Fashionista's 15 Favorite Scenes From TV and Film that Take Place in a Mall

"Get in loser, we're going shopping."
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So fetch. Photo: Giphy

So fetch. Photo: Giphy

Welcome to Pop Culture Week! While you can always find us waxing poetic about the hefty overlap between fashion and pop culture, we're dedicating the next five days to the subject of our favorite music, movies, TV, celebrities, books and theater, and how that all intersects with the fashion industry.

While the fate of the American mall is somewhat uncertain in these trying retail times, there is no denying that the mecca of one-stop shopping has played an important and indelible role in most of our lives — and in pop culture. Where else could teens gather with their friends to escape the pressures of adolescence, either by indulging in food court treats, browsing clothing and record stores for the latest wares and, in many cases, learning the ropes of adulthood by working their first jobs? In fact, certain movies and television shows are so centered around the inside of a mall that it became a sort of character in its own right, rather than simply a convenient backdrop.

Here at Fashionista, we think this is something to be celebrated, so we rounded up our favorite scenes from TV and film that take place at a mall. As the iconic Regina George once so eloquently said, "Get in loser, we're going shopping."

Alyssa Vingan Klein, Editor-in-Chief

Marissa Cooper gets caught shoplifting on "The OC": "On the first season of 'The OC,' Marissa has the 'poor little rich girl' act down pat when her father goes bankrupt after an embezzlement scheme and becomes the embarrassment of Newport Beach. The holidays were particularly hard for her, so she dragged her boyfriend, Ryan 'Whoever You Want Me to Be' Atwood to South Coast Plaza for some retail therapy — minus the actual retail. This goes about as well as you'd expect, and it sets both characters into a downward spiral that plays out throughout the series."

Honorable mention: The opening sequence to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High": "Many crucial moments in this coming-of-age classic take place inside a mall, but the 'Fast Times' credits, set to 'We Got the Beat' by the Go-Go's, makes me smile every time I see it."

Tyler McCall, Deputy Editor

Cher Horowitz finds peace in "Clueless": "The summer before middle school, I discovered 'Clueless,' a film that would inspire my personal views on style. There are so many classic shopping and mall moments to choose from, but this one — in which Cher says she needed to find sanctuary in a place where she could gather her thoughts and regain her strength — really speaks to me. I still love walking around a mall to this day." 

Dhani Mau, West Coast Editor

"The O.C."'s "Mallpisode": "This 2005 episode could be considered a sign of the mall's imminent demise. There's the winking title, suggesting that the 'trapped in a mall' trope was as tired the mall itself (even back then), as well as most of the characters' general ambivalence towards spending time inside of one. At the start of the episode, the gang is not as close-knit as it once was, but Summer and Seth scheme to have Ryan and Marissa join them in the hopes that a mall trip will bring the foursome back together. After Amber Heard accidentally locks them all in a back room, they decide to spend the night because it's Summer's ultimate fantasy. But aside from Summer, what very little enthusiasm the characters display towards the mall seems to stem more from nostalgia than anything else: All of their lives have grown more complicated and a part of each of them longs for the simplicity and innocence of a mall trip with friends. While the episode didn't make me want to sleep in a mall, it did, like many O.C. episodes, make me long for the exact type of friendship the four of them shared — and for Seth Cohen, whom I totally still want to be my boyfriend.

Honorable mention: the bag exchange in "Jackie Brown": "This early Quentin Tarantino film is excellent for many reasons, one of which is that several scenes — including the movie's climax — take place in a Southern California mall in the late '90s, which was basically peak mall era. The bag exchange was particularly well done: Tarantino filmed the scene three different ways — each one focusing on a different character involved. You can feel the tension and fear throughout — especially that of the title character, who really does look great in that suit."

Maura Brannigan, Senior Editor

"Treat Yo Self" from "Parks and Recreation": "I've only got three words for you: Treat. Yo. Self. I lied — I do have a few more things to say on this subject, one of the greatest television bits of all time. While Leslie and Ron feud over camp programming (extremely my jam) in the season 4 masterpiece 'Pawnee Rangers,' Tom and Donna grudgingly invite a sad Ben to their annual 'Treat Yo Self' spa and shopping adventure after they find him eating soup on a bench alone. Tom and Donna's dynamic — paired with their shared appreciation for luxury amidst the relative plainness of southern Indiana — is incredible. Following the episode's airing in 2011, Treat Yo Self became so popular that it not only made an appearance in subsequent seasons, but it also became a mascot for the concept of self-care. As we've discussed, this can take the form of whatever you need it to, like 'clothes,' 'fragrances,' 'massages,' 'mimosas' and 'fine leather goods' — or, in Ben's case, a Batman suit. Do you."

Honorable mention: The tight pants debacle in "Superbad": "I love this movie so, so much, and have ever since I saw it in theaters with all of my high school friends shortly before when we, like main characters Seth and Evan, headed off to college. The scene where Seth and Evan go to the mall to pick out a new bedspread for Baby Emma Stone is one of my favorites, if only because it wraps the film up on an oddly sentimental tone. That, of course, is not complete without a display of classic (pre-menswear gawd) Jonah Hill and (pre-Rihanna slap) Michael Cera dialogue. It starts when Seth tries on a pair of skinny jeans. Every single line in this scene is funny, like when Evan equates Seth's male camel toe to a division sign, and Seth counters by saying: 'It's like a bunch of people crammed into a van.'"

