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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Clueless - Cher, Master of the Argument

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Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period.

I got a C in debate?"

Clueless protagonist Cher Horowitz is a master of making an argument.

For Cher, the art of debate is the family business.

Daddy's a litigator.

Those are the scariest

kinds of lawyers.”

Her focus at school,

Like right now for example, the Haitains need to come to America

but some people are all, what about the strain on our resources?”

Her way of expressing love,

Cher please dont start with the juice again.”

Daddy, you need your vitamin C.”

And her means of feeling in control of her life,

Some teachers were trying to lowball me, Daddy.”

If we look closer, we can learn a few things from this teen

about how to make our case so people will listen.

In conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say RSVP

on the statue of liberty!”

Heres our take on how to harness our powers of persuasion like Cher.

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Chers instinct is always to quibble,

I object!

Do you recall the dates of these alleged tardies?”

When most of us would let things slide, or hold our tongue.

You dont understand.

This is an Alaia.”

An a-what-a?”

It's, like, a totally important designer.”

And I will totally shoot you in the head.”

As the daughter of a lawyer, Cher enjoys free lessons in fighting

from a top-tier professional.

But he fights with me for free because Im his daughter.”

Her father has imparted to her a value system that prizes skills

of persuasion above everything else.

Do you mean to tell me you argued your way from a C plus

to an A-?”

Totally based on my powers of persuasion.

You proud?”

Honey, I couldnt be happier than if they were based on real grades.”

He teaches her that everything can be argued.

Daddy, did you ever have a problem you couldnt argue your way out of?”

Tell me the problem and well figure out how to argue it.”

When characters study subjects in school, the choice of subject

is usually a reflection of the story were watching.

"Brutus is just as cute as Caesar.

OK, Brutus is just as smart as Caesar.

People totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar.”

Its there to reinforce or illuminate a deeper theme.

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes.

For they and thee a thousand errors note.

But 'tis my heart loves what they despise.”

In Clueless, the main class we focus on is debate.

Amber will take the con position.

Cher will be pro.”

Chers speeches rouse her classmates to enthusiastic applause.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Fine holiday fun.”

We can see why her arguments appeal to her peers.

So until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news,

there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it

for entertainment value.”

Theyre succinct, take a clear stance, and grab the imagination

with accessible analogies.

And so if the government could just get to the kitchen,

rearrange some things, we could certainly party

with the Haiti-ans.”

At its core, this whole movie is an argument

presented by Cher.

I had to give myself snaps for all the good deeds I was doing.”

She makes her case about who she is and the great wisdom she has to impart

about life.

Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning

in a Pauly Shore movie.”

When she pontificates on the failings of high-school boys to the sounds

of David Bowie, it's like she's prefiguring

the modern video essay craze.

It looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants

and take their greasy hair...


And cover it up with a backwards cap,

and, like, we're expected to swoon?”

So a big part of what makes her effectively persuasive

is a mastery of voice, she has an impressive facility

with language.

I've tried everything to convince him of my scholastic aptitude,

but I was brutally rebuffed.”

And understands the importance of originality and inventiveness

In her thought and speech.

She's a full on Monet.”

What's a Monet?”

It's like the paintings, see?

From far away, it's O.K.

But up close, it's a big old mess.”

Whether or not her observations have much basis in reality,

theres something deeply enjoyable about the way in which she makes them.

Do you prefer fashion victim or ensembally challenged?”

According to Aristotles Rhetoric, there are three modes of persuasion,

and we can see Cher demonstrate how to use all three in Clueless.

The first, Ethos, is when the speaker appeals

to her own personal character.

Its important that the rhetorician comes across as credible.

Shes my friend because we both know what its like to have people

be jealous of us.”

For example, if you know youre listening

to the foremost professor on a subject,

I just want everyone here to know, that I am the preeminent Proust scholar

in the United States.”

Youll probably listen to what they have to say,

more than you would the ramblings of any random Joe on the same topic.

"My birthday's in April, and as someone older,

can I please give you some advice?”

Aristotle said that the speakerscharacter may almost be called

the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”

The fact that you hang with Dee and I, well, that speaks very highly of you.”

And this mode, ethos, is what Cher uses to open the movie.

