“I was just totally clueless.”
Such is the climactic quote of the movie gem Clueless. Such is also the climactic revelation I just keep having in my life.
Sharing with Cher (ha) that realization made me love her even more than I would have anyway for her snappy wit and (it can’t be argued) awesome hair.
Like Cher, I like to plot. And that plotting so often goes awry. And my motivations are pretty much exactly the same. As her best friend Dionne says, “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover. Okay? It gives her a sense of control on a world full of chaos.”
Life is big and scary and we all know that, even entitled teenagers. After all, although she is rich and beautiful, Cher has endured the death of her mother, her father’s subsequent divorce, and the responsibility of caring for him.
Meanwhile over here in reality, we are all spinning around on a vast unknown universe, stuck on a ball with terrifying geopolitical forces at work.
In the face of all that, who can fault a girl for liking a makeover? Or a trip to the mall?
That’s Cher’s destination when she feels, “impotent and out of control… Which I really, really hate. I had to find sanctuary in a place where I could gather my thoughts and regain my strength.” She goes to a place where things make sense – where she has control.
Her retail therapy makes her the punchline of a teenage stereotype joke. But we all have our sanctuaries, whether they are a place or a person or an activity. And at least Cher knows it’s a coping mechanism. When I indulge in online shopping or when I go for the junk food, I don’t always realize what I’m doing: grabbing that control in a world full of chaos.
But as Cher and we both learn, it doesn’t work. As Princess Leia tells Darth Vader, “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Or as Cher could tell you, the more you drop a whole roll of cookie dough into the oven, the more it will burn as you try to seduce your gay friend.
We are all often totally clueless not just about what we don’t know but about who we are and what we are doing. In Cher’s case, she gets a clue only after going for a walk, pausing in front of a suddenly flowing fountain, and gushing, “Oh my god, I love Josh! I am totally majorly butt crazy in love with Josh.”
Knowing herself frees her up to see that “all my friends were good in different ways.” She can then create some real, effective change in the world. And she can go out with Josh (but not get married, since “this is California, not Kentucky.”)
In the end, it’s not the plotting or the sanctuaries that cure our “overwhelming sense of ickiness.” Ugh, as if! Instead, we can get “way existential”, see that stop sign and “totally pause” to center things in our own minds. As she says, “I decided I needed a complete makeover, except this time, I’d makeover my soul.”
Then you can truly be ready to speak truth to power, delivering one of the movie’s best lines…gum stretching from your mouth…“may I remind you, “it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.”