20 Years Ago, 'Clueless' Like Totally Changed '90s Fashion And Vernacular Jen Chaney, author of As If!, says the film challenged stereotypes about young women and the way they speak. (And Cher's yellow miniskirts were a change of pace from baggy '90s flannel.)
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20 Years Ago, 'Clueless' Like Totally Changed '90s Fashion And Vernacular

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20 Years Ago, 'Clueless' Like Totally Changed '90s Fashion And Vernacular

20 Years Ago, 'Clueless' Like Totally Changed '90s Fashion And Vernacular

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I actually can't believe this, but this weekend marks 20 years since the release of the classic teen comedy "Clueless." It's a coming-of-age tale about a Beverly Hills teenager named Cher who's trying to play matchmaker for a friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CLUELESS")

ALICIA SILVERSTONE: (As Cher) I don't know why Dionne's going out with a high school boy. They're like dogs. You have to clean them and feed them and they're just, like, these nervous creatures that jump and slobber all over you. Ew, get off of me - as if.

GREENE: As if - that unforgettable line is also the title of a new book about the film. It's by pop culture writer Jen Chaney. She says "Clueless" has had a lasting influence on our culture.

JEN CHANEY: It captured, I think, to some degree, the way teenagers were speaking at the time. The whole mood of that movie is just infectious. And once you get in there and you feel like you're part of that world, you naturally just want to talk like these people.

GREENE: In fact, after the movie came out in 1995, the word clueless cropped up much more often in our daily speech. And it wasn't just the slang that was catching on. The outlandish outfits that Cher and her friends wore, like the bright yellow tartan miniskirts with knee-high socks were a pretty stark contrast to early '90s grunge.

CHANEY: There was just something eye-popping and kind of, again, infectious about that, that I think people really responded to after a couple years of the flannel and always wearing overly baggy things.

GREENE: But Jen Chaney says the movie was about more than teenage angst over clothing and boys. She says it challenged stereotypes about young women who, like, totally, like, talked like Valley girls. Cher knew her Shakespeare as well as her Calvin Klein.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CLUELESS")

SUSAN MOHUN: (As Heather) Just like Hamlet said to thine own self be true.

SILVERSTONE: (As Cher) No, Hamlet didn't say that.

MOHUN: (As Heather) I think that I remember Hamlet accurately.

SILVERSTONE: (As Cher) Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.

CHANEY: It's a subtextual thing, but it does say to people you should be taking these women and girls seriously.

GREENE: Jen Chaney says that after "Clueless," a string of films featured women who seemed ditzy but were actually very capable. And she says "Clueless" did not only set the stage for more dynamic female characters...

CHANEY: All of a sudden Hollywood was like, oh, wow, teen movies. We should make a lot more of them again.

GREENE: But according to Chaney, no other '90s movie has been so totally awesome - as if.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KIDS IN AMERICA")

KIM WILDE: (Singing) We're the kids in America. We're the kids in America.

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