Saved! (2004) is a criminally underrated translation of high school experience, friendship and faith and the fabric that weaves them all together. Although it is surprisingly unknown, at least in relation to the fame and popularity of some of its lead actors (Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit), it withholds its status as a cult classic fourteen years on for its wit and absurdity in navigating classically adolescent themes in a universe of hyperbolic Christian stereotypes.
In a similar thread to Donnie Darko (2001), Malone’s more famous role, the high school setting is in itself a site of satire and humour beyond bestowing structural integrity for the plot. In Saved!, the teachers are eccentric, the sex education classes are conservative (‘good Christians don’t get jiggy with it until they’re married’), and the assemblies are demonstratively ‘hyper-Christian’ in every caricature imaginable.
In exploring topics such as teen pregnancy, virginity, abortion, faith and homosexuality, Saved! attempts to navigate and unearth the connections between these topics, namely, through a stereotypically-radical-Christian lens rather than in their own right. And this navigation can be mapped against the fashion as worn by characters. Other than being entirely and incredibly 00s (all the way down to velour two-piece tracksuits and low rise jeans), the style reinforces its time and setting of exploration: teenagehood, specifically, through satire and an attempt to decipher what it means to stay true to one’s own faith for teenager Mary (Jena Malone).
Angel wings are paired with velour tracksuits, worn by the supposedly ‘most pious’ characters (ie, the ones who don’t fall pregnant). An Emmanuel ‘eye for an eye’ t-shirt is worn by Mary as she practices at a shooting range. An oversized Christmas jumper hides Mary’s baby bump at the mall. And what is most quintessentially 00s, the gold Christian Jewel pin that a select few girls wear to school. Not only does the pin highlight the satirical idea of exclusivity in faith, a sense of hierarchy, but it is also something you’d probably see repurposed in 2018, reading instead: Baby or Angel or Leave Me Alone.
Saved!’s satirisation of 00s fashion becomes comparable to films such as Clueless (1995) which seem to summatively embody 90s culture for middle-class teenage girls. In Saved! we see fashion captured at the moment it was taken (2004), but with a visual display of the perspective, and position of commentary, of the film itself. We are given another script, another dialogue altogether in the clothes we watch. When Mandy Moore’s character Hilary Faye shouts ‘I am filled with Christ’s love’, it is more impactful that she wears angel wings and throws a bible at Mary’s head. The fashion and visual, sartorial language relocates the film’s religious criticism to a place of humour, rendering it less offensive with its stereotypes and more witty, contemporary and fashionably genius.