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#NASTYWOMEN: COLUMN 1: CLUELESS (1996) REVIEW by Chloe Sesta Jacobs

In this column I’ll be focusing on women in film; profiling wonderful directors, writers and characters. While I’ll be open to exploring great female characters in all films, I’m going to concentrate on and celebrate women surrounded by women. 


Let’s not forget that long before Elle Woods introduced her ‘snap cup’ to the world, Cher Horowitz was giving snaps out all over Beverly Hills. Cher has a way normal life for a teenage girl, okay – she gets up, brushes her teeth and picks out her school clothes, just like any of us would. Except she has a program that customises her outfits for her. In the mid 90s, this is especially impressive. She may be painstakingly beautiful, popular and rich, but Cher is multi-faceted, thank you very much.
Cher and Dionne (Stacey Dash) are best friends because they both know what it’s like to have people jealous of them. They have (seemingly) unlimited credit cards and aren’t afraid to take the piss out of themselves, especially when it comes to fashion. They’re deadly serious about what they wear, but are fully aware that at times, they look ridiculous.


As soon as Tai (Brittany Murphy) appears on the scene, she is selected as Cher’s next project – there’s nothing Cher loves more than a makeover. Before too long, her looks, popularity and power all go to Tai’s head and she forgets that Cher put her on the map (it always happens, right?), but they settle their differences because friendship conquers all.

Clueless is so much more than your average vacuous teenage film, it is actually really funny. Written by director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times At Ridgemont High), as a modern day adaptation of Jane Austin’s Emma, Clueless is filled with sharp dialogue that empowers Cher – she might not know how to pronounce Haitians or Spartacus (“Spar-at-i-cus”), but she can definitely drop a comeback like the best of them. She also says what many of us are thinking. When she was gently rejected by the obviously / not so obviously gay Christan (Justin Walker), her first thoughts were if her hair got flat or if she stumbled into some bad lighting? Hell, I’ve been there.


While her teacher Mr Hall (Wallace Shawn) thinks that her debating leaves a little to be desired, Cher compares Haitian refugees to a garden party she threw for her father… that might sound insane on paper, however she is quite succinct and on point during her debates (“let me remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty!”), which is quite impressive.
She might be able to draw comparisons between the plight of refugees and garden parties, but it’s clear that Cher has NFI when it comes to love. While Tai’s “you’re a virgin who can’t drive” comment was way harsh, you can understand her sentiment. Cher believes that she needs to show a lot of skin and have something baking when a date comes around, not to mention send herself flowers and chocolates in front of her crush to get him insanely jealous…but all that changes when she realises her true feelings for her college attending, indie, non-brother step brother Josh (Paul Rudd – can we all please have a moment for vintage Paul Rudd). And you better believe that he feels the same way, because he can see that Cher is multi-faceted. True love is amazing.


Sure, Clueless was made in the 90s, but that doesn’t restrict it to being pigeonholed as 90s pop culture – it is still super relevant. Hell, even Iggy Azalea was still feeling the vibe 14 years later, when she practically remade the film in her video for ‘Fancy’. Clueless is an incredibly underrated masterpiece. It’s funny because it’s true. And yes, I may have purchased an “as if!” message tone for my phone shortly after my recent re-watch.


Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.

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