Clueless: American Youth in the 1990s (Cinema and Youth Cultures)

December 1, 2020
Clueless: American Youth in the 1990s (Cinema and Youth Cultures)

Clueless: American Youth in the 1990s is a timelycontribution to the increasingly prominent academic field of youthfilm studies. The book draws on the social context to the film’srelease, a range of film industry perspectives including marketing,audience reception and franchising, as well as postmodern theoryand feminist film theory to assert the cultural and historicalsignificance of Amy Heckerling’s film and reaffirm its reputationas one of the defining teen films of the 1990s.Lesley Speed examines how the film channels aspects of AnitaLoos’ 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the 1960s televisionseries Gidget and Jane Austen’s Emma, to present a heightened,optimistic view of contemporary American teenage life. Althoughseemingly apolitical, Speed makes the case for Clueless as afeminist exploration of relationships between gender, comedy andconsumer culture, centring on a contemporary version of the ‘dumbblonde’ type. The film is also proved to embrace diversity in itsdepiction of African American characters and contributing to anincrease in gay teenagers on screen. Lesley Speed concludes heranalysis by tracking the rise of the Clueless franchise and cultfollowing. Both helped to cement the film in popular consciousness,inviting fans to inhabit its fantasy world through spinoffnarratives on television and in print, public viewing rituals,revivalism and vintage fashion.