In the film Clueless, based on the Jane Austen novel Emma, Amy Heckerling criticizes consumer behaviors and social standards through many satirical techniques. Heckerling utilizes a caricature of Cher’s self-absorbed personality in order to demonstrate the increase in materialistic desires in society. Additionally, Heckerling stereotypes the female characters Cher and Dionne as being rich and only wanting brand-name items, displaying the unhealthy social norms of the time.
Right at the start of the film when Cher is introduced, the audience senses her self-absorbed and arrogant personality. Heckerling exaggerates her personality through a caricature in order to convey her materialism as an archetype of society’s increase in materialism. Many times in the movie, Cher holds shopping bags and discusses going to the mall. Also, many of her conversations include talking about fashion trends, or others’ fashion fails (because Cher herself would never have a fashion fail). When Cher converses with her father about her future, her father asks her to find “a little bit of direction” about her future, to which she replied that she has. Comically, her ex-stepbrother Josh adds, “Yeah, towards the mall.” Even when discussing an important topics such as college and one’s future, Heckerling knew to add dialogue about her consumer habits because that is how many teenagers and young adults acted at the time. Everything was about shopping and buying the newest, most expensive products. Another example of this is when Cher criticizes male clothing. She disgustingly declares that boys look “like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair and cover it up with a backwards cap”. This is a caricature of Cher’s obsession with everything needing to look fancy and put-together every day. Heckerling satirizes her judgemental personality by using this caricature to show how absurd it is that everyone needs to have the best clothes, because in the end it is about wearing what you want to wear and what makes you comfortable. This message is also expressed through Heckerling’s stereotypical characteristics of Cher and Dionne.
Cher and Dionne are the perfect examples of snotty, rich teenagers who think that money and good looks are what determines who you are. Obviously, this is an incorrect way to think about society because societal standards should be based on personality, and not how much money you have or how much makeup you wear. Cher and Dionne befriend a new student named Tai, and being the “nice and caring” selves they are, they decide to give her the makeover she did not ask for. They conclude that because Tai is “tragically unhip” and that they need to “adopt” and help her. Cher believes that helping Tai means turning Tai into a copy of Cher. In the end, Tai turns into a more popular version of Cher and Cher realizes that her stereotypical ways of thinking were wrong and realizes that Josh was right about her all along. Heckerling’s stereotypical perspective of Cher turns into a major theme in the movie. Through the stereotypical personality of Cher, Heckerling makes a point to change social standards to be more inclusive of personality traits other than money, clothes, and looks.