She anticipates the assumptions the audience might draw about her,

So okay youre probably going is this like a Noxema commercial

or what?”

and she rushes to fend them off by establishing her credibility.

But seriously, I actually have a way normal life

for a teenage girl.”

Aristotles second mode of persuasion is pathos, which is

putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.”

Aristotle writes,

persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs

their emotions.”

So often, the most important part of successful persuasion

is knowing the listener and crafting the argument

to make them feel something.

Cher gives us a masterclass inpathoswhen she convinces her teachers

to give her better grades.

She gets them on her side by invoking a common enemy.

I told my PE teacher an evil male had broken my heart.”

Or expressing interest in their passions.

Then I promised Miss Geist I'd start a letter-writing campaign

to my congressman about violations of the Clean Air Act.”

And when she encounters an audience whos unreceptive to all arguments

she goes further and makes him over into a happier person

who can be swayed.

He's a miserable little man who wants to make everyone else

miserable too.”

Dee, that's it!

We've got to figure out a way to make Mr. Hall sublimely happy.”

Aristotles third mode of persuasion is Logos, the proof, which consists

of the logic and evidence that back up the speakers argument.

Cher understands the importance of referring to concrete examples

or comparisons to prove her point.

And shes very good at dressing up uncompelling data, to make it sound

better than it is.

Excuse me, but I have donated many expensive Italian outfits to Lucy.

As soon as I get my license, I fully intend to brake for animals,

and I have contributed many hours to helping two lonely teachers

find romance.”

But here, for example, the evidence shes presented

is a little thin.

Logos is the mode where Cher is the weakest.

"Do you have any idea what you're talking about?"


Why, do I sound like I do?"

Aristotle definesrhetoricas essentially being able to find

theavailable means of persuasionin any case.

The subject, or the content, doesnt matter.

Its the ability to see what could be persuasive in anything.

Mr. Hall, I was surfing the crimson wave.

I had to haul ass to the ladies.”

But while this might be the key to being a perfect rhetorician,

in Chers life, this lack of regard for the content of what

shes arguing for is holding her back.

I got it!


He just broke up with Folette!”

Who's Elton?”

Oh my god, he's way popular, like the social director of the Crew.”

Early in the movie Cher gets some negative feedback

about her debate performance.

He said my debates were unresearched unstructured and unconvincing, as if!”

So lets break down Mr. Halls three criticisms.


Okay, maybe Cher could read a few more books to flesh out

her policy suggestions.

But the deeper meaning of this is that Cher hasn't done much research

of her world.

As the title of the movie underlines, this is the story of Cher realizing

how much she doesnt know.

It all boiled down to one inevitable conclusion.

I was just totally clueless.”

Shes still a kid, with limited experience of culture.

You like Billie Holiday?”

I love him.”


The larger world,

Lucy's from El Salvador.”

What does that matter?”

You get upset if someone thinks you live below Sunset.”

And relationships,

Cher, you're a virgin?”

You see how picky I am about my shoes.

They only go on my feet.”

When you look past her entertaining delivery,

the substance of plenty of the advice she offers us is laughably simplistic.

And sometimes you have to show a little skin.

This reminds guys

of being naked, and then they think

of sex.”

Her style-over-substance problem is encapsulated in her approach

to driving.

Instead of focusing on learning to drive well,

she makes excuses for her mistakes,

Boy, that came out of nowhere.”

Hello that was a stop sign.”

I totally paused.”

Hey, James Bond, in America we drive on the right side of the road.”

I am.

You try driving in platforms.”

On the day of her test, shes focused on what clothes to wear

But today's the driving test.

It's my most capable-looking outfit.”

And this is a perfect symbol of her fixation on how

shes presenting herself, instead of whether she knows her stuff.

After she totally botches the test, true to form, she tries to talk herself

out of failing.

You saw how that biker came out of nowhere, right?


I swear I'll concentrate!

I drive really good, usually.”

But Cher learns sometimes there's just no substitute

for actually doing the work.

I failed something I couldn't talk my way out of?”

This event is followed by Chers second, even bigger

wake up call.

Youre a virgin who cant drive.”

The revelation that all of her wiseteachings

and makeover efforts,

have made sweet Tai into an unfeeling, cruel, shallow person.

What did I do?

I've created some sort of a monster.”

