A CARS Passage about Clueless. Hopefully you won’t be.


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Session 93

The movie Clueless is a classic. In our passage today, we learn about the makeover storyline and how Clueless was also a makeover movie. Read and follow along!

As always, I’m joined by Jack Westin from JackWestin.com. Check out all their amazing free resources including a free trial session of Jack’s full course to see how it’s like learning from Jack Westin himself. Sign up for his free MCAT cars practice that emails out every single day, and all the other amazing free resources JackWestin.com offers you.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to the article:

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200716-how-clueless-transformed-the-movie-makeover

If there is one thing that Cher Horowitz, the heroine of 1990s teen-movie classic Clueless, loves, it’s a makeover. It’s her “main thrill in life,” her best friend Dionne points out, “It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos”. But as Cher plans the transformation of new friend Tai from grungy misfit to Beverly Hills princess, she is blissfully unaware that the person getting the real makeover in this movie is herself.

Makeovers have long been a trope used by Hollywood to give films a clear narrative arc, especially in romantic comedies. The plot device of a character’s aesthetic overhaul helps to push the story forward and make a character seem more desirable, with their romantic lives often improved as a result. But 25 years ago, Clueless writer/director Amy Heckerling flipped this clichéd journey on its head to deliver a witty critique of the consumerist, privileged lifestyle of Los Angeles teens.

The 1995 high-school rom-com is, in itself, a ‘makeover-ed’ property. Heckerling had been asked to write a script by 20th Century Fox about youth culture; she agreed (though Paramount would eventually produce it) but wanted to focus on ‘the in-crowd.’ In an interview for the original Clueless DVD release, she recalled how, as she drafted a story about what could “go wrong for a girl who always looks through rose-coloured glasses,” she realised she was writing a modern-day version of Jane Austen’s Emma.

“Unconsciously I had been writing an Emma character,” Heckerling said, “especially as she makeovers people all the time. She was very manipulative in a nice way; she lived in a fantasy of what could be for everybody else. I tried to take all the things that were in this pretty 1800s world and [imagined] what would that be like if it was Beverly Hills.”

Just as Emma Woodhouse takes the unrefined Harriet Smith under her wing, Alicia Silverstone’s queen bee begins moulding Brittany Murphy’s new kid Tai into her image. In a quick montage scene, Tai’s box dyed hair is washed out, make-up applied and her outfit overhauled (to the tune of Jill Sobule’s aptly satirical bop Supermodel) so that she can become polished enough to sit with Cher and Dionne at the top of the social hierarchy. It’s the sort of scene that appeals to audiences, says film studies lecturer Dr. Julia Wagner, because it panders to our aspirational appetites.

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[08:35] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

If there is one thing that Cher Horowitz, the heroine of 1990s teen-movie classic Clueless, loves, it’s a makeover.

Jack says:

Clueless is a great movie from the 1990s. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s adorable. You know it’s really funny. It’s really cool. But if you’ve never seen the movie, you’re going to be afraid of what’s happening here and what’s about to be brought up. But that’s okay. Just go with the flow and see where it’s going.

[09:48] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

It’s her “main thrill in life,” her best friend Dionne points out, “It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos”.

Jack says:

It sounds like an opening to an action movie. If you’ve never seen the movie, you may not even know what that means. But hopefully, it’ll clear it up.

[10:20] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

But as Cher plans the transformation of new friend Tai from grungy misfit to Beverly Hills princess, she is blissfully unaware that the person getting the real makeover in this movie is herself.

Jack says:

The author is just explaining the transformation and makeover. And it’s actually Cher that’s getting the makeover. She’s the one recommending the transformation to her friend. But In the end, what the author is saying is she ends up getting the makeover. She ends up getting that transformation – maybe not literally but figuratively.

[11:14] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

Makeovers have long been a trope used by Hollywood to give films a clear narrative arc, especially in romantic comedies.

Jack says:

We’re talking about movies as a whole and how Hollywood uses this makeover theme to give films a narrative arc.

[11:37] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

The plot device of a character’s aesthetic overhaul helps to push the story forward and make a character seem more desirable, with their romantic lives often improved as a result.

Jack says:

The author is just explaining the narrative arc a little bit more and it says a static overhaul. So now it’s really clear what a makeover is. Basically, you redo their hair makeup. Most students would probably acknowledge and understand this. But in case you didn’t hear, they’re giving you the information you need and you can visualize it. You can understand what this looks like.

[12:17] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

But 25 years ago, Clueless writer/director Amy Heckerling flipped this clichéd journey on its head to deliver a witty critique of the consumerist, privileged lifestyle of Los Angeles teens.

