Clueless Girls: and Teen Film Genre Play

Curator's Note

Growing up in the ‘90s Clueless was, for me, the canonical teen film: the film that was emblematic of the genre and the script of high-school life that it represented. While of course all genres shift and change over time - and Clueless certainly departed dramatically from the John Hughes iteration of the genre that preceded it - ultimately Clueless did present a tonal shift from the earlier teen films in the 90s and presented a new script for the genre. Arguably Clueless started a new cycle of the genre, a phenomenon traced by Amanda Ann Klein, one that focused on the dynamics of popularity and cliques and was characterized by witty banter, tongue in cheek humor, and a bubble gum pop soundtracks with a bright color palette belying the social satire underneath.

Clueless’ influence can be seen well into the 2000s in films like Mean Girls or Easy A. The ways in which teen films of this cycle share a set of thematic concerns and key narrative sequences, such as the mapping of the schools social structure, as well as stock characters like the “exotic outsider,” popular queen bee, and the love interest has become a target of reflection for film fans.

In the video here a fan has synced mean girls dialogue tracks to the images of Clueless, and while viewers of both films know that mean-spirited Regina has little in common with the misguided but well meaning Cher, the ways in which the visual and sounds of both films can play in tandem illustrate the strong generic relationship between them. More importantly, this fan practice indicates that audience members reflect on the relationship between these texts. That the video is able to find, in many cases, a character of the same race or sexuality as the one speaking in the parallel film is particularly telling given that these two films premiered nearly ten years apart yet feature such similar character types. The existence of a number of these mash-ups, which include one where Clueless dialogue is paired with High School Musical visuals, indicates not only an important after-life for the film, where it is re-watched nostalgically and viewed by new generations of teens, but also illustrates how it is read, sometimes explicitly, by fans in relationship to other iterations of the genre-cycle that have been shaped by Clueless’ unique take.


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