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Gender, Class, Race, and Sexuality in "Clueless"

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Rebecca Green

on 25 July 2013

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Transcript of Gender, Class, Race, and Sexuality in "Clueless"

(Focus on gender and class uniformity, no mention of race difference)
Again, no mention of racial differences, focus on similarities in class denoted by style (particularly with the girls)
Although her class is never directly addressed, Tai clearly has a different socio-economic status than the "popular" group, which causes them to view her as less feminine.
Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover, which allows her to conform to their school's class and gender norms
(the only important ones)
With her new feminine look, Tai can now pass as high class, attract men, and become "the most popular girl in school."
Dionne and Murray are constantly shown arguing and yelling at each other. This fits the stereotype of African-Americans as loud and aggressive, as well as in unhealthy relationships where the woman is jealous and the man is posessive.
Dionne's race is never mentioned, but intersections between her race, class, and gender are heavily cued. Her first interaction with Murray concerns hair extensions, which are stereotypically for African-American women, and she says she doesn't wear "cheap" ones, unlike Shawana, an ethnic name denoting a lower-class African-American woman. She also consistently complains about Murray's slang, and prefers to use standard English, e.g. "jeepin" vs. "vehicular sex." She "does" her gender and her class practically identically to Cher, but her race is
shown by these cues and by her
pairing with Murray.
Intersections of Gender, Class, Race, and Sexuality in "Clueless"
by Rebecca Green
Gender and Class Trump Race and Sexuality
Cher and Dionne
Homosexuality is No Problem
Class-Conscious Femininity
Tai's Transformation
Tai's Acceptance
Lucy, Cher's maid, is from El Salvador. As an immigrant domestic worker, she is the only example of a non-White, working-class woman in the movie. Her class differences are much greater than Tai's, so she is unable to surmount them. This makes her a very different kind of woman from Cher, with feminine AND low-class traits:
she does the housework, she's afraid
of Cher's father, and she is
not valued.
Lucy the Salvadoran Maid
Race Cues Within Gender
Dramatic Relationship
When Murray's character is first introduced, rap music is played and he is shown wearing saggy pants, a backwards hat, and a gold necklace.
Murray as a Black Man
Dionne as a Black Woman
"She's my friend because we both know what it's like to have people be jealous of us" - Cher on her friendship with Dionne
Multi-Racial "Popular" Group
- Speaks with a New York accent and uses a "low" vocabulary
- References drugs, dresses differently (not as high class), and values different activities
"Oh my god, do you see how boys are responding?" - Cher after Tai's makeover
He uses black slang (calls Dionne "woman") and pounds fists with his bro. Later he shaves his head and when Dionne asks why, says he's "keeping
it real."
"She could be a farmer in those clothes"
- Amber on Tai's outfit
When Cher finds out Christian is gay, they become instant friends and shopping buddies. Their class similarities - as well as gender similarities, since as a homosexual, Christian
is more feminine - are more important
than their sexualities.
In contrast, Elton, the "social director of the crew," is well-groomed and wears sweater-vests. His race is not exaggerated because he is a member of the "normal" group.
Elton as a
White Man
Instead, his masculinity is proven by his sexuality. He is constantly touching, kissing, and making moves on Cher. And he "does not have friends that are girls."
Loving Relationship
In contrast, Cher and Josh's White relationship is caring and tender. After flirting for a long time, they finally get together when she makes a mistake on her father's case and he defends her. He tells her he'll take care of it and that she's beautiful, and she says that she cares about him. At the end they intimately conspire together to catch the
bouquet and then they kiss.
"In the grand tradition of PE teachers, Ms. Stoeger seems to be same-sex oriented"
- Cher
Ms Stoeger as a Lesbian Woman
Because Ms. Stoeger is interested in sports (a manly trait) and doesn't dress as feminine as she does, Cher assumes she is a lesbian.
At first, Cher does not recognize Christian as gay. She falls for his well-put together style (feminine) and well-mannered behavior (not masculine like Elton).
Christian as a Gay Man
Within Gender
Then, Murray says he's a "disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy" and Dionne agrees: "He does like to shop, Cher,
and the boy can dress."
Full transcript