Analysis of Transformation of Jane Austen's "Emma" to Amy Heckerling's "Clueless"

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The 1993 hit film ‘Clueless', written and directed by Amy Heckerling, exemplifies how popular culture re-appropriates Austen's novel, ‘Emma' to serve updated agendas. ‘Clueless' involves a storyline, which closely follows the text of ‘Emma'. However, there are some key points of difference in the transformation that has taken place. This is due to the individual context of the 19th Century prose text and that of a modern appropriated film text. The context can be divided into three focal categories: social, historical and environmental. Heckerling has employed a variety of different filmic techniques to transform the context of Jane Austen's novel to the modern context of ‘Clueless'. By analysing the literary techniques found in ‘Emma', Heckerling is able to specify and adapt these techniques to different film processes in order to portray her perspective and interpretation of the novel. As a character, Emma embodies her unsettled social environment. While she aggressively asserts her individuality and follows her free will, she is also the most eligible woman in Highbury. She may act like a product of ‘progressive ideology,' but her social position embeds her in a ‘tradition ideology,' that assumes marriage for social benefit. While Emma appears to reject the explanations inherent in this position, declaring ‘never to marry' and eventually only marrying for love, it is both convenient and contrived that Knightely is not only her choice, but her social equal. Similarly, Cher's actions belie her appearance. She embodies a sexual stereotype that a modern teenage audience will immediately recognize and relate to. Both Cher and Emma manipulate the expectations of their audience and do not act in accordance with their specific social environments. Jane Austen's novel Emma, written in the 19th Century and set in the township of Highbury, seems far removed from the fast paced life of late 20th Century Beverly Hills. Yet the teen flick ‘Clueless' reflects many of the...
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