If You Don’t Understand Clueless, You Don’t Understand Me

Shani Silver
4 min readMay 8

Written for writers. Prove me wrong.

I’ve never enjoyed the dismissal of girls. The assumption that our affinities and capabilities are somehow silly or less valuable than what boys and grown-ups do. The pinkification of a gender letting society know you don’t really have to take those seriously. That strategy was very much the message I received in the original marketing campaigns associated with one of the most brilliantly written films of my youth, Clueless.

Amy Heckerling is one of my professional heroes. And she was even before I found out, by reading this book, that she keeps a slang binder. Do you know how much of a boss you have to be to continue to care about what teens are saying after you, yourself, are no longer a teen? She has collected slang terminology her entire career and it’s what helped her invent new slang terms that folded themselves into the batter of actual society for years to come following the release of her fucking movie. I am in awe. I am spellbound. I am, indeed, totally buggin.

When you’re a 90s teen, Clueless is iconic because of the fashion, the one-liners, the music that crystalizes in your brain becoming full-body reminders of what specific memories sound like. As a kid, you take the film at face value, because you haven’t learned additional values exist. There’s a purity to loving this film the first time around that adults from that time will never know. We were looking at it through a special kaleidoscope that only teens could see.

I arrived on Earth in 1982, so I’ve been able to love Clueless twice. Innocently first, and cynically second. I enjoy both. Speaking autobiographically, 1995 (Clueless), 1996 (Scream), and 1997 (this happened to be the year I started listening to Ani DiFranco) are responsible for anything about me that is remotely cool. They’re also responsible for a multitude of my anxieties but that’s for another time. I think there is a very special imprint that occurs when you get to consume something once in your youth, and appreciate it later as an adult. That’s why when you watch something iconic for the first time 30 years after everyone else saw it, the appreciation is more watered down. I thought the point of Clueless was that these kids were spoiled and dumb. The point of Clueless is that art…

Shani Silver

Author, podcaster. shanisilver@gmail