Skip To Content

    Why Movies Like “Clueless,” “Love Actually,” And “Grease” Just Don’t Hold Up Anymore

    “I think you can still enjoy things, but it really depends on how much of it is problematic and the way in which you’re consuming it.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed movies that don't quite hold up in 2021. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen to BuzzFeed Daily on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Buzzfeed’s Hannah Marder about why certain movies have not aged well. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed News: You wrote a piece for Buzzfeed recently where you listed a bunch of movies that, at one time, were considered great movies, but that haven’t aged very well. What do you think it is about the last 5 or 10 years that have put so many of these offensive aspects into focus?

    Hannah Marder: I think getting more women behind the camera definitely helps. We still don't have a ton of female directors, and a lot of rom-coms and comedies that were on the list have male writers. So I think it's people seeing more movies that they're represented in and kind of comparing them to revisit the past that they didn't feel represented in. I know growing up, feminism was kind of a dirty word, and lately, in the last 10 years, it's become a lot more of something we're all thinking about. So I think talking about consent, #MeToo, and feminism has really helped us see these movies in a different light.

    BuzzFeed Daily: Misogyny and predatory behavior used to be much more acceptable, even a decade ago, and something that’s really shifted in the last few years is sexual politics. In your piece, you mention how in Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder’s character is a child bride and Beetlejuice is sexually harassing women for laughs; in Clueless, Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd’s characters have a romantic relationship, even though they were once step-siblings; and in the musical Grease there’s that song where the guys ask, “Did she put up a fight?” Why don’t you think people realized the problems in these movies at the time?

    Still of Josh and Chere from Clueless looking upset
    Paramount Pictures

    HM: I'm sure there are some people who did realize it. I wasn't around during that time, but I feel like some people were upset about it. But I think it's also a case of the chicken or the egg. Were these movies just a symptom of prevailing attitudes of the time, where people were just really sexist and misogynistic, and movies were reflecting that? Or were the movies causing people to think these things were OK? I think it's kind of a mix of the two. 

    I think that, again, it's because a lot of men who do experience sexual harassment and assault are less likely to be behind the camera and writing these things. I think they're more likely to find things like sexual harassment funny than a woman would be. So, probably when they're going through the motions to get these jokes approved or get these scripts approved, there are probably not a lot of women in that room saying, "Hey, this makes me kind of uncomfortable. This isn't super funny to me." So I think it's just that there were a lot of people gatekeeping and saying, "Hey, this isn't OK" back then.

    BuzzFeed Daily: Some people will say, “Everyone’s just too sensitive these days.” But I find that to be an incredibly reductive explanation for how the conversation has changed. Where do you think that defensiveness comes from?

    HM: I think it comes from people just wanting to enjoy the things that they enjoy and the comedy that's important to them, especially stuff that's nostalgic. If they grew up with a movie it probably has a special place in their heart. They don't want to be told they can't enjoy it. But I guess this goes into like, can you enjoy things that are problematic? But I think that you can point out the issues in something [without] necessarily always saying, "You're not allowed to watch this, you're not allowed to enjoy this." 

    So I feel like saying everybody's too sensitive is just a cop-out. I think, like you said, it's really reductive. I think that you're not really in a place to say somebody else is being too sensitive, if they're talking about a joke that's about a community you're not a part of. So I feel like it's more important to just listen.

    BuzzFeed Daily: There is a real debate to be had about whether it’s OK to enjoy these movies, despite their offensive moments. Because it seems like the more perspective we gain the more we realize that a lot of movies made in the past have something offensive about them. Do you think it’s possible to enjoy a movie even if a few moments are no longer acceptable?

    Still from Grease of one of the T-Birds singing "Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?"
    Paramount Pictures

    HM: I think it really depends on if the entire premise of the movie is really offensive. If it exists to make fun of a certain community, and it's not made by people of that community, I think, no, you probably shouldn't be watching that. You obviously can't help what you enjoy, I guess, but you should be asking yourself, "Why do I enjoy this? What about this is funny to me? Is it making me feel like it's OK to make fun of these people? What is the reason behind me thinking these jokes are funny?"

    But if there are just certain jokes or aspects of a movie that are offensive, I think you can still enjoy it as long as you acknowledge that there are problematic aspects. As long as you're not going online like, "This movie's perfect, anybody who speaks out against it is a bad person" or whatever. I think that it's just about being a smart viewer. And also, if you're going to show things to kids, maybe pause when they say, [for instance] "Did she put up a fight?" in Grease, and say to your kid, "OK, this isn't a great line, and this is why," then play the scene again. So I think you can still enjoy things, but it really depends on how much of it is problematic and the way in which you're consuming it. 

    BuzzFeed Daily: There are a lot of romantic comedies where one of the characters will lie to or coerce another character, or even break the law, all in the name of love. This last one is gonna sting for some people, especially as we approach the holidays. But we gotta talk about Love, Actually. We’ve got Hugh Grant as the prime minister starting a relationship with one of his female employees, and of course, the famous “Cue Card” scene where a guy secretly tells his best friend’s wife that he’s in love with her. Why are scenes like these not OK anymore, even if their intentions were “pure”?

    Still from Love Actually of Mark holding up a cue card that says "To me, you are perfect"
    Universal Pictures

    HM: I think, again, this comes back to having more female writers. I think there's that kind of fantasy of having your unrequited love actually be requited and doing some grand gesture and having that person who never notices you, that you always wanted, finally see who you are. 

    But I think that a lot of women have been on the other side of stuff like that, and it's usually unwanted and creepy. Maybe your boyfriend or your husband has a friend who won't really leave you alone, your boss kind of making uncomfortable comments. And it's not funny. In movies like this, I feel like they do kind of romanticize this "going after people" kind of mentality. I guess that's actually pretty creepy when you're on the receiving end of it. So I think, again, more women in the writing rooms for these movies, or writing the screenplays, are just not including these things because they probably experience gross situations like this.

    We also discussed Adele's interview with Oprah, in which she talked about how her looks have been dissected for years — including last year when a photo of her prompted a conversation about her weight loss.

    Photo of Adele in a black gown, holding up a microphone and smiling
    Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

    She said: "I [wasn't] shocked or even phased by it — my body has been objectified my entire career. Am I too big or am I too small, am I hot or not or whatever."

    Adele added, “I never looked up to anyone because of their body. I never admired anyone because they had the same hair color as me or the same style as me. I was body positive then and I'm body positive now. But it's not my job to validate how people feel about their bodies.”

    Plus, Dakota Johnson recently opened up about her grandmother Tippi Hedren’s working relationship with Alfred Hitchcock.

    Photo of Dakota Johnson in a gray suit, sitting in a chair, gesturing with her hand, and talking into a microphone
    Amanda Edwards / Getty Images

    Dakota said that he "ruined [Hedren's] career because she didn’t want to sleep with him, and he terrorized her. He was never held accountable. It’s completely unacceptable for people in a position of power to wield that power over someone in a weaker position, no matter the industry."

    She went on to say that Tippi made a point to instill in both Dakota and her mother, Melanie Griffith, that they shouldn’t put up with that kind of behavior.

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at