"Clueless" and its effect on my communication skills

I’m about to go off on a tangent with this blog entry and whenever I’m inclined to feel bad about not discussing topics pertaining to Chile, I’m quick to forgive myself as I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to the “Welcome” section of my page. I pretty much included a clause that allows me to write about irrelevant topics. Therefore, I feel satisfied in having warned the reader and ready to dive into my tangent. [Will that disclaimer look good on court transcripts?]

Watching the movie “Clueless” really makes me miss a moment in time when my friends and I basically adopted the language of the movie and injected it into our everyday dialogue, whenever we could and with whomever we could. The movie came out in 1995, when my friends and I were either juniors or seniors in high school (I myself was a senior and incidentally, I went to high school with the lead actress in the movie, Alicia Silverstone) but I don’t recall quoting it to a pulp until about 3-5 years after its release. The screenplay was written by Amy Heckerling (of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” fame), a woman who has a pretty outstanding talent for writing about young adults. I say this because, in my opinion, a marker of said talent is when your writing jumps off the screen and into everyday life as was the case with me and my group of friends AND with subsequent women I met in walks of life thereafter.

All right, so what’s my point here? Basically a simple walk down memory lane: recalling certain lines of the movie and when we applied them to our everyday lives. A simple trip that I’ll enjoy taking you, the reader, on with me.

The most obvious one being the use of the word “Whatever.” We all remember Ambular doing her little whatever sign during her debate with Cher (which I’ll get to in a second, by the way.) If not, here’s a looksie for reference:

Maybe “whatever” was something kids said in the 70s and 80s but if that’s the case, I’m willing to argue that the tone of the word was much more “I’m high” rather than “I’m super annoyed with you.” I picked it up in the 90s with the latter pitch and of course, it took us by storm and every other word out of our mouths was “whatever.” Oh, you don’t have nonfat milk? Whatever. You’re charging me for returning the movie I rented five minutes after it was due? Whatever. My car ran out of gas and I am now in a ditch at the side of the road? Whatever. Though now my “Whatever” has since evolved into a tone that sounds more like “I’m bored” or “you bore me” more than it does annoyance as it did in the original debut. Hmmm, incidentally I wonder if this sounds similar to the “I’m high” Whatever from the 70s…

Moving on.

The debate between Amber and Cher during (duh) Debate Class is a really key piece when analyzing the way this movie altered my communication with peers and the world around me. In this scene, the debate is about allowing Haitians to find refuge in the U.S. and what that would mean to America’s resources. When Amber’s character can’t figure out what the hell Cher said in her debate, the following dialogue develops in response to her teacher, Mr. Hall’s, request for a rebuttal.

Mr. Hall: …. Uh, Amber, reply?
Amber: Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party.
Cher: Hellooooo?! It was his fiftieth birthday!
Amber: [while doing “W” hand motion] Whatever!…. If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine.

Working a little out of order, I’d like to share that I use this version of “hello” on a regular, if not daily, basis. It either means “Helllooooo (you’re a total moron)” or it means “Hellooooo (I know you and I love you but you’re having a complete and total brain fart right now and I need to draw your attention to it before this conversation goes any further.)” This movie’s debate scene really does contain some gems (or so we thought when we adopted their language.)
Now, with – Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party – the possibilities are limitless, really. Say someone asks you a question that’s loaded, or asks you a question that has 20 possible answers … this quote totally applies. In fact, I used this just the other day when I was telling a friend of mine that someone had asked me when I thought I’d be ready to have kids. Seriously, Mr. Hall, how CAN I answer that? Who the hell knows?? Is anyone really, truly ready to have kids?
I use – If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine. – when someone doesn’t come through on what was promised. For instance,I was promised that we’d get the mock ups of our wedding THANK YOU cards by last week and I certainly did not get them…therefore I’m delayed in sending them out to our guests and those who got us wedding gifts. Do you see how this accurately applies to such a situation? It can also apply when someone doesn’t verbally give you the correct facts for any given situation, such as driving directions, steps through bureaucracy and so on.