Jack says:

It’s going back to the specific movie, Clueless and what the writer-director Amy Heckerling did to flip that arc a little bit. It’s showing the critique of this society.

[12:50] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

The 1995 high-school rom-com is, in itself, a ‘makeover-ed’ property.

Jack says:

It sounds like the author here saying the movie is about makeovers, but the movie itself is a makeover. But let’s keep reading.

[13:28] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

Heckerling had been asked to write a script by 20th Century Fox about youth culture; she agreed (though Paramount would eventually produce it) but wanted to focus on ‘the in-crowd.’

Jack says:

It’s a little backstory of how the movie came to be.

[13:53] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

In an interview for the original Clueless DVD release, she recalled how, as she drafted a story about what could “go wrong for a girl who always looks through rose-coloured glasses,” she realised she was writing a modern-day version of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Jack says:

Again, more backstory of how Clueless came to be and the inspiration for it. It gives you more information on what the movie is about. What could go wrong for a girl who always looks through rose-colored glasses? What do rose-colored glasses actually mean or signify?

Rose-colored glasses means you’re always looking for the good things. It means you’re an optimistic person. If you think about what it means, visually, roses are normally attributed to good, positive things.

The second point is even more important that it’s similar to Jane Austen’s Emma. Right now that’s an argument or an opinion that we have to keep in mind. In this case, the writer of the film thinks it’s similar to this older novel.

The first sentence of this passage now makes sense when it says that Clueless is a makeover. And you’ll see a lot of students spend so much time trying to figure that out. But that first sentence is just a transition.

“A lot of times, students overreact to transitional sentences. Keep reading because eventually, it will clear it up.”Click To Tweet

[16:37] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

“Unconsciously I had been writing an Emma character,” Heckerling said, “especially as she makeovers people all the time.

Jack says:

The author here is showing that comparison again to Jane Austen’s Emma.

[16:56] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

She was very manipulative in a nice way; she lived in a fantasy of what could be for everybody else.

Jack says:

It’s the author explaining that the character in this movie right now is not just in Jane Austen’s Emma but it’s also in Clueless because Cher is like this.

[17:21] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

I tried to take all the things that were in this pretty 1800s world and [imagined] what would that be like if it was Beverly Hills.”

Jack says:

Again, it’s just the backstory of how Clueless came to be and how it’s this made-over Jane Austen’s Emma.

[18:06] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

Just as Emma Woodhouse takes the unrefined Harriet Smith under her wing, Alicia Silverstone’s queen bee begins moulding Brittany Murphy’s new kid Tai into her image.

Jack says:

Again, it’s just strengthening that bond between the two movies. But here’s the problem. Who is Alicia Silverstone? So if you didn’t watch the movie and you don’t know who this person is, you’re going to be a little worried. We know she’s the protagonist in the whole movie. She is the actor that plays Cher.

But you could figure it out because it says multi-molding Brittany Murphy’s new kid Tai. So Brittany Murphy is the actress behind Tai. And you can see where this goes back to the first paragraph with the whole makeover of how Cher is trying to give a makeover to Tai.

[19:16] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

In a quick montage scene, Tai’s box dyed hair is washed out, make-up applied and her outfit overhauled (to the tune of Jill Sobule’s aptly satirical bop Supermodel) so that she can become polished enough to sit with Cher and Dionne at the top of the social hierarchy.

Jack says:

So just giving a little bit of a plot behind what Clueless is and what this makeover comprised of.

[19:53] Paragraph 5, Sentence 3

It’s the sort of scene that appeals to audiences, says film studies lecturer Dr. Julia Wagner, because it panders to our aspirational appetites.

Jack says:

A big final sentence there. So basically this film studies lecturer is saying that we like the scene because as humans, we like to aspire to be at the top of the social hierarchy.

[20:38] Main Idea

It seems like the majority of it is really how Clueless is a make made over Jane Austen’s Emma. And if you know that, you’re going to get most of the questions right.

“Most questions revolve around the main idea.”Click To Tweet

You should probably know the little details that they brought up. And maybe even the last sentence is important. But for the most part, that’s it. And if you got lost because you never watched it or you don’t know who the person is, you can still probably answer four of the six questions.

Most of the articles or topics that they’re going to test you on are things that you probably have never heard of, and neither have your peers. No one can be great at everything. So it’s not a big deal.

Links:

Meded Media

Jack Westin

Jack Westin’s CASPER strategy course

Link to the article:

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200716-how-clueless-transformed-the-movie-makeover

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