Clueless is 20 Years Old.  I’m Totally Buggin’ !!

Clueless is 20 Years Old. I’m Totally Buggin’ !!

Twenty years ago writer-director Amy Heckerling began developing a story that would focus on the popular kids at a California high school. Above all, Heckerling’s desire was to have a central female character who was relentlessly optimistic.

I remember reading Emma, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Those characters: what I gravitated to was how positive they could be.  Amy Heckerling

The movie Clueless was the result. From the onset the project was a pure modernization of Jane Austen’s Emma, with Cher Horowitz — played to perfection by Alicia Silverstone — as Emma Woodhouse transported to 20th century Los Angeles.

Clueless was released on July 19, 1995 by Paramount Pictures (after being passed over by several other studios). The movie was modestly budgeted, cast with mostly unknown actors, marketed to the teenage crowd, and while liked by Paramount executives, not expected to be hugely successful.

As if!

On the day of release, Clueless became the #1 movie in the country, and generated $10.6 million over the first weekend. Branded one of the summer’s triumphs, Clueless eventually earned $56.6 million in the US and Canada (equates to approximately $105.7 million in today’s market.)

Twenty years later Clueless remains wildly popular (based on data from cable, DVD rentals, streaming services, etc.) and relevant in contemporary culture. Just as Emma remains timeless, speaking to a modern generation, so does Clueless.

A loose reworking of Jane Austen’s Emma, Clueless set the template for a mini-genre of teen movies adapted from literary classics that sprung up in the late ’90s… Many of those films tried hard to imitate its ingenious reimagining, though none have quite been able to match it in terms of originality or wit—which is why, even 20 years later, Clueless (and its colorful world of offbeat characters) remains a total Betty.   — Aisha Harris, Slate

There are many articles about the movie Clueless, and how well it captured the spirit of Austen’s Emma. Rather than writing a blog on that, I’ve provided links to articles covering the topic better than I could. (at end of this post)  Instead, let’s have some fun in remembrance of a delightful movie!

The Clueless Cast

Cher – Alicia Silverstone
Dionne – Stacey Dash
Tai – Brittany Murphy
Josh – Paul Rudd
Murray – Donald Faison
Amber – Elisa Donovan
Travis – Breckin Meyer
Christian – Justin Walker
Elton – Jeremy Sisto
Mel Horowitz – Dan Hedaya
Mr. Hall – Wallace Shawn
Miss Geist – Twink Caplan
Ms. Stoeger – Julie Brown
Clueless cast
Front L->R: Josh, Amber, Dionne, Cher, Tai, Travis. Back L->R: Christian, Elton, Murray

Remember these lines? What are your favorite Clueless movie quotes?

Cher: “That’s Ren and Stimpy. They’re way existential.” Josh: “Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?” Cher: “No. Why, do I sound like I do?”

Cher: “Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.”

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Josh (Paul Rudd)

Josh: “Hey, in some parts of the universe, maybe not in contempo-casual, but in some parts, it’s considered cool to know what’s going on in the world.”  Cher: “Thank you Josh. I SO need lessons from you on how to be cool. Tell me the part about Kenny G again?”

Travis: “I would like to say this. Tardiness is not something you can do on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness. I would like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the LA city bus driver who took a chance on an unknown kid and last but not least, the wonderful crew from McDonalds who spend hours making those Egg McMuffins, without which I might never be tardy.”

Cher: “Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.”

Dionne: “I have a note from my tennis instructor, and he would prefer it if I didn’t expose myself to any training that might derail his teachings.”

Cher: “Would you call me selfish?”  Dionne: “No, not to your face.”

Mel: “You mean to tell me that you argued your way from a C+ to an A-?” Cher: “Totally based on my powers of persuasion. You proud?” Mel: “Honey, I couldn’t be happier than if they were based on real grades.”

Josh: “You want to practice parking?” Cher: “What’s the point? Everywhere you go has valet.”

Cher: “Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there’s no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.”

Amber: “Ms. Stoeger, my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls are flying at my nose.” Dionne: “Well, there goes your social life.”

Murray: “Your man Christian is a cake boy!” Cher and Dionne: “A what?” Murray: “He’s a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I’m saying?” Cher: “Uh-uh, no way, not even!” Murray: “Yes, even. He’s gay!” Dionne: “He does like to shop, Cher. And the boy can dress.”

Tai: “Do you think she’s pretty?”  Cher: “No, she’s a full-on Monet.”  Tai: “What’s a monet?”  Cher: “It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess.”

Cher (narrating, after she and Josh kiss): “Well you can guess what happened next …”  (The movie cuts to a couple at the altar)  Cher: “As if! I am only 16, and this is California, not Kentucky.”

