When I first read that Paramount Pictures was remaking Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, I was “totally buggin.”
The 1995 original is a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, moving the action to Bronson Alcott High School in modern-day Beverly Hills. It follows teen queen Cher Horowitz (Alicia Sliverstone), who, alongside best friend Dionne, plays matchmaker for two teachers. Inspired by their success, Cher takes “so adorably clueless” new student Tai under her wing. While searching for Tai’s perfect match, Cher attempts to find a boyfriend of her own and, on her way to the “Baldwin” of her dreams, undergoes a “makeover [of the] soul.”
The reboot, produced by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip) and written by Marquita Robinson (Netflix’s GLOW), will re-imagine the film as a TV show featuring contemporary Californian teenagers.
Deadline is calling the series “Mean Girls meets Riverdale meets a Lizzo music video,” a “baby pink and bisexual blue-tinted, tiny sunglasses-wearing, oat milk latte and Adderall-fueled” look into the life of teenagers in L.A., 2020. It will explore what happens when the most popular girl in school — the inimitable Cher — disappears and second-in-command Dionne steps into her vacant shoes; how Dionne deals with the pressures of being the newly crowned Queen Bee and how she solves the mystery of what happened to her best friend.
Quite frankly, this series looks like a “full-on Monet” in the making, and shouldn’t be given the honour of a comparison with its iconic film counterpart.
Firstly, it erases the film’s protagonist. Cher is to Clueless what Harry Potter is to J. K. Rowling’s series of the same name — their respective films (and books) simply wouldn’t work without them. Paul Rudd, who played Cher’s former step-brother and love interest in the original film, told NME that one of the reasons the film has remained so popular over the years is Alicia Silverstone’s “winning” performance. Actress Rachel Blanchard struggled to capture Cher’s magic in the 1996 series, but removing the character altogether is a far worse crime.
However, the main problem with remaking Clueless is that the film is so deeply a product of its time that any attempt to manipulate its successes for Gen Z will never compare. The original is a flawless representation of teenage life in the 90s, and everything that makes it iconic is completely bound up with that era. From the famous quote, “as if!” to Coolio’s ‘Rollin’ With My Homies’, to THAT yellow plaid co-ord, the film screams 90s. Take away those things and it just isn’t Clueless.
Barely a week goes by without another sequel, prequel or remake. In 2019 alone, over 20 films have been remade or rebooted. Disney is on a roll making live-action versions of pretty much every classic in its catalogue. Nothing is sacred, it seems. But remaking Clueless is a Mary Jane-clad step too far. Will I be watching this series? “Ugh! As if!”