Why is music important in Clueless and how is it used?
A soundtrack is essential to any movie, music is used in various ways by a director – to portray emotion, create and introduce relationships and to also make references to the time period. In Clueless music is mostly used to highlight the major motifs in the movie and reflect the attitudes of the teenage characters.
The movie begins with the song “Kids in America” in which we see Cher and her friends and other teenagers shopping and partying. Straight away this highlights the main focus of the film – upper class teenage lives. The song is significant as it highlights exactly what the characters are – Kids living in Beverly Hills, America. “Kind hearts don’t make a new story. Kind hearts don’t grab any glory.” These lines of the song are relevant to the movie because the majority of the characters are not presented as kind. This song is important as it reflects the attitudes of the characters; They are illustrated as spoilt and selfish who aren’t interested in doing anything unless it involves personal gain. When Cher asks Dionne “wouldn’t you like to use your popularity for a good cause” she replies simply and selfishly “no”.
Then the music changes as the audience gets to see Cher in her bedroom the song that is played in the background is “Fashion” by David Bowie. This illustrates another key aspect of the movie – shopping and fashion. This is significant as it shows what is important to Cher’s character. As the song plays Cher is on her computer looking for an outfit to wear for school. Bowie was known for his extreme outfits which were often over the top, this is similar to Cher and Dionne who wear some interesting ensembles – “shopping with Dr Suess?” Cher asks Dionne because of her hat, to which Dionne replies “well at least I wouldn’t skin a collie to make my backpack.”
Another song that has significance in the movie is “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule, the lyrics highlight everything the girls want and do throughout the movie. It is used when Dionne and Cher give Tai a makeover however the lyrics are relevant throughout. “I don’t care what my teachers say I’m gonna be a supermodel… and everyone is gonna wanna look like me.” The teenagers in the movie rarely care about what their teachers tell them or teach them. Cher has a desire to become “5ft 10 like Cindy Crawford” this shows the desire to be a “supermodel.” Also, everyone in the school looks up to Cher including Amber despite her protests she often copies what Cher wears. As previously mentioned the song is played when the girls give Tai a makeover this is significant because it shows what they view important. They believe Tai is “clueless” because of the clothes she wears and that they should make her look like them. This then goes on to show the prejudice of the characters in the film, before her makeover no one ever noticed Tai except Travis, who she originally likes but is talked out of liking. However after her makeover all the boys kept trying to talk to her and look at her constantly.”I didn’t eat yesterday, I’m not gonna eat today” although Cher is not as extreme these lyrics relate to her obsessions with food, she constantly stops her father eating junk and is concerned at herself for eating small things such as “3 M&M’s.”
“Rollin with my homies” is a running motif in the movie and the song is mentioned throughout. The first time the song is played is when Cher, Dionne and Tai go to a party in the valleys, the teenagers are all dancing to it. The song is by a popular artist of the 90’s – Coolio showing what teenagers listened to at the time. However, this song is used for more than one purpose. Tai has a crush on Elton and when she is nearly knocked out he gets her to repeat “rollin with my homies” thus always reminding her of him. When Tai finds out that Elton tried it on with Cher and isn’t interested in her she is heartbroken. Next the song is played when the 3 friends go out to a restaurant, this causes Tai to get upset and start making a scene about the song. This highlights how dramatic the characters in the film are about minor issues they face such as their crush liking someone else. Finally, Tai takes a box of stuff to Cher’s house to burn so she can forget Elton, in the box there is a cassette of the song “rollin with my homies” which signifies that Tai is over Elton and is ready to move on because she wants to burn the cassette.
Overall the soundtrack in Clueless plays a massive part in the movie. Songs are well picked with lyrics that apply to the characters in the movie, they highlight their characteristics and open the movie with a view of what the main themes will be. The main importance of music in Clueless is to give the audience another view on the teenagers emotions. The background songs reveals traits about the character before they actually show them. The music is also important in illustrating the major themes – fashion, desire to be perfect and the life of a teenager in the 90’s.
