A Transformation from Jane Austens "Emma" to Amy Heckerling's "Clueless"

Essay by mandysherCollege, UndergraduateB+, June 2003

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The 1993 film hit Clueless, written and directed by Amy Heckerling, exemplifies how popular culture reappropriates Austens novel Emma into our own era by exploiting the contemporary medium of film. It is by looking at the modern day equivalents or changes in each text we see the contrasting values of these starkly different worlds

Emma is set in the village of Highbury, a rural representation of early nineteenth century Engish life. In this society England marriage was used to form alliances, guarantee financial security and climb the social ladder. However, Emma, the heroine of the novel, feels no compulsion to make a good match in order to secure her future; "a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else" She need not fear becoming an impoverished old maid, like Miss Bates or an accomplished young woman like miss Fairfax who must marry to escape work as a governess.

Emma, a gentleman's daughter, is a member of the upper echelons of the gentry, who can afford to marry for love.

Clueless is set in the late twentieth century, multicultural Beverly Hills, USA. Wealth, appearance and social connections( as opposed to birth and family connections) are the criteria for social status and respect. These elements are far easier to alter than birth and thus, movement between classes is also easier ( as proved by Tai, whose popularity rises beyond Cher's). This makes marriage a far less important aspect of living, reflected in Clueless. Marriage is no longer taken as seriously(as shown by the numerous marriages of Mel). While sex, or casual romances have replaced marriage, a reflection on changing values, the text can be seen as essentially conservative. Cher is "saving herself for Luke Perry".

A similar theme of the...