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Valley Girl (1983); And Why I’m Like So Grateful for Cher in Clueless (1995)

October 12, 2015

valleygirlWarning: this review is written in Valleyspeak.

So, I like just watched Valley Girl for the first time and I gotta say, bitchin’ film! I totally dug how Martha Coolidge like introduced the world to this super fascinating culture and unique time frame in the 1980’s. Though most of the fashion back then was totally grody (her prom dress; gag me with a spoon!), some of it was like glam, you know? And like I totally thought the soundtrack was pretty cool, not like bitchin’ or nothing because my generation has over saturated some of those songs in like commercials and stuff, but cool nonetheless. It’s totally rad that a woman was such a visionary and rebel to the max to showcase this very niche environment and the people within the Valley, even though her producers and screenwriters only wanted this film to be an exploitation movie because Frank Zappa made Valley Girl’s mainstream.

San Fernando, California aka The Valley. Ohmygod, what a cool place, you know? Malls, sun, bleach blonde teens with perfectly tousled hair. It’s not my scene, but I dig it. It’s like the hippies of the 60’s got it together and made their children these like super materialistic robot sheeple. It’s really rad how the film showcases this through the depthless characters we meet. I mean Julie (Deborah Foreman) is a total spazz, you know? She’s convinced she loves Tommy (Michael Bowen) although the only positive thing she ever says about him is that he’s a hunk. Now don’t get me wrong I totally get that’s the point, that’s just like the nature of teenage girls.

Teens of the school in Valley Girl, and like the decade in general, were just these like gross clichéd stereotypes that only did things so they could stay in their boring social circles and fit into a giant pond of selfish, floating yuppies I’m suuure. These drones apparently littered every high school in America according to films made in the 1980’s. But, like Amy Heckerling did it so much better with Cher in Clueless in the 90’s. Cher (Alicia Silverstone) was like totally trippendicular and an individual, you know? If a dude wanted to bag her, even if he was in her social circle, she was like, as if! Cher was only 15 but totally believed in saving herself for the right guy even though all her friends were doing it. She was such a babe, but didn’t let anyone tell her how to live her life. She was clueless duh, but she realized that and worked hard to progress and evolve as like a human. Sure, it totally took falling in love with her step-brother to galvanize that, which is kind weird but hey whatever works right?

And like, I totally get it. The 80’s were such a tubular time where cliques reigned supreme and your social status meant life or death. But my god, did none of these kids have their own voices or minds? Like, Julie only thinks guys are hot if her friends tell her. During that one scene where she’s checking everyone out and she thinks that one guy is not so awesome but her friends talk about how hot he is so Julie’s like, “ok so he’s awesome” then tries to hit on him. Gross! Martha, I totally respect you for making a film that showed everyone how basic these chicks were being at the time and for giving some humanity to these vapid, listless characters written by two dudes who only wanted to see some hot young Cali girl’s boobs…like I’m sure. So I can’t really blame you for dropping the ball, but we gotta admit a major ball was dropped on driving the point home of how lame these teens were.

Julie tortures poor Randy (Nicholas Cage) with her flip-flopping. And ohmygod can we just talk about what a total babe Nick Cage was in the 80’s? Those rat-like teeth and that gap, he was just so real and rad! That’s like the one thing Valley Girl has over Clueless. While Paul Rudd will always be my lover, I would have totally dumped my friends for Nick Cage. But I digress, Julie basically remembers she has a false status to keep up because her friends are so basic they keep hounding her about getting back with this total douchebag, Tommy. So she does! Like what? She just plays with poor Randy’s emotions and although it ends in that typical 80’s fashion that we’re just so used to, Julie doesn’t learn anything. She doesn’t change. She just moves on because Randy proves his Alpha Maleness to her. She doesn’t even apologize or none of that.

