Emma and Clueless

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Transformations often involve familiar themes but reflect those themes in a different context in order to resonate the values and interests of that society. Thus, context dictates form and meaning as well as the values inherent in the texts. Amy Heckerling’s, 20th century American film, Clueless is a transformation of Jane Austