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‘Clueless’ is Finally on Netflix, And It’s Jewier Than You Remember

Here are eight very Semitic reasons to watch or rewatch the classic

Marjorie Ingall
October 09, 2017
Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

YOU GUYS. Until this month, searching for Clueless on Netflix was as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. But now it’s here! To mark this special event, here is a list of the eight Jewishest things in Clueless.

Cher Horowitz could totally be the President of HIAS. Let’s recall her debate speech on the topic: “Should all oppressed people be allowed refuge in America?” Cher compares Haitian immigrants (she pronounces them Haiti-ans) to guests showing up to her garden party for her dad’s birthday without RSVP’ing. “I was, like, totally buggin’. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier! And so, if the government could just get to the kitchen and rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haiti-ans. And in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much.” (Fun fact, via the delightful As If: The Oral History of Clueless, by Jen Chaney: The mispronunciation of “Haitians” was not in the script; Alicia Silverstone really thought that was how the word was pronounced. Director Amy Heckerling, of course, kept it.)

Cher Horowitz could totally be the President of Jewish World Service. After the notorious Pismo Beach Disaster (an entirely fictional event that apparently some of the youth of today believe was real, thanks to this movie), she decides to collect caviar and skis for the victims.

Cher Horowitz’s name is Cher Horowitz. (It is not quite as deliciously Jewy as “Cicada Moskowitz,” the name of a real camper at Eden Village Camp mentioned in a Forward story in 2010 and never forgotten by me, but it’s close.) In the script, Cher has no last name. “Horowitz” was an improv by uber-Jew Wallace Shawn as her high school teacher. Given that Jewish actor Dan Hedaya played her father, and Jewish actor Paul Rudd played her stepbrother, and Silverstone herself is Jewish, hey, it works. Furthermore, having your lead be named Cher Horowitz just deepens the diversity of Clueless’s diverse cast. Yes, Jews can look like Alicia Silverstone. Yes, Jewish American Princesses can yearn to do mitzvot, as Cher clearly does. Call off your old tired stereotypes.

Paul Rudd was journalist Gabrielle Birkner’s Bat Mitzvah DJ. In the San Fernando Valley in 1992. He rocked a yellow dinner jacket, yellow ruffled shirt, baggy black shorts, white socks and Doc Martens, or perhaps he didn’t, since I was blinded by watching the video and really can’t say.

You know how we were all “AS IF, UGH, Cher and Josh are stepsiblings! How can they wind up together?” Amy Heckerling does not have time for your weird squeamish mishegas. Her great-grandparents were stepbrother and stepsister. In As If, she says, “In the Jewish ghetto in the Pale of Settlement in Europe, it was pretty verboten to have a female that was loose. My great-grandmother was a widow with children… In this small little world, a woman that was not in a marriage was going to become destitute and there’d be children [involved]. I mean, I’m not Isaac Singer so I can’t tell you exactly how life went there. But if there was a free-floating female—if your brother died and he had a wife and children—you would marry the woman and take care of the kids. [T]he studio tells you, ooh, this is incestuous and you’re going, ‘This is my grandparents!’”

In addition to Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone, Jewish women made Clueless the wonder it is. Twink Caplan, who played Miss Geist, was Heckerling’s co-executive producer from minute one. Studio head Sherry Lansing got the movie made after a zillion men passed (or wanted to dude it up), and marketed it brilliantly after it tested better with young women than with any other quadrant. Music supervisor Karyn Rachtman shepherded the killer soundtrack to fruition. You may recall that said soundtrack featured Jewesses Kate Schellenbach and Gabby Glaser of Luscious Jackson, and Jewess Jill Sobule, who went on to compose a musical version of Yentl.

As Wallace Shawn notes in As If, the film “presents a somewhat believable fantasy of America as a decent country and Americans as people who are capable of being good people and learning how to be better people.” He continues: “[T]here are hundreds of films and television shows that supposedly show, let’s say, gay people and straight people, black people and white people, Christians, Jews, all getting along. But they feel fake. They feel phony. Clueless somehow makes you believe it. You think, yes, this could happen somehow. This could be possible. If we change in the right ways, this could be possible.” This is a Messianic era, Olam HaBa vision of America. And if we will it, it is no dream.

When Cher and Dionne give Tai a successful makeover, Cher rejoices, “My heart is totally bursting!” and Dionne replies, “I know! I’m kvelling!”

I’m kvelling too, because Clueless is on Netflix and I get to watch it with my own children. Oh my God, I am totally buggin’.

Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.