Popularity. The Holy Grail of adolescence. How can teens starving for acceptance score points with their peers these days? If they take their cues from the misguided hit movie Clueless, requisites include snobbish narcissism, sexual permissiveness, materialism, drug use, crude language, immodest clothing and a liberal worldview.
MTV vixen Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher, a popular, wealthy, superficial, Beverly Hills mall rat used to manipulating her way through day-to-day life. She lies and cajoles her teachers into upping her grades. To Cher, shopping, matchmaking and makeovers are the cures for society’s ills. Also, she has lax attitudes toward alcohol, marijuana and premarital sex, and ends up romantically linked to her stepbrother. How imprudent is she?
Cher on recreational drug use: “It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties but it is quite another to be fried all day.” On media discernment: “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.” On dating: “Sometimes you have to show a little skin. That reminds guys of being naked and then they think of sex.”
By refusing to pass judgement on certain lifestyles woven into the story, Clueless passively endorses multiple marriages and divorce, premarital sex and teen homosexuality. Cher and her pals casually discuss “crooked” male anatomy and whether one of the girls is a virgin because she stimulates her boyfriend without having intercourse.
The students’ media choices are similarly lacking in good taste. Cher monitors MTV (tuning in to the scatalogical antics of Beavis & Butt-head) and one of her classmates expresses a passion for Trent Reznor’s nihilistic band, Nine Inch Nails. In fact, the Clueless soundtrack features songs by Coolio, Jill Sobule, Beastie Boys and other acts with disturbing agendas.
A window on today’s popular youth culture? Perhaps to some degree, but the creative forces behind Clueless chose to exploit the immorality of a generation rather than focus on the many popular teens committed to chastity, purity, honesty, and sexual self-respect.
The filmmakers define Clueless as “focusing on teenage girls who are worldly, rich and hyper-hormonal.” That’s putting it kindly. More to the point, it reflects the excesses of one group of Southern California high school students with such tongue-in-cheek giddiness that many disenchanted youngsters in the mainstream—frustrated in their own quest for the Holy Grail of popularity—will embrace its unhealthy philosophies simply because the characters in the film appear to be well-liked and enjoying themselves. A Top-10 video smash quickly achieving cult status.