10:00 am EDT, July 19, 2015

Why ‘Clueless’ is still important 20 years later

From driving to friendship, the lessons in Clueless are timeless.

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It’s been 20 years since the release of Clueless, but it hardly seems like it’s aged a day.

Twenty years ago today, Jane Austen’s Emma got a modern interpretation in the form of Clueless. It’s the Mean Girls of the ’90s, a fun and funny teen flick that’s totally quotable. And while on the surface it may seem like a typical high school comedy, Clueless offers a lot of life lessons that are just as, if not more, relevant today, particularly for girls and young women.

Related: Clueless is streaming on Netflix! Find out which other ’90s classics are available


clueless cher dionne tai

At the heart of Clueless, it is a story about friendship. Female friendship. Unfortunately, these days it seems like there are so few films that depict strong female friendships. Sure we gush when Cher and Josh finally get together, but equally sweet is Cher and Tai’s reconciliation.

Instead of hating each other and holding a grudge, both take the blame for the fallout and apologize. Cher recognizes she should have been more supportive, and Tai recognizes she should have respected Cher’s opinion. Too often we see girls in media pitted against each other, when we should be encouraging them to support each other.

Slut shaming

clueless hymenally challenged

Whether you’re a virgin who can’t drive, technically a virgin, or definitely not a virgin, it doesn’t matter. Neither Cher, Dionne, nor Tai judge each other for their choices. Nobody is considered prudish or slutty; they’re just three girls who have had different experiences.

It’s incredible that a film from 20 years ago is more progressive than much of what we see now. Too often women are shamed for their experience, or lack thereof. We should take a note from Clueless and not be so judgmental about someone’s sexual experiences.

Expand your vocabulary

clueless cher tai

Ironically, the film called Clueless actively encourages learning. Cher stresses the importance of expanding your vocabulary and reading. But don’t read sporadically (sporadic: once in a while), try reading one non-school book a week. Aside from the benefits of learning, you might even enjoy it!

Don’t settle

clueless boys

Whether it be grades or men, there’s nothing wrong with wanting something better. Never accept the first offer. If you want to turn that C into an A, work hard for it. Study more, do that extra credit project, and if all else fails, play matchmaker for your teachers. And if dog-like high school boys aren’t your thing, then don’t date them. You don’t have to settle for an Elton.

No means no

clueless cher elton

Speaking of Elton… If someone says, “No,” they mean no. If they say, “Leave me alone,” then you leave them alone. Perhaps you don’t drive off, leaving them stranded far from home in a sketchy area, though.

But more to the point, when Elton keeps making a move on Cher and she constantly rebuffs him, we are not meant to believe that Cher ever led him on, or that she was asking for it. We feel bad for her, and hate him. He misread the situation, fair enough, but once she says, “No,” that’s it. The fault lay with Elton for not taking no for an answer.


clueless cher murray dionne driving

There are many driving lessons scattered throughout Clueless. Two permits do not equal a license. You can get a ticket without a license. A ticket is the first notice. In America we drive on the right side of the road. It’s advisable to not drive in platforms. To get back in the right lane, you: put on your blinker, look in your mirror, and glance at your blind spot (but only move your head, not the whole car!). When on the freeway, just relax and drive. Always keep your hands on the wheel. Lastly, and perhaps the most overlooked lesson, is dressing capably for your test. Of course we say, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but the reality is, we can’t help it. So when you go for your driver’s test, it isn’t a bad idea to really consider what you’re wearing.

First impressions

clueless tai cher dionne

One of our most important survival instincts is to quickly assess something and make a judgement call. It’s natural to judge on a first impression. What’s important, though, is knowing when a first impression isn’t enough. It’s easy to assume Cher is a typical valley girl ditz based on the way she talks and dresses, but unless you actually talk to her, you may never know that’s not true. Aside from being an extremely caring person, she’s actually quite intelligent. Just because she likes clothes and make-up doesn’t mean she’s an idiot.

Cher herself demonstrates this open-mindedness by bringing Tai into her friend group. Tai clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of the girls and seems kind of odd, but once given a chance, she’s actually a sweet girl and a lot of fun.

Be yourself

clueless group

It’s cliché, but nonetheless an incredibly important message to those who are growing up and trying to figure themselves out. If you want to wear a Dr. Seuss hat, you go ahead and wear it. If you want to listen to college cry baby music, you go ahead and listen to it. Shop if that makes you happy. Skateboard if that makes you happy. Don’t let someone make you feel bad or embarrassed for liking what you like.

There’s someone out there for everyone, whether that be a partner or a friend, and the only way to find those people who will make you happiest is to just be yourself. And more importantly, it’s the only way to be happy with yourself.

What did you learn from ‘Clueless’?

Related: Quiz: Which song from Clueless is your jam?

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