'Clueless' Is Still Much Smarter, and More Conservative, Than It Seems


( CW for discussion of incest, sexual harassment, and relationship age gaps )

Clueless was one of the most successful movies of 1995, and also proved to have one of the most important legacies. A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma , Clueless was a comedy of manners for children of the 1990s… or at least those who dreamed of what life might be like if you were that young, that rich, and that insulated from consequences. But does its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of young women and their social lives hold up today? Did the media that came after Clueless and often imitated it, like Cruel Intentions and later Gossip Girl , break from the film’s philosophy or merely unearth a darkness that was already there? So is Paul Rudd like her step-brother, and isn’t that kind of weird? Danielle, Natalie, and Rob dig into all of it on this episode of Be Good and Rewatch It .

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/kzdnnx/clueless-is-still-much-smarter-and-more-conservative-than-it-seems

(Technical note: the autopost system we use to cross-post Waypoint articles is having some technical difficulties. Please click on the above link to read the article in full!)

Be Good and Rewatch It Community Wishlist

I’m not going to lie, I was very surprised to start listening to this podcast and having it it not be a discussion of Clue (1985).


I don’t have much to say about clueless, but I got served a 3 minute ad during this where Rob insinuated Patrick smells bad and tried to sell me anti-microbial silver underwear and it was a wild ride.


I’ve never been so mad about acast serving me UK adverts about audiobooks or whatever the fuck


I just want to say I think it is legitimately funny that this film got a more in depth critical examination than did Sunshine or Event Horrizon.

Also, Paul Rudd will never do anything better than the Celery Man sequence on Tim and Eric.


That was…an uncharacteristically kneejerky discussion of the (non-blood related) Cher-Josh relationship stuff. Usually Waypoint is good about contextualizing and closely examining these kinds of issues, but other than Danielle’s attempt to say something thoughtful about age and power dynamics it was mostly just someone repeating “ew gross” over and over for 5-10 minutes.

Idk, I think I found it off-putting and a little disappointing partly because as a queer person I grew up hearing exactly this kind of shallow, dismissive discussion of, say, same-sex relationships. And while that’s decidedly not the same thing as “in love with your formerly legally but not blood-related ex-step-sibling,” it always gets my hackles up a bit when people throw out an “ick” reaction to a relationship and leave it at that as though the grossness is self-evident. Lots of sexual things are gross to a lot of people, whether that’s a relationship dynamic or non-monogamy or a kink or whatever.

Maybe that reaction is ok in this case. Maybe those “ew gross” instincts are justified here (at least in the case of the age gap if not the ex-legal relation thing). But I do think it’s worth unpacking and examining those reactions a little more responsibly than just exclaiming them as self-evident.

It also didn’t feel like a particularly necessary tangent, given how otherwise narratively shallow and unjustified the sudden romance was (which the crew got into once they finished the disgust diatribe).


Havent seen this since the 90s, but yes I remember the Stoner kid “rehabilitation” arc bothered me. Not so much the Paul Rudd + Alicia Silverstone relationship…maybe by that point in the movie I was just like, fine, whatever, there’s no other non-scumbags available and you have to hook up by the end of this thing or it isn’t a rom com…

Clueless is toothless to the point of not being a satire at all which was odd after Fast Times but in hindsight makes it perfect if you want to get a taste of feel good movies at the time (not that that this genre has ever died).

Rob mentioned again that movies in the 90’s have a particular prudishness to them and I can’t argue with the examples he’s brought up, but I can’t help feeling it’s because he’s sticking to mainstream movies which have maintained the same level of uniformity to this day.


Mr. Knightley is Emma’s brother-in-law. Her sister is married to his brother. And he is her father figure (sixteen years older) who constantly reprimands her.

The movie ending is similar to the book in that Emma has no clue she loves Mr. Knightley until the very end.

I think the relationship in the movie is a bit less disturbing than the book when you look at it like that. But I still love both.


Good news, I got served the ad again so it wasn’t a fever dream. Here’s the audio in case anyone else wanted to hear this wonderful weirdness https://youtu.be/Z08uqjweuro