By L. Mores
How do we differentiate good from bad? Right from wrong? We set out on our daily journeys and find ourselves in the midst of varying situations with varying degrees of difficulty and complexity and, sometimes, have to make decisions that will impact our future selves. Sounds cliché, right? I thought so too, but I must keep that phrase in mind whilst writing this.
In order to create a profound discussion on a specific aspect of “good and bad, right and wrong” we must thoroughly dig deep inside our subconscious minds and think about how we manage to point our fingers and say “bad!” at anything really, so quickly and automatically. I guess what I’m trying to say is that us humans (yes, this includes you, reader) are extremely quick to judge. I’m not blaming us, no, judgment is something that’s been embedded into our subconscious brains since we were very little. Remember that time in which you were in school and the new kid came into class in the morning, and you all had to say “good morning!” when you really didn’t mean it and then thought about how weird and bizarre and strange they were when in reality you didn’t even know their name? Yeah, judgment. Or whenever you saw someone go through a divorce and immediately began to speculate and theorize about what the causes were and who was to blame and who was - Yeah, judgment. Or that time in which you watched the movie Clueless and went “ew” whenever Cher ended up with her ex step-brother Josh. Yeah, judgment. I guess it’s a little strange that I’ve decided to go from talking about trivial nonsense to the movie Clueless, but that’s what I feel I have to talk about.
If you were born before 2010, the chances you haven’t seen the movie are “slim to none” (see what I did there?) and know about Cher and Josh’s relationship are vast. In case you haven’t, here’s a brief overview. Cher’s dad, Mel, had been previously married to Josh’s mom in a time not shown in the actual movie. They then got a divorce, but Josh still frequents Cher’s house and, weirdly enough, Mel still calls him Cher’s brother even though they’re really not. The relationship between an ex-stepbrother and a preppy valley girl is actually really interesting. As previously mentioned, all of us must’ve judged their fate one way or another. It might’ve been bad (an ‘ew’ reaction, as I call it) or good (an ‘aw’ reaction, as I oppositely call it). If it was an ‘ew’ one, why is that? Is it because they are step-siblings? Well, sorry to break it to you, but they’re really not. I had once waved my gavel and proclaimed that it was simply wrong without really putting much thought to it. But now we’re going to dig deep into the root of their relationship and try to figure out what it’s made of (admiration, jealousy?) and analyze how these two complicated and differing characters actually balance each other out. Here, reader, is the infamous Jeep scene.
An elegant attire, cool shades on, hair blowing freely by the wind and the newest tunes blasting loudly. That’s how I envisioned any movie car-ride scene to be like. Not in Clueless, no. Cher has received many tickets for driving badly and can now only drive with the aid of a “licensed driver with nothing to do”. Cue the next scene and Cher and Josh (the lucky chosen supervisor) are both in the infamous white Jeep cruising through the streets of Los Angeles. I don’t know what’s more interesting to analyze; their body language or the actual lines they dictate. Both can tell us so much about their feelings and how their responses affect each other’s personalities and future actions. Throughout the scene, Josh can be seen owning a more relaxed and laid-back posture whilst Cher seems quite poised confident whilst driving. We can think about Josh’s stance in two different ways: he’s a grown man sitting in a car next to an underage girl and thus has no reason to feel the need to act maturely (in the sense of having to put on an ‘adult mask’ of sorts) or, quite oppositely, is behaving in a relaxed and almost theatrical manner in order to look more appealing to Cher. It’s almost as if he wants to look like someone Cher’s age through his body language, and that makes me wonder if he was doing so simply to gain her appeal in a romantic manner. Cher, on the other hand, is acting in a more composed fashion in order to appear older and mature – the way in which she conducts herself throughout the majority of the movie. It seems like Cher and Josh’s roles have been switched, and that creates an incredibly interesting and complex dynamic between them. They are in a constant reversed status, power and age but, somehow, they end up balancing each other in a peculiar way, so much as it reveals fascinating aspects of their personality. After Cher makes an argument that she, indeed, does help those in need, Josh adopts a stiffer posture and furrows his eyebrows whilst she continues to babble. We can now clearly see that as soon as Cher says something that appears to Josh and childish and immature and ultimately let’s her true age shine through her ‘adult mask’, Josh quickly becomes rigid signifying that he has sensed that she is still, somewhat naive. It’s almost as if he’d been under a spell before – one in which caused the sufferer to become blind to age. Once the spell is broken, the affected becomes aware of the true forms of those around him and is once again able to judge. Like Josh, we quickly judged Cher in that scene without really putting much thought into the fact that maybe she didn’t know any better.
