Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why "Clueless" is my Fave Film (or at least on the list of Fave Films)

So, I don't want this blog to become one of those failed projects where my life gets so busy that I stop posting stuff. However, I am in grad school. As such, I spend a lot of time teaching, coaching, and studying. This really cuts into my blogging opportunities. Sad day. However, I have also (until now!) failed to use my graduate school life as a supplement to my blogging life. Today, I fix that. This is a piece I wrote for my 1st Person Narrative writing class. Enjoy!

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl." - Cher Horowitz

Maybe this has happened to you – it’s happened to me many times – that experience of loving something as a child, being totally devoted to it, perhaps a movie or a book or a band, but then someone who has no idea about your devotion to that thing makes a casual comment and you’re never able look at it the same way again. For example, as a teenager I loved Margaret Cho. In fact, she was the first stand-up comedian of whom I would ever have called myself a “fan.” Her satirical commentary on gender, the LGBT community, and eating disorders are both insightful and hilarious. It wasn’t until someone else pointed out that she almost always goes for the easy joke – making fun of her immigrant mother or the sexist pig trying to pick her up – that it even occurred to me that she could be anything other than totally awesome. I’ve never been able to see her with the same reverence or awe that I did as a silly little thirteen-year-old. And this has happened to me multiple times. My devotion to things like Boyz II Men, Seinfeld, and even Iron Chef America have all suffered as a direct result of some off-hand comment of some unknowing critic.

There are some things, however, that have the unexpected power to endure. The movie "Clueless" has held up against the criticism constantly flung at it by those who believe it to be a shallow, simple high school comedy. And it some ways, it most certainly is. For those of you who, due to your lives as – I don’t know – hermits may have missed this quintessential 90’s cinematic experience, "Clueless" follows the day-to-day life of Cher Horowitz (played by Alicia Silverstone). Cher is a fifteen year-old valley girl who seems to be only concerned with the implications of her wardrobe. When the new girl, Tai, comes to town, Cher takes it upon herself to teach Tai how to get along in her new high school. And, as is so often the case with high school comedies, hijinks ensue.

What people tend to miss along the way is the insightful social commentary hidden among the “as ifs” and “whatevers.” When Cher’s bff Dionne gets angry at her boyfriend Murray for calling her “woman,” he responds with the comment “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily in misogynistic undertones,“ and then he sticks his tongue out. Cher makes use of an extended metaphor during a speech in her debate class about why the U.S. Government should try to make room for “Haiti-an” immigrants. Cher’s narrative monologue provides constant criticism of her peers, her generation, and her life of privilege. And of course, in the end of the film, she ends up with the man of her dreams because of the fact that she has learned to stop thinking too much of herself, and put the concerns of others first. Plus, let’s not forget that this film is actually a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma.

I think this is why Cher, Josh, and the whole gang manage to stand up to the derisive comments of people who don’t see the significance of this film. Ultimately, I think it is the critics, and not the characters, that are “clueless.”