I’m so grateful to have grown up with Cher as my role model. Would Cher have left Randy because her friends convinced her to? As if! I mean yeah, Cher instead convinces Tai (Brittany Murphy) to do it because Travis (Breken Meyer) is a total stoner skateboarder not in their inner circle, but like she realizes the error of her ways. She grows up. She matures. Cher realizes that popularity and all that superficial junk is pointless if you don’t love or know who you are inside. Cher apologizes to people that she has wronged because she’s not basic after all. While Julie’s parents were getting stoned and running their health food store never talking to their daughter about the tragedy of excess and not being original, Cher’s dad was helping fat cats on Wall Street keep their pockets filled (I’m sure) but taught his kid to fight for what she believed and think before she acts.

One of the biggest things that really bummed me out with Valley Girls is the poor side character, Loryn (E.G. Daily), the bodacious babe who is only liked for her killer rack, but she lacks the voice to say how much she hates that status. Like, here she is this totally stylish hottie who has to play 2nd fiddle to her basic friend Julie who’s dating the hottest douchebag in school. Then, Loryn gets to make out with Tommy and almost scores with him, but he convinces her to stay quiet because like reputations matter, you know? He’s still not over Julie but here Loryn is with her hot body completely scoreable until she questions his commitment. He then just leaves her with her shirt open threatening her status if she tells. Poor girl has to sit there, then musters up the courage to whisper “get out” after he closes the door and returns to being a douchebag at the party. Like dude not cool.

Then we see her at prom when this dude is totally skiving her out by dancing all close then says “I think we should get out of here.” She’s all grossed out and says “like let’s wait until they announce king and queen at least.” And like that’s it, they just never mention it again and you’re supposed to leave the film all butt hurt and sad that this chick is so basic that all she knows to do is continue to play her role in life as the easy lay so that she can feel validated. Because she physically developed quicker than her friends which created a total complex that she doesn’t even know how to escape. And like, that’s her life, that’s so many girl’s lives because they are told that it’s ok to just be pretty and that they have to fit in and not let a good guy get away. But like they’re never taught what a good guy is… I mean why else would Julie have stayed with Tommy all throughout high school despite knowing what a loser he was? And everyone fought her on leaving him: but Tommy’s such a babe, Tommy’s so cool, his hair is so blonde. As if!

Cher wasn’t that blind and lame, neither were her friends. Dionne flips out on her boyfriend Murray after finding a cheap polyester hair extension in his car. Yeah, Murray was a cool senior, but Dionne didn’t take that shit. She wasn’t gonna let some dude make a fool out of her no matter how cool he was. And how many times did she demand respect from him whenever he called her woman? Don’t call her woman! Valley Girl you were enjoyable and I respect how you paved the way for other trailblazing female directors. But, I’m lucky and grateful that my generation had a badass trailblazer. Heckerling showed us strong women in a material world who looked to themselves for approval first before going to their peers. High school is a strange dark place filled with dumb kids getting affirmation for their dumb ideas from even dumber friends, but sometimes there’s smart people who exude individuality. Thank you Cher for being that girl! Like totally!

SEE IT. For a freeze frame view into a very distinct cultural period and for young Nick Cage, then watch Clueless and remember all is right in the world. 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 28, 2016 1:29 AM

    I think you may need to take a break from all the Clueless marathons and rewatch Valley Girl. I love it because it’s one of the few teen movies to treat its characters with realistic emotions and doesn’t do the stupid overdone plot of “dorky loser or cocky stud sets out on a merry adventure to lose his virginity with one of the one dimensional female characters”. Julie is more distant and open minded than her friends. She likes how different Randy is yet doesnt drop the pastels for him (which he’d never ask her to do anyway). Randy is passionate, angry, impulsive, but not in the John Bender way I always cringed at watching The Breakfast Club. He doesn’t fit the Loser Nerd hero cliche. Julie doesn’t fit the “girl next door prize to be won” object of desire. She has needs, likable qualities, and she’s allowed to screw up. Loryn also as the token Ms Fanservice has a lot more depth than Caroline of Sixteen Candles or Nadia of American Pie as a hot hookup. She likes the attention but hates the disrespect. All pretty realistic for teens.

    It’s also awesome that it’s a movie where teenage girls are allowed to like teenage girl stuff without getting mocked or embarrassed for it. Probably helps having a female director.

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