There’s also:

“I have insight, Mr. Hall” – Travis Birkenstock says this in reply to Mr. Hall’s question on “futher insight.” I use it whenever I have a piece of information to share or when someone has asked my opinion on something.

“Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period …”
– Cher says this when she discovers she got a C in Debate … I say this whenever things have taken a turn for the worse or when something unexpected happens. For instance, putting on a shirt only to later realize that it was dirty from the start! (Always an annoying realization and worthy of stating that a dark cloud has settled over first period.)

“Fluke accident during a routine liposuction” – Cher states this when describing how her mother passed away. I say “fluke accident” whenever I’ve f*cked up in a ridiculous manner.

“I so need lessons from you on being cool…tell me that part about Kenny G again.”
– Cher says this while making fun of her former stepbrother/future boyfriend. I say this whenever someone is trying to be better than me but failing miserably. As is the case with women who have mullet haircuts. I digress.

“Here’s the 4-1-1” – Dionne says this to Cher when giving her the scoop on their teacher, Mr. Hall. 4-1-1 is the three-digit phone number you dial in the U.S. for “Information” on phone numbers, addresses and other details about businesses. One calls “Information” when they want to know the number to the Italian Restaurant in ABC City. Therefore the use of “4-1-1” in daily life is pretty self explanatory.

“He earns minor duckets at a thankless job.” – Dionne says this to Cher about Mr. Hall. Since my friends and I started using these phrases right about when we graduated from college, it was pretty applicable to our own situations at the time, earning minor duckets at thankless jobs.

“I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies’.” – Cher says this to Mr. Hall in defense of an alleged tardy to class. I use “I had to haul ass to the ladies'” generally speaking when I have to get somewhere STAT. Anywhere, mind you. Not just the bathroom. And just to clarify, the crimson wave has NOTHING to do with my use of the quote. Just so that’s clear.

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’d have to get off the freeway, I hate that.” – Elton says this to Cher when arguing about who will take who home after the Val party. I say “I hate that” when … I highly dislike or hate something. True, the three words are generic, but in my mind, TRUST ME, I’m giving mad props (or snaps as we’re talking about Clueless here) to the movie.

“I-a not a Mexican!” – Cher’s housekeeper yells this at her when Cher tells her that she doesn’t speak “Mexican” (as opposed to Spanish.) Since the housekeeper is from El Salvador, obviously she flips out. I just used to say this all the time because several times I was met with blank stares when I told people I was from Chile. It was as if being Latin was equal to being Mexican. In fact, my friends used to say this to me all the time, thinking they were being funny.

“That was way harsh, Tai.”
– Cher says this to her new friend, Tai, when Tai says something really mean to her. It’s applicable in real life in similar situations. Not that it necessarily needs to be used when a PERSON is mean, but in general when any given situation is plain whack. It can be shortened to “way harsh Tai.” A crowd favorite.

It’s crazy to think how certain movies affect individuals. I wonder how many movies have affected entire generations! But I don’t think it’s unheard of. I am willing to bet that everyone has a movie or two that really speaks his/her language. Or whose language they understand so well, said language is adopted. This was the case for me with Clueless… though some phrases I’ve dropped, there are many I continue to use. Further, there were terms in the movie I outright refused to adopt as well! “Betty,” or “I’m outtie (perhaps Audi like the car, who knows!) and “As if,” among others.

Had I studied linguistics as opposed to Communications in college, this would have been a really interesting thesis … but I digress. I have to haul ass to the ladies.

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5 thoughts on “"Clueless" and its effect on my communication skills

  1. " I mean, standing in line for forty minutes is hardly aerobically effective. I doubt I've worked off the calories in a stick of Carefree gum."


    Love, love, love that movie. Thank for bringing it back to the forefront of my consciousness. We should bring the lingo back in Chilesters 🙂

  2. Yes Clueless is definitely a great movie BUT this goes beyond just quoting … literally my communications skills adapted themselves to incorporate these quotes!! I'm weird.

  3. oh man, I ADORE Clueless. The "if she doesn't do the assignment, I can't do mine" is my favorite. I use that and the "I carried a watermelon" from Dirty Dancing quite often. You take the cake on Clueless quotes, however.

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