Clueless slang

Whatever-Clueless-GIFBaldwin – A sexy or beautiful man, just like a Baldwin brother from the 1990s
Buggin’ –  From “to bug” – freaking out or overreacting
Ensembly-challenged  – Unfashionable
Boy time – The frustratingly long time it takes for boys to respond to something
As if! – That will not happen
Betty: A beautiful, timeless woman. Derived from the 1930s film star Betty Grable, the original pin-up girl.
Stems: Legs, particularly slender and attractive.

Clueless Games. Click each image for website. Share your results!

clueless quiz
Zimbio quiz. Take it, and tell us what character YOU are!
clueless trivia
Think you know all the 411 on “Clueless”? Snaps to any Baldwin or Betty who can get a perfect score!
Emma vs. Clueless Quiz. How well do you know the differences and similarities?
50 clueless facts
Not a quiz, but fun trivia reading!
For a purely Emma quiz, test yourself on this one by Spark Notes.

Clueless Links.

Reviving Emma in a Clueless World: The Current Attraction to a Classic Structure, JASNA Persuasions Online

Emma Becomes Cher: How a 19th Century Classic Novel Turned into a 20th Century Popular Film

A Comparison of Emma and Clueless, Margaret Sullivan

Clueless understands Jane Austen, The Dissolve

The Definitive Oral History of How Clueless Became an Iconic 90s Classic, Vanity Fair

Clueless Cast then and now 

‘Clueless’ 20 Years Later: What Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd Think About the Film, ET Online

17 Responses to Clueless is 20 Years Old. I’m Totally Buggin’ !!

  1. Thank you! This was great. It brought back some real funny memories. Alicia Silverstone was adorable. Twenty years! My how time zips by. 🙂

  2. Thanks for such a fun post! I didn’t catch it in theaters but watched it a few years later (I will refrain my stating my age so as to not embarrass either one of us). I didn’t realize it was based on Emma until just a few years ago. They did a great job. I wonder if there’s a male form for Betty because Paul Rudd has stayed pretty timeless!

  3. Fun post! I scored 100% on the Emma vs. Clueless quiz. Since it ~has~ been 20 years, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie. I’m going to have to watch it again. Loved the clips. Guffawed over the line (also in the movie quotes list) “…doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls are flying at my nose.” “Well, there goes your social life.” Bwah haha hah! For all of you who haven’t watched this movie, I insist that you do! You’ll at least enjoy making the connections and comparisons with “Emma”.

  4. I have never seen it. LOL I’m with Brenda in that teenager movies make me crazy. Since I wasn’t a teenager even when it came out…I haven’t seen it. Also, modernizing Austen is not my favorite thing so all in all…this post is great though. Case in point, I have never seen the movie and yet I am completely familiar with the Clueless terminology. Even my mother will occasionally throw in the “as if!”. LOL

    • I’ll keep saying it: Give Clueless a try! It is really fun. Yes, teenagers, but presented in such a humorous, positive way.

      It is interesting to read the “50 facts you didn’t know about Clueless” article I linked to. One fact was that when the character Travis (a fun loving “loadie” skateboarder) gives up his drugs and enters a 12-step program (presented humorously and not heavy), it impacted teenage viewers to do the same.

      The teens in Clueless, for all their apparent vapidness, are shown to have kind hearts. And, they improve as the movie progresses. There is a hopefulness that is rare among many of the teen movies from the 80s and 90s, and certainly of today.

    • I would also like to say that I got “Josh” on the who are you from Clueless quiz and I scored 100 on the sparknotes Emma quiz. 🙂 And for having never seen the movie, I got all but one right on the similarities one… I do love me some Emma.

  5. I adored Clueless, and something that I especially loved was the positive relationship between Cher and her father. Even though he was a busy lawyer, his character was never played up as neglectful, etc. He was loving and involved in a realistic way and their relationship was one of my favorites!

    • One of the articles I linked to had a section on comparison between Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Horowitz. In a nutshell, it was pointed out that where Woodhouse was a hypochondriac with no real health problems, Horowitz was a man with some health issues he ignored. An opposite end of the spectrum interpretation. And in both cases, Emma/Cher was the doting daughter lovingly taking care of her father. And, as you point out Cecilia, the father-daughter relationship was one of true love and caring. Like you, I really like the portrayal of Horowitz (by the fabulous Dan Hedaya).

  6. I have to admit that I have never see it! 🙂 Not even after I read that it was a take-off on Emma because I cannot make myself watch movies about teenagers. It is one of my biggest faults. But, I was entertained to read all the funny quotes from you included. Thanks for filling in my education!

  7. Can’t believe it’s been 20 years since Clueless! When I first saw it, I never thought it was a modern version of Jane Austen’s story until I begin my JAFF obsession… I love all the info you’ve provided Sharon! I’ll have to go back and take the quizzes

    • It is such a timeless film that 20 years old seems impossible. Like you, Dung, I saw Clueless numerous times before ever realizing it was a spin on Emma. The movie is, IMO, delightful all on its own merits. Knowing the link to Emma only adds to the enjoyment.

      The quizzes are fun!

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