Shes forced to reevaluate all of the substance

shes been so authoritatively passing down to her friends

and to us.

Everything I think and everything I do is wrong.”

Thus to make her arguments betterresearched,”

Cher needs to learn the power of being receptive to the world

and people around her.

Then I realized all my friends were really good in different ways.

Like Christian, he always wants things to be beautiful

and interesting.”

And she listens when the universe presents her with a community

thats actually in need of meaningful help she can provide.

Miss Geist?”


I want to help.”

That would be wonderful.”

Mr. Halls second critique is that Chers arguments areUnstructured,”

and this is true of her life, too.

I'd like to see you have a little bit of direction.”

I have direction.”


Towards the mall.”

Chers characterization plays on the 80s and 90s stereotype

of theValley Girl.”

Whos watching the galleria?”

Even though shes from Beverly Hills and rarely goes to the Valley,

Wow A party!”

It's in the Valley.

The cops usually break them up

in less than an hour, and it takes that long to get there.”

This character exemplified the Valley girls distinctive speech.

But people came that like, did not RSVP, so I was, like,

totally buggin’.”

Her materialism and love of shopping,

Dude whats wrong?

Are you suffering from buyer's remorse or something?”

God, no, Nothing like that.”

And the way that she might come across as airheaded.

What did you do in school today?”

Well I broke in my purple clogs.”

But Chers argument for herself is a rebuttal of the assumption

that teen girls arent worthy of respect.

I'll get killed 'cause she's a moron.”

She's not a moron.”

Its quickly apparent that this young woman is incredibly smart.

"I think I remember Hamlet accurately."

"Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that.

That Polonius guy did."

As well as creative, and well-intentioned.

Her problem, though, what does fit of the Valley girl critique,

is that shes superficial.

This very bright person who wants to make a positive impact

has no outlet for her potential.

We should do something good for mankind or the planet

for a couple of hours.”

So by presenting this critique of the Valley Girl type in Cher,

director Amy Heckerling was subtly getting at how,

while 90s culture expressed contempt for young women who spoke like Cher,

"You think that's all I do?

I'm just a ditz with a credit card?"

In fact it was their culture that was failing these young women

by not providing them with appropriate positive influences.

Girls like Cher were shaped by consumerist culture

and beauty magazines.

And you lose weight by cutting it small.”

Whenever a boy comes, you should always have something baking.”

And left hungry for something more productive to channel

their talents into.

"Regina's spine healed, and her physical therapist taught her

to channel all her rage into sports."

The movie implies several times that Chers reliance on argument

is really a seeking of control.

Cher's main thrill in life is a makeover, ok.

It gives her a sense of control in a world filled with chaos.”

I felt impotent and out of control, which I really hate.”

She goes on to reveal that she uses retail therapy

to manage her stress.

I needed to find sanctuary in a place where I could gather my thoughts

and regain my strength.”

And this is actually kind of a sad commentary,

Ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size.”

That Cher doesnt have a more satisfying means of taking charge

when she feels down.

Youve never had a mother so youre acting out on that poor girl

like she was your barbie doll.”

Josh implies the reason Cher needs to act like a know-it-all

is because shes disempowered by not having a guiding female presence

in her life.

I don't remember her, but I like to pretend

she still watches over me.

Hey ma, 98 in geometry.

Pretty groovy huh?”

So theres a suggestion that Cher is hooked on positive feedback

because, deep down, she feels really lost in her life.

That you found someone even more clueless than you are to worship you.”

Finally, Mr. Hall calls Chers debatesUnconvincing.”

In fact, the great pleasure of watching Clueless comes from

the comic mismatch between what we see, and Chers questionable interpretation

of events.

Do you see how he's falling in love with me?

I mean,

look how he ignores every other girl.”

Cher is out of touch with reality because shes working very hard

to defend a certain self-image.

Shes filtering her experiences

through too many layers of agenda and imagination, and she develops

a more mature view of the world when shes finally more willing

to look openly at the chaos of reality.

"You look confused.”

Well, uh, I thought they declared peace in the Middle East."

For Cher and her family, fighting is love.

Daddy no!, Daddy no!”

Come on, Cher.”

You know you cant have that, dont be silly.”

Look at her relationship with the person she comes to realize

shes in love with, Josh.

