This July marked the 25th anniversary since Alicia Silverstone played a ditz with depth in “Clueless.”
And it’s no coincidence that her story has resonated with young women for so long: Cher Horowitz defies the expectation of the dull, one-dimensional female lead that projects inhuman toughness and infallible judgment.
Here’s why 25 years following the release of this classic coming of age film, young women are still enamored with its iconic lead’s charisma and feminine strength.
Cher Can Admit She Was Wrong
Cher Horowitz departs from the tired “strong woman” stereotype primarily because she isn’t afraid to confront her vulnerability. The entire plot of Clueless essentially consists of Cher making a series of naive mistakes with the best intentions at heart: “Everything I think and everything I do is wrong...It all boiled down to one inevitable conclusion: I was just totally clueless!” The very title of the film signifies her greatest strength: she admits to her faults and blind spots.
Far too often, today’s forgettable female protagonists wear a facade of impenetrable resolve and constantly make up for the careless blunders of the men around them. Cher, on the other hand, develops the maturity to approach her problems (even ones she admittedly created for herself) with a humble learning attitude — and a dash of retail therapy.
Cher Owns Her Femininity
Cher notably takes great pride in the allure of her beauty and femininity and avoids sharing her affections with just anyone. She takes an immediate interest in Christian Stovitz, a refined smooth-talking transfer student. Her methods of capturing Christian’s attention, although misguided considering he was more interested in dancing with men than with her, demonstrate a great deal of cunning on her part. She draws attention in all the right ways: making eye contact, accentuating her natural features, and of course, showing her object of interest that she’s admired from afar by sending herself a variety of romantic gifts.
While today’s female leads refuse to show softness and are invariably direct rather than coy, Cher’s ability to utilize her feminine wiles to her advantage goes unmatched. She also drops some indispensable tips for girls who wish to emulate her magnetic charm. For instance, “Whenever a boy comes over, you should always have something baking.”
Cher Upholds Her Principles
Cher Horowitz is an excellent role model for young women who wish to embrace the power of their feminine energy with male attention left entirely out of the equation. She doesn’t let anyone’s peer pressure goad her into compromising on her personal convictions. As her best friend Dion teases her for being a virgin (the PC term is “hymenally challenged”), she remains confident in her decision to wait for the right person. In her words, “I’m not a prude, I’m just highly selective.”
From the outside perspective of her eventual love interest Josh, Cher is nothing but a shallow airhead. On the contrary, she shifts her focus toward a journey of self-discovery where clothes, boys, and social status move to the periphery. Only after wrestling with her interior conflict does she confront her true feelings for Josh and opens herself up to fall in love.
It’s refreshing to watch a female lead like Cher Horowitz in 2020 because, unlike the ordinary “empowered” tropes, she’s a full human being with her own flaws and mistakes. She’s honorable for recognizing her errors as opportunities for personal growth. If young women are to be portrayed accurately and empowered through the media they consume, female protagonists should be a reflection of them and encounter the same challenges they face in real life.