THE culturally correct way round is to watch Clueless and enjoy following the plot of Emma, picking out the similarities and joining the dots between character original and character revamped.

Somehow, despite a degree in English Literature, I'd never made the formal acquaintance of Jane Austen's Emma, neither novel nor motion picture, until the Autumn de Wilde film adaptation earlier this year.

How I enjoyed matching character to character - Cher Horowitz, of course, is Emma Wodehouse. Tai Frasier is Harriet Smith; Elton is Mr Elton the vicar.

It was easy to predict Emma's next move because isn't she just like Cher and, well, after 25 years of kinship I know exactly what Cher would do next.

The film Clueless is 25 this year, and we are early for the celebration here due to belated UK release dates. In the US the film was screened from the July, hence a glut of "where are the cast now?" pieces and interviews with its star, Alicia Silverstone.

In the UK Clueless was released in the October, but let me creep in ahead of time with a little love letter to the movie.

Watching the film was one of those seminal adolescent moments that floats around with you permanently just tickling your subconscious. It isn't the movie, only, that makes it seminal but the entire experience of the movie.

I remember where I saw it, I remember who I was with, what snacks we ate and that it was the first time I was allowed to a film with a friend and without an adult chaperone. Heady times.

Babe was released that year and also Pocahontas but it is Clueless that stays with me, for viewing it meant a step towards that then much desired and now much resented state of being grown up.

Looking back at the headlines of 1995 creates a bleak picture. Here, Ronnie Kray and Fred West died. A gripped nation followed the OJ Simpson trial until the not guilty verdict. The Queen urged Charles and Diana to file for divorce.

One bright spot seems to have been the Queen Mother's successful hip operation.

As a pre-teen all this passed me by but it does make sense, against a glum backdrop, that a bright film set in bright sunshine with a sunshine protagonist would have captured positive reviews.

Our heroine Cher is manipulative, she is shallow, she is ignorant. But she's relentlessly, eternally optimistic. She nicely manipulative, there's a kindness in it. She doesn't know how to be anything else but sunny.

The film is very much a snapshot of a Californian high school at a specific time and place and yet it is also curiously timeless. Its writer, Amy Heckerling, created her own teenage slang while the film's costume designer Mona May invented a unique style for the film's main stars, meaning that, while it is definitively teenage, it is not quite bound to a particular era.

As a pre-teen it seemed entirely reasonable to me that 15-year-olds would be cruising around in Jeeps, using credit cards and dating college guys. It was, ironically, aspirational and part of a wider love affair with American high school life presented also in Sweet Valley High books.

Everyone beautiful, everyone glamorous, romance and takeaway iced coffees around every corner.

The fashions were one link to acting out our Lanarkshire version of California valley girl life. We bought plaid mini skirts and wore them with knee high socks, the stupid things would never stay up the way they stayed up on Cher and her best friend Dionne.

We wore spaghetti-strap vests over white t-shirts. We did not wear original Alaïa (he's a totally important designer).

At the time of its release, the Hollywood Reporter called Clueless, "plotless and borderline brainless" adding, "But that won't stop the Paramount release from cashing in substantially with the teenage and young adult crowd."

The first of that review is unfair - Cher may be styled as an airhead but she is not stupid, she's ignorant and these two are quite different. The dialogue is smart and snappy - anything but brainless and only someone who's forgotten their teenage agonies could call it anything else. She is entirely responsible for herself in an admirable way. Her report card grades, for example, are “a jumping-off point to start negotiations”.

The second is spot on - it did cash in. It did cash in - with a TV series following quickly thereafter, books, merchandise - and ironically so. Because Clueless, of course, subverts the Hollywood makeover trope by giving the beautiful girl, the one others aspire to look like, an internal makeover.

She realises, twee as it may be, that money and materialism are not what will give her a meaningful life. Only education and charity will. If only someone had told us we were entirely missing the central moral premise of the movie as we, for the eight millionth time that day, pulled up our knee socks and tucked down our miniskirts.

Clueless was a satirical critique of empty, spoiled teenage consumerism - and it made me want to buy things.

On Monday my lockdown film club had a 25th anniversary celebratory viewing of Clueless. It's anxiety-inducing, to re-watch something that exists as a perfect specimen in the memory. What if, like Friends, another nostalgic slice of 90s culture, it has aged badly. What if the central and adored characters are actually, like Ross, deeply unlikeable? What if the humour relies on sexist and homophobic jokes?

Ah, but relief. It's still perfect. It's still fresh and witty and thoroughly enjoyable.

And now, 25 years on, in a pandemic; when 15-year-olds are striking against climate change as much as they hanging out at the mall; when the US president has made America somewhere you feel pity for, not envy of, its the perfect time for curling up with a character built of radiant optimism.

Something to give a sense of control, Cher might say, in a world full of chaos.

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