Beverly Hills, California

In this essay I will analyse the ways in which the film Clueless includes ideas normally associated with the youth picture genre film. Genre is a type of film. To decide the genre of a film; we look at the settings, characters, significant objects, themes, and the structures or sequences of events. The youth picture genre is aimed at 13-25 year olds and is often a mixture of two or three different genres.

The main features of a youth picture genre normally includes; the central character being aged between 13-25, the main location is often being the local high school or junior college, in their free time, the locations used are parties and clubs, also one or two of the central characters is a rebel or conformist in relation to some form of authority and the pursuit of sexual relationships is an important part of the youth picture films. Clueless is located in a rich part of Beverly Hills, California. The film is about the effects Cher has, or tries to have, on other people’s lives and ultimately the effects that other people have on her.

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The main settings in the film are those of a typical youth picture film, they are the local high school, Cher’s house, parties and the mall. I think that there is one main definite character, Cher and everything revolves around her, although there are two more other involved characters Josh and Tai, who interact with Cher throughout the film. There are several American themes running through the film, particularly wealth and materialism, such as, clothes, possessions, houses and cars. In this film the key to success is wealth and with it comes the question of being a ‘normal’ teenager.

From the very first moment of Clueless, in the title graphics, the audience is shown that Clueless is a youth picture genre. The colours are bright with a bubblegum effect, the use of contrast between the lurid green and pink writing on a blue background, which are normally colours that you would never dream of putting together. Bubble writing is used and the words pop on and off the screen. This reflects the American theme and instantly communicates the idea of the ‘superficial froth’ of the youth lifestyle.

The opening scene shows Cher as the centre of attention and manipulating the adults around her, an example of this is when she tries to get her father to take his vitamin C. In a youth picture genre the generation gaps are a typical feature and carry on throughout the film. I am looking at the tennis scene where Tai is introduced to Cher and her friends as an example of the ‘mise en sci?? ne’, i. e. all the elements of the film, what’s going on in the background, the costumes what the characters wear, the weather, and what people, all these reflect elements of the youth picture genre.

The setting, the school tennis courts on a cloudless day is very typical of the youth picture film, as are the props used e. g. mobile phone holders, the post-plastic surgery plasters, tennis rackets and even the clothes Cher and her friends are wearing. Instead of P. E clothes they have very trim and co-ordinated black and white, little shorts and tops which wouldn’t look out of place at a disco. In the background, there was a small clique of cheerleaders practising and completely involved in what they are doing, a complete contrast to Cher’s attitude to P.

E. The background music reflects the plot of the film which is very pop and girly. This is another example of what might be found in a youth picture film, groups of young people standing out because they want to be known as popular, and different individuals, and not a group that all do the same thing. Cher’s reaction was one of disgust when the tennis ball flew past her face, she shouted, “That’s just a law suit waiting to happen”; this is typical of the kind of thing in a youth picture genre by blaming something Cher done, on someone else.

Cher’s friend’s body language and their facial expressions when asked to take part in the lesson show utter disdain, it gives the impression to the audience that there is a barrier of ‘plastic surgery and nail varnish’ between them and the real world, another element of the youth picture genre film. Cher provides the voice-over throughout the film ‘Clueless’, in diary form, telling us her thoughts, feelings and interpretation of life and the ‘real world’. We identify with Cher more though her voice and this develops our understanding and our acceptance of her character.

We experience and example of dramatic irony through the voice-over, because we, as the audience, are aware quite early on of Cher’s feelings for Josh, because they are always flirting, but Cher only realises how she feels about him at the end when someone else is attracted to him. What Cher says is sometimes completely different to what we are seeing on the screen; one example of this is when she is telling us she is a normal teenage girl, but what we are actually seeing is her playing on her computerised wardrobe and talking about her maid being scared of her dad.

The purpose of this contrast is to show us how ‘Clueless’ Cher is about reality; she really does believe what she is saying, in the tone and expression of her voice. Right from the beginning of the film, the effect on the listener is that we are made aware of the unreal world and the bubble that surrounds Cher and her friends, this is very typical of the youth picture genre. The music in the film has to appeal to the young generation, and so in the case of Clueless, the music is closely linked to the storyline throughout. This is an important element of the film which reflects the youth culture of the 90’s.

For example when Kristin enters the classroom, there is romantic music but this gives us a false impression because actually he is gay and unlikely to go out with Cher. Cher is surrounded by friends who think the same as her and attach great importance to looking good, giving little thought to anything outside their worlds. For example when Cher is watching the news about the war in Bosnia she said she thought they had declared peace in the middle east, she thought she would impress Josh but she can’t change her knowledge of the world.

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