As interesting as body language can be to travel deeps into the realms of analysis, the script itself is really important too. It tells us a lot about what the characters are explicitly feeling towards each other whilst leaving plenty of room for interpretation. A lot of the script during this scene is centered around the fact that Cher is simply unable to care for no one other than herself, whilst Josh is a “goodie two shoes” with a major in “tree-loving”. Whenever Josh is discussing the possibility of a celebrity planting a tree for the project he participates in, Cher childishly questions:
“Josh, why don’t you just hire a gardener?”
Just like Josh, the viewer finds it hard to believe that someone who behaves to maturely and is always surrounded with the most luxurious objects can simply be so ingenuous when it comes to political or socio-economic matters. This specific line is used to demonstrate the fact that Cher is just a rich and childlike valley girl who is completely oblivious to the fact that people around her – Josh – are interested in aiding the community that surrounds them. This stereotypical image of a valley girl is used throughout the movie to try and show the frustration of the characters around them. Cher seems to find a simple and witty answer to everything Josh says with the means of sounding practical and mature, but in the end just comes off affluent and ingenuous.
After Cher lists her supposed various good-doings, Josh pronounces the line which I find to be one of the most important ones of the entire movie:
“Which, I’ll bet, serves your interests more than theirs.”
This specific line demonstrates Josh’s ultimate feelings towards Cher. For the uttermost part of the film. I’m forced to agree with him. Every action performed by Cher will somehow benefit her in the near future. Nothing is ever done simply because it is good and just. Josh is an advocate for various different projects, and is apparently always trying to benefit the community in one way or another – an extreme contrast from Cher’s selfish motives. Josh was very quick to judge Cher’s character by the things she’d said before, and thus a new conflict has risen. Is Cher truly a good person? Or does she depend too much on others to fulfill her every wish?
The aspect of dependency is also very interesting when analyzing Cher and Josh’s peculiar relationship. Does Cher, in reality, depend too much on Josh? At first, we don’t realize the mere fact that Cher relies on Josh to aid her in many of the challenges (as petty as they seem) she faces during the course of the movie. Let’s once again take the Jeep scene as an example. Both characters are found inside a Jeep in which Cher cannot drive alone without a designated overseer. This demonstrates that Cher, whilst wanting to, isn’t completely independent and is still an innocent adolescent for requiring the aid of an older acquaintance to be able to perform such a trivial task like driving. Cher relies on Josh. Josh relies on Cher (for an emotional de-stress or relief of sorts). And the story goes on.
Have you changed your opinion of Cher and Josh’s relationship? I sure have. It’s immensely gratifying to have explored and analyzed a movie in which so many of us have watched countless and countless times and have gained a different perspective on a topic – family dynamics, particularly the more romantic ones in Clueless – not usually discussed and brushed over in our daily lives. I’ve learned through Cher’s sassy comments towards Josh to always stand your ground and change in order to help those in need. I’ve learned through Josh’s cool and laid-back posture to feel comfortable in your own skin and not be so quick to judge other’s characters. Together, I’ve learned to respect our differences for they are what unite us. They are what compliment and bring out the best in our personalities – as seen between our lovers in Clueless. I think I can now successfully point my fingers at Clueless and say, in my most cheerful voice, “good!”.