Shouldn't you go to school on the East Coast?

I hear girls at NYU aren't at all particular.”

Youre funny.”

These two express how much they care through fighting.

Hey granola breath you have something on your chin.”

If I ever saw you do anything that wasnt 90% selfish

Id die of shock.”

Cher and her dad show their love by bickering over each trying to do

good for the other.

Don't try sneaking out of the office.

Dr. Lovett's giving you a flu shot.”

Oh Josh is coming for dinner.”


The most long-lasting couple in Chers friendship group,

Dionne and Murray, are constantly arguing, too.

That's it.

You wanna play games?

Im calling your mother.”

Hold up!

No, no, no!


Don't call my mom!”

And by the end, its clear they have a deep bond

underneath their displays of drama.

Or Dionne and Murray, when they think no one is watching,

are so considerate of each other.”

When Cher meets the guy who seems perfect, Christian,

his nice, flattering pleasantness is the behavior of someone

who doesnt love her.

Hey handsome!”


Putting it all out there, honestly expressing what you think

and feel, and hashing it all out are key signs of love.

Murray, I have asked you repeatedly not to call me woman.”

Excuse me, Miss Dionne.”

Thank you.

Okay but street slang is an increasingly valid form

of expression.

Most feminine pronouns do have mocking but not necessarily

misogynistic undertone.”

On first viewing many viewers might find it slightly weird

that Josh is Chers step-brother.

How much fun would it be to have a brother type tagging along?”

Josh you are not my brother.”

The relation comes from the source material,

as Jane Austens heroine Emma falls for Mr. Knightley,

her lifetime friend whos also her sisters brother-in-law.

But what Clueless brings out in this sibling-like relationship

is how bickering and teasing are true signs of affection.

I want to do something good for humanity.”

How about sterilization?”]

After Cher first realizes her feelings, shes paralyzed because she cant put


the fake shows that she normally uses as part of courting.

I mean, ordinarily, I'd strut around him in my cutest

little outfits and send myself flowers and candy, but I couldn't do that stuff

with Josh.”

Her relationship with Josh is too honest for that kind of superficial,

artificial manipulation.

So this gets at how fighting is a natural outcome

of authentic behavior.

How many hours a day do you spend grooming yourself?”

Some people aren't lucky enough to be as naturally adorable as you are.”

Stop it.

You're making me blush.”

Almost all teen movies focus on popularity and the cruelty

of adolescents, but while thats a part of Clueless,


Whats great about Cher is that she deeply desires

to be a good person.

I don't think they need your skis.”

Daddy, some people lost all their belongings.

Don't you think that includes athletic equipment?”

Its hard to think of that many examples of characters

like her,

who earnestly try to improve their world, especially as teens.

I feel like my after-school commitments are just not good enough."

"How can you say that?

Who takes care of everyone

in this household?

Who makes sure that Daddy eats right?

To tell you the truth I have not seen such good-doing

since your mother."

If you look closer, Chers do-gooder instinct

is tied to her drive to argue.

She doesnt just accept the way things are,

shes always pushing for better.

I would just like to say that physical education in this school

is a disgrace.”

In the last scene, Cher tells Josh he can count on her

to catch the wedding bouquet.

Its in the bag.”

And of course, she emerges victorious.

Why does Cher know that shes going to win this exercise?

Because she has the drive to keep fighting for what she wants,

long after everyone else has given up.

Chers argumentative stance teaches us we should never just be content

with the status quo.

What are the chances of you shutting up until you get your way.”

Slim to none.”

Because we can always negotiate for better.

I know how you say never accept a first offer.

So I figure these grades are a jumping-off point

to start negotiations.”

This could lead to the kind of irritating,

entitled personality thats always asking for the manager.

Isn't there somebody else I can talk to?

You can't be the absolute and final word on drivers licenses.”

But, when channeled in the right direction,

it yields a person whos always seeing opportunities for progress

all around her.

Don't you wanna use your popularity for a good cause?”


Once she finds her mission thats worth fighting for,

I need more boxes.

They're all filled up.”



I divided them into entrees and appetizers.”



Cher the persuader is unstoppable.

It's like that book I read in ninth grade that said,

Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people."

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The Description of Clueless - Cher, Master of the Argument