Clueless: Is the Movie Based on a True Story?

Considered one of the best teen comedies of all time, ‘Clueless’ follows the story of a fashionable, rich, popular, and clever girl named Cher Horowitz. It became a cult favorite for its impeccable fashion sense as well as its witty one-liners. The film follows the protagonists’ efforts to better others’ lives by meddling in it. She makes a match of two of her teachers who give her bad grades and adopts a hopeless case to turn her into another popular girl. Meanwhile, she tries to navigate her own romantic relationships, which involve Josh, her stepbrother, and Christian, a new boy in school. If you wonder why the story sounds so familiar, here’s the answer.

Clueless: A Classic Teen Comedy with a Literary Twist

No, ‘Clueless’ is not based on a true story. It is based on an original screenplay by Amy Heckerling. Paramount asked her to write a story for teenagers, which took her back to the books she had read in her teens. Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ came to her mind, and she gave the story a twist by giving it a modern setting. For this, she staked a Beverly Hills school to learn more about the lifestyle of teenagers.

In the film, Emma becomes Cher, Mr Knightly becomes Josh, Harriet becomes Tai, and Frank Churchill becomes Christian, albeit a loose version of himself. Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist, whom Cher tries to match up, are a version of Mr. and Mrs. Weston. Mr Hall is also inspired by a real-life person. Heckerling’s friend, Herb Hall, was a debate teacher in Beverly Hills High. She chose to name the character after him and also got him a part in the film. He plays the school Principal.

When Heckerling wrote the script, it wasn’t immediately picked up. She had written it as a pilot for a TV show, but the green light never arrived. After a while, when she forwarded the script for fresh consideration to a different place, she was advised to change the script for a movie because it was too good to be a TV show. Another literary inspiration that shaped the story of ‘Clueless’ was Anita Loos’s comic novel, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.

One of the things about the film that has bothered the audience over the years is the seemingly incestuous relationship between Cher and Josh. However, Heckerling explained it away with the real-life relationship that had inspired the connection of the lead characters. It turns out that the director’s grandparents had had the same connection. They were step-siblings and had met after their widowed parents got married. Hence, because they are not related by blood, it’s not really a problem.

Another real-life incident that made its way into the script was a story that her friend had told her at a dinner party. It was about a man who had started wearing designer suits at his wife’s behest. One day, he got held up at gunpoint and the mugger asked him to get on the ground, to which he replied, “But this is Armani.” The situation seemed hilarious to Heckerling, and she put it in the movie. Only Cher really was concerned about the Alaïa outfit, while the man was simply afraid of what his wife would say.

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