Oftentimes, modern adaptation of a classic work loses many elements of the original. This is not the case with Jane Austen’s Emma and Amy Heckerling’s film adaptation, Clueless. The adaptation closely parallels the original text, from themes to characterization and even to cultural context. Both works explore the relationship between fathers and daughters, men and women, and successfully illustrate how the treatment of women has changed over time. When one reads Emma then watches it modern counterpart, Clueless, it is very easy to observe that even though the stories have an almost two-hundred year gap between them, society has changed very little.
Emma is set in the Regency Period, a time of rapid change that saw the Napoleonic wars, the first glimmerings of democracy and feminism and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (Intro. To Austen). Clueless takes place in the U.S. in the 1990s, another time and place with much opportunity for...
Despite Jane Austen's dislike of misplaced sensibility, don't imagine that she did not have a romantic side. Another Austen leitmotif is the stubborn refusal of her heroines to marry men they did not love, no matter how socially desirable a match it was. This practice was, of course, in direct opposition to the common wisdom of her day, when marriage was as much a business decision as a romantic one. In Austen's earlier novels, the young ladies in question, such as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, were especially courageous in their decision since they, like their creator, did not have an independent fortune. According to John Halperin's book The Life of Jane Austen, the author lived with her mother and sister Cassandra, each of whom had a little money of their own, after her father's death. Jane, though, had none; she was dependent upon her brothers for monetary support (145). Although the supplemental funds were willingly given, the necessity for such support was anathema to a strong-minded and intelligent woman such as Jane Austen. However, by the time she began to write Emma, in 1814 (Halperin 250), Jane Austen had published two successful novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and was in the process of publishing a third, Mansfield Park. She finally had a little money of her own and perhaps felt a bit more secure; for the first time, she wrote about a heroine who is also an heiress and, therefore, could afford to remain independent. Emma seems to reflect Jane Austen's feelings on the subject during this conversation with Harriet:
The contrasts in the changed contextual attitudes and values with respect to class structure and women’s freedoms in Clueless highlight the significant disparity between the current society and that of 19th century England, while the similar attitudes regarding a social...
The transformation of Jane Austens 19th century novel Emma to Amy Heckerlings 20th century teen flick Clueless shows that context affects the concerns expressed in a text clearly evident in both composers treatment of the theme of social stratification and the value of marriage.
Emma and Clueless both explore the nature of human relationships and the timeless concepts of vanity, self development and awareness, social class, the responsibility of the privileged, friendship, true love and happiness.
Cher's matchmaking plans come to a screeching halt when she is trapped with Elton in his Firebird (the 1990's version of a barouche-landau, one supposes) and forced to endure his advances. She consoles herself by developing a crush on the mysterious Christian, obviously meant to be Frank Churchill's alter ego; however, he was not secretly engaged but was gay, or in the words of Cher's best friend's boyfriend, "a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy!" Cher berates herself for not realizing Christian's sexual preference sooner: of course, she missed obvious clues such as his fondness for movies such as Some Like It Hot and Spartacus (or, as Cher calls it, Sporaticus). Cher, like her predecessor Emma, finally realizes that her arrangements have not improved her friends' lives: "Everything I think and everything I do is wrong. I was wrong about Elton, I was wrong about Christian...It all boiled down to one inevitable conclusion--I was just totally clueless!" Cher, like Emma, takes a big dose of humility and finds that it is good for her.
However many of the concerns so severe in Emma arent as severe in Clueless moreover, Clueless introduces concerns that were not relevant to the context of Emma.
Emma study guide contains a biography of Jane Austen, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Emma essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Emma by Jane Austen.
Amy Heckerling's version of Emma, Cher Horowitz, is equally enamored of her own opinion and thinks it's her duty to help her "clueless" friends. The fly in her ointment is her intellectual "ex-stepbrother" Josh, who is justifiably suspicious of Cher's attempts to fix up two of her teachers: "If I ever saw you do anything that wasn't ninety percent selfish, I'd die of shock." Heckerling lifts whole elements of Austen's plot, updating them for a 1990's audience: Harriet Smith becomes Tai, a pothead transfer student with a Jersey accent and a skateboard-chic wardrobe; Cher labels her "adorably clueless" and undertakes to remake her in her own image. Mr. Elton becomes Elton, the son of a concert promoter and one of the few high-school boys considered acceptable to date; Cher decides he would be the perfect guy for Tai. Harriet's rejected suitor, Robert Martin, becomes Travis Birkenstock, a skateboard-riding, pot-smoking dude who is definitely not considered acceptable, despite the obvious compatibility between the pair: "No respectable girl actually dates them," Cher says of Travis and the other "loadies" lounging on the grassy knoll, much as Emma rejected the gentleman-farmer Robert as being beneath Harriet.
This is not the only instance in the film in which our society mirrors Georgian society by behaving in a completely opposite manner; Heckerling also uses this device to explore the relationship between father and daughter. In Emma, Mr. Woodhouse is a fussy invalid who has to be coaxed by his daughter to leave the house and refuses to touch rich food. Mel Horowitz, though, loves rich food, the more fattening and artery-clogging the better; however, his doting daughter snatches it from his mouth and chases him around with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, trying to get him to follow the ascetic practices of his alter ego. Mr. Woodhouse is distressed by his daughter's engagement, much as he likes Mr. Knightley; Mel knows about the attraction between Josh and Cher even before they do, and seems delighted by the pairing. It's interesting how such opposing scenes can be used to explore the same themes.