it? Or am I that out of touch?
As for other teen-geared movies based on classic literature, there’s the seriously underrated Easy A which is based on The Scarlet Letter, and while I suspect it might be a little more timely to today’s smartphone-holding, YouTubing youths, it’s hard to say if it’ll still be relevant as the next round of tweens enter their adolescence or if it’ll dwindle down as a one-generational-hit like Clueless.
As sad as it is to say (and forgive me for generalizing), today’s teens aren’t really savvy enough to understand the wit, allusions and references (like the fact that Mel Gibson did play Hamlet at one point—do kids these days even know who Mel Gibson is? Or Hamlet for that matter?) that make Clueless what it is. Part of that has to do with the fact that they just aren’t old enough to understand things like pagers and cassette tapes, but some of it has to do with constantly being wrapped up in your social media and smart phones and no longer learning, but concerning themselves with stupid crap like #YOLO. (Side rant: Did you know that some school boards aren’t even teaching kids how to handwrite anymore? Talk about a dying art form.)
Clueless really is a fantastic flick and has the capacity to be multi-generational, but I just don’t see this young selfie generation appreciating the mid-’90s fashion choices or references—or even classic flicks for that matter. They’re too wrapped up in the up-to-the-minute way of downloading information and pop culture, mindless reality TV and the obsession with sharing and knowing every detail about other peoples’ lives. Alas, it’s their loss.
In conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty?