That timeless classic Clueless is 17 years old today, and no, I’m not kidding about the timeless and classic part. There’s a chance I wasn’t as intelligent and sophisticated (ha!) at age seven as I am at twenty-four, but I fucking loved that movie. As did almost everyone else, as I can recall. Mostly girls, yes, because I wasn’t quite into the ‘talking to boys’ stage, but I have guy friends now who are equally as fond of it as I am. What’s not to love about it? It has makeover montages, love connections, and Paul Rudd. You really can’t go wrong with Paul Rudd. But it in addition to all that fluff, it has some other great stuff as well. It has one of the earliest (in my recollection) instances of a non-stereotypical depiction of a gay guy. It has girls struggling to balance popularity and friendship. It has a robbery at gunpoint…? Okay, so I’m grasping at straws a little. It’s not The English Patient or Gone With the Wind, but I really do believe it’s a classic in its own way.
Teen movies used to be their own genre, right? Isn’t that why Not Another Teen Movie was such a successful parody? There were key ingredients that went into each mixture, and there were a few movies, like Clueless, that got it exactly right. Movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That. Movies that I loved back that so much that when I see them on TV now, OH IT’S ON BITCH. Cancel my plans. But do I love them so much now because I loved them so much then? Or because they’re good in their own right? And did I love them so much then because I was a simple teenager mindlessly seeking chocolate and shallow romantic comedies?
I’m gonna make the statement that it wasn’t just me and my teen-blindness. I think the world used to be better at teen movies. They were little works of art that we’d watch at sleepovers that would take us through the entire arc of a relationship, neatly packaged into ninety minute chunks. They weren’t the sappy Miley Cyrus-driven Nicholas Sparks scenarios that we have going on now. They weren’t filled with vampires or werewolves fighting over one moody human girl. They weren’t much more realistic, but they made you feel like maybe you could be Homecoming Queen when you got back for the summer, even though you said ‘condom’ instead of ‘condo’ in front of the most popular boy in school. They made you laugh a little and maybe cry, but not sob. They were little pieces of adolescent genius, but we’ve lost them now…right?
I’m not saying every teen movie of the late ’90s, early 2000s was brilliant, but some of them were, and in ways I think we’ve yet to re-master for today’s audience. Part of me wants to think that I’ve just gotten too jaded and mature to truly appreciate today’s teen movies…but the other half of me just wants someone to notice that if you just pluck my eyebrows and teach me to wear contacts, I could run this whole damn school.