Stephanie Saltzman, Beauty Editor

Emily's breakdown in "Gilmore Girls," season 4: "Emily's spiraling shopping spree begins on a manically comical note: she's buying expensive glass apples and mustache combs. But then it's followed with a more poignant, deeply human scene that communicates Emily's alone-ness in her own marriage and admiration for her self-sufficient daughter. It combines so many of my favorite things about 'Gilmore Girls' in general: hilarious, quippy writing, insanely fast talking and tremendous acting from Kelly Bishop. There's also a brief ode to the wonderfulness of the mall food court, in all of its Orange Julius-bestowing glory, so to me, it's the quintessential mall scene. (The episode is also literally called 'Scene in a Mall.')"

Honorable mention: Camping out on "Saved by the Bell": "This iconic episode takes place entirely in a mall. The gang attempts to buy U2 tickets at the box office (which is how the world worked before the internet) which is in a mall — not clear on why that is, but sure. The plot of this episode is fairly meandering, but basically, Lisa finds a bag that contains $5,000 in cash, which the group decides to use for the tickets. Then they realize they're being followed by some thugs who are trying to take the money back. There's also something about camping out in a tent in a sporting goods store and a moment where Kelly wears a wedding dress in a bridal boutique. Team Bayside winds up losing the money and getting into a huge argument — such drama! — but in the end, it's revealed that the 'thugs' were actually just actors, and the whole scenario was part of a hidden camera show. Ah, the halcyon days of TV, when all that really mattered was that a storyline could be wrapped up neatly within the allotted air time. Sing it with me: It's alllllllllright, 'cause I'm..."

Maria Bobila, Associate Editor

Rick, rick, rick, riiick! Photo: Courtesy of NBC

Rick, rick, rick, riiick! Photo: Courtesy of NBC

"Saturday Night Live"'s visit to the mall: "Television's favorite stepdad-and-daughter duo Rick and Kaitlin, played by 'SNL' alums Horatio Sanz and Amy Poehler, pay a visit to the mall to do typical mall things that we all know and love: going up the escalators wrong, pretending to fall in the fountain and perusing Spencer's Gifts. But it's Kaitlin's decision to get her ears pierced by her cousin Becky — played by Kate Winslet, who does a very impressive American teen accent, by the way — that makes me miss the mall outings of my youth. I actually never went through this rite of passage myself (my dad had already pierced my ears when I was a baby), but I would head to my hometown's Claire's in a second if I had the chance."

Whitney Bauck, Assistant Editor

The classic "Mean Girls" mall scene: "There are so many iconic 'Mean Girls' signatures packed into this clip — the Plastics all wearing coordinating pink outfits (because it's Wednesday, duh), Gretchen saying 'That was so fetch!' and Regina revealing herself as a bitchy mastermind with the phone call to poor Taylor's mom. But my favorite part is the beginning, when Cady describes the mall as an African watering hole when the animals are in heat. Growing up as an expat myself, I identify with Cady's outsider-ish views on 'normal' American situations and settings. And regardless of where you grew up, there's something extremely fitting about comparing teenagers congregating sans parental guidance to animals desperate to mate, right?"

Dara Prant, Editorial Assistant

Photo: Giphy

Photo: Giphy

Bra shopping shenanigans on "Lizzie McGuire": "I grew up watching Lizzie McGuire and her outfit-repeating cartoon conscience, and perhaps the most standout moment on the show was when Lizzie broached the topic of wearing a bra — a critical moment in any adolescent girl's life. After throwing a fit and proclaiming to her entire household that she wants a bra, Lizzie and her best friend Miranda decide to go to the mall without their moms. Since no one is born with the bra competency of a seasoned wearer, the two girls cluelessly comb through the training bra racks until Lizzie finally comes to the crucial teen realization that, even as we grow older, we still need our moms — a heartwarming Disney moment at best, but one that has always stayed with me." 

Fawnia Soo Hoo, Contributing Editor

The 80s-tastic "Can't Buy Me Love": "This scene from the 1987 teen classic is seared into my memory for many reasons. First, popular girl Cindy Mancini's (the late Amanda Petersen) straight fire and pure '80s white fringed leather look, which she 'borrowed' from her presumably MILFY-y mom and spilled red wine all over. She's trying to replace it at a boutique, but has no funds. Enter an adorably nerdy Patrick Dempsey, as Ronald, who proffers $1,000 of his hard-earned lawn-mowing cash in exchange for a brief ruse of Cindy posing as his girlfriend and a Laney Boggs-esque popularity makeover — offering a glimpse of Dempsey's latent McDreamy potential."

Liza Sokol, Audience Development Manager

Buffy saving shoppers on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer:" "This is one of those shows that checks off all of my binge-watch boxes: strong female characters, punny dialogue, great outfits and, last but not least, ass kicking. The entirety of the show is predicated on the fact that she's a PYT who is often thinking about shopping rather than slaying demons, which makes the season 2 scene where she bazookas the Judge at the mall even more perfect. Yes, she uses a literal rocket launcher to kill the bad guy who's posted up killing shoppers because Spike and Drusilla just had to bring him back to life. I like to think that afterwards my girl applied some lip gloss and did a little window shopping to buy a new crop top or mid-calf grazing jacket."

Chloe Hall, Social Media Manager

The "Big mistake, HUGE!" in "Pretty Woman": "Carrying two arms full of shopping bags and reminding a rude sales lady that she works on commission is a personal dream of mine, just like Vivian Ward in 'Pretty Woman.' Growing up near the luxury Orange County shopping mall South Coast Plaza, I always felt like such an outsider when I walked into the Chanels, Pradas and YSLs of the world. Next time the salespeople serve me some side eye, I hope I muster the courage to channel my inner Ward, bags in my hands overflowing, and remind them they made a mistake of massive proportions. Or, what's another word for that? "HUGE."

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