Emma and Clueless
Oftentimes, modern adaptation of a classic work loses many elements of the original. This is not the case with Jane Austen’s Emma and Amy Heckerling’s film adaptation, Clueless. The adaptation closely parallels the original text, from themes to characterization and even to cultural context. Both works explore the relationship between fathers and daughters, men and women, and successfully illustrate how the treatment of women has changed over time. When one reads Emma then watches it modern counterpart, Clueless, it is very easy to observe that even though the stories have an almost two-hundred year gap between them, society has changed very little.While the story appears superficially to be about a spoiled young woman who has nothing more beneficial to do than play matchmaker, the stories are much more complex. Both Emma Woodhouse and Cher Horowitz experience a metamorphosis from self-absorbed young woman to mature and empathetic one. Emma is set in the Regency Period, a time of rapid change that saw the Napoleonic wars, the first glimmerings of democracy and feminism and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (Intro. To Austen). Clueless takes place in the U.S. in the 1990s, another time and place with much opportunity for change. Emma lives in the affluent, “large and populous” town of Highbury; Cher – Emma’s equivalent in Clueless – lives in similar Beverly Hills. Both women come from a long, wealthy lineage; as Austen writes, Emma “had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with little to distress or vex her” (Austen 1), as had Cher. Both women have been spoiled by the absence of their mothers, as both their fathers try to compensate and keep the peace by giving them anything they want. Emma has beaucoup opportunity and freedom when compared to other girls of her time period; Cher has a brand new Jeep (but no license), a computerized closet, and access to money whenever she wants it. To their credit, the young women are concerned about their widower fathers. Mr. Woodhouse is preoccupied with his digestion, making Emma worry about his health (Ferriss), while in Clueless Mr. Horowitz constantly obsesses about his cholesterol and prompts Cher to restrict him to a strict diet.Both the Woodhouses and the Horowitzes are members of upper-class society. Emma’s father is well-known and everyone holds the Woodhouse family in high esteem. Cher’s father is a renowned litigation attorney. In today’s society, a profession such as this is looked upon with a lot of respect. It is obvious that Emma thinks very highly of herself, and does not think too fondly of the idea of intermingling with people of a lesser social rank than her. The same goes for Cher. These feelings of superiority are exemplified when the girls take on the task of becoming friends with someone who isn’t on their level socially. Emma befriends Harriet Smith, the character that corresponds with Tai Frazier. While Emma thinks she is taking Harriet under her wing in order to help her out, it can be argued that this is simply to fill the void that was left when Miss Taylor left. Neither Harriet nor Tai is as refined as Emma or Cher. Harriet Smith is described as pretty but with no outstanding features, and. Tai is a transfer student from New York who does not fit in with the other, preppy girls. Emma sets out to refine Harriet, much as Cher decides to revamp Tai so that she will fit in with her uppity clique. Emma pushes Harriet around in the same way that Cher treats Tai. Both Harriet and Tai lack self-confidence and independence, and allow Emma and Cher to influence them. Harriet wants to marry Robert Martin, a wonderful man who happens to be a farmer, but declines his proposal because Emma says he isn’t high enough on the social ladder for Harriet. In Clueless, Tai has a crush on “skater boy” Travis that Cher does not approve. The pressure to fit in is so great upon Harriet and Tai that they allowed themselves to be manipulated by their class-conscious friends.Both Emma and Cher play matchmaker, with unintended consequences. Emma encourages a relationship between Harriet and Mr. Elton, but Mr. Elton misunderstands her intentions and thinks she wants him for herself. This offends Emma because while she considers Mr. Elton good enough for Harriet, she does not see him as wealthy or good enough for her: “[Mr. Elton] must know that in fortune and consequence [Emma] was greatly his superior” (Austen 100). Likewise, Cher tries to set Tai up with Elton. She is offended when she learns that Elton actually likes her, as in her snobbery Cher believes Elton is good enough for Tai but not for herself.Another similarity between Emma and Cher is that they have little regard for education. Emma makes lists upon lists of books she plans to read, but never quite gets around to reading them. Cher receives more than a few papers handed back with failing grades on them and is obviously ignorant about world affairs. A news segment about Bosnia comes on and Cher has a truly puzzled expression when she says, “But I thought they declared peace in the Middle East!” Both women are very attractive and charming, which suggests that in both societies it is all right for a woman to be less than bright if she is pretty.One distinction between Emma and Clueless is society’s expectations for women. In Jane Austen’s time, women were expected to be dainty, obedient, and non-intellectual. As writer Monica Veiga states, “Due to their inability to do anything else, women’s time was dedicated to reading and practicing music, drawing, and dancing, the accomplishments that men thought they ought to have” (Veiga). Men controlled women’s lives to a great extent, and had more freedom to come and go as they pleased. Austen writes: “A young woman, if she falls into bad hands, may be teased, and kept at a distance from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young man’s being under such restraint” (Austen 143). Clueless, by contrast, takes place in a society in which women can do anything men can, and there are few – if any – restrictions on what is socially acceptable. Girls know they can have high aspirations, and that it’s not a crisis if they do not marry.Jane Austen’s Emma and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless deliver the same messages: don’t interfere with other people’s relationships, learn to accept that you are not always right, and don’t be quick to judge (Rich to Ditz). Through these lessons, Emma and Cher become more complete individuals. At the end of the novel Emma is truly sorry for the way she has meddled in the lives of others. She is repentant and realizes that she doesn’t always know what’s best for everyone. Cher comes to a similar realization near the end of Clueless. It is remarkable to witness how the morals of this story transcend two hundred years and remain applicable in today’s society.Works Cited Ashford, Viola. “A Short Introduction to Jane Austen.” 9 Feb. 2004. Suite 101. 19 Feb. 2004
Not Quite a “Feminist Masterpiece”: Re-Assessing the Characters in ‘Clueless’
It has been 24 years since the official release of Clueless, the 90’s romantic comedy that is still loved by teenage girls now in 2018. In general, the action centers on best friends Cher and Dionne as they take new girl Tai under their wing. What began as a chick flick is now being viewed in a different light – some claim Clueless is a movie oriented around the empowerment of women and is a “feminist masterpiece”. However, in a movie that centers around a female protagonist that goes to extreme lengths when she wants male attention and an emphasis on the desire look like a “supermodel” throughout it is hard to class it as anything that demonstrates feminism and would appear to me more damaging on a teenage girl’s attitude.
However, there are some aspects of the movie that are empowering to women. Heckerling presents the audience with a scene where the three main females discuss sex; In which each girl shares information about their experiences free of judgement from the others. While Tai has has multiple experiences and discusses her likes and dislikes – “I don’t really mind unless his you know what isn’t crooked”. Dionne claims to be “technically a virgin”. What is empowering about this scene is the fact there is no judgement towards either Dionne or Tai. However, Cher is a virgin and claims it is because she is picky “You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.” Neither girls make fun of her for this and Dionne respects that Cher is “saving herself”. Normally in a film it is men that talk openly about sex, so it is both empowering and refreshing to see female characters be able to do so, free of judgement.
Similarly, the scene after the Valley party when Elton tries to initiate physical contact with Cher – “I knew it, I knew it”, “you’ve been flirting with me.” Then he tries to kiss her several times much to Cher’s protest she responds with her signature phrase “ugh as if” but also makes it very clear that no means no and that she would never have that kind of relationship with him. She gets out of the car and although this is a very empowering moment as she refuses to be around a man that has made her feel uncomfortable the scene ultimately ends up being disempowering. Elton leaves her on her own far away from her home, then Cher is robbed of her money and phone. So this cannot be argued as a scene that empowers women, when Cher is the one who has to suffer the consequences of Elton’s actions.
While it is unfair to dismiss Clueless as a “feminist masterpiece” solely because of the girls love of boys, shopping, makeup and beauty; this is not disempowering, they are able to enjoy all of those things and still be strong independent females. The problem lies within the lengths they go to, to impress boys. Cher feels the need to go to excessive lengths when she likes someone – she sends herself flowers, “draws attention” to her mouth and uses other bizarre methods of getting attention. This can be damaging towards teenage girls as it gives the impression that you have to act in certain ways for a boy to like you, rather than being yourself. Also, when Tai finds out Elton isn’t interested in her the first thing she says is “it’s my hips isn’t it?” How can this be empowering to women if they believe themselves and their physical attributes to be the problem, rather than a male who tries to force himself upon a girl who makes it clear she is not interested?
Another flaw in the movie is the development of Tai’s character. Although Cher and Dionne risk their popularity for no personal gain to be friends with her this is not very empowering towards women. While Dionne claims Cher’s “main thrill in life is makeovers” which is perfectly fine, the problem is in the emphasis that Tai is only accepted after she has a makeover. The most genuine boy in the movie, Travis is the only one to notice and like Tai before and after her makeover. Whereas the rest of the characters, even the girls only notice her and want to be friends with her after she dresses like everyone else. This is major disempowering towards the women in the movie as it suggests they have to look a certain way just to be liked.There is no doubt that Cher is a strong character, she always goes after what she wants at full force and is confident in her abilities. When Josh asks “what makes you think you can get teachers to change your grades?” She confidently and proudly replies “only the fact I’ve done it every other semester.” She is very empowering and independent for teenage girls , when boys throw themselves at her she has none of it at all responding with “ugh as if!” It is not until the movie goes on that the feminist undertones fade when Cher feels the need to be and act a certain way for Christian to like her, then Josh.
Dionne is another character in the film who Heckerling presents as strong willed. Whilst in a relationship she is not afraid to stand up for herself, especially in front of people. In a scene between Dionne and Murray she expresses her dislikes “I hate when you call me woman”. This shows she will stand up for herself when there is something she isn’t happy with. This attitude can be seen as empowering for a teenage girl watching the film.
Clueless illustrates three interesting main female characters, and at some points in the movie they each do show empowerment. However, the whole movie is not a “feminist masterpiece” as there is too much emphasis on the characters needing to dress a certain way and to do certain things just so boys will like them. The characters don’t have any other goals other than getting the boys to like them. While Cher is an independent, driven character who at the start seems to empower women then goes on to obsess over the way she looks and ends up giving Tai a makeover, turning her into something similar to herself in order for her to be accepted rather than accepting her for who she is. While Clueless can be enjoyed for nothing more than its lighthearted comedy and happy ending the undertones throughout the film could be very damaging on a teenage girls perception of how to impress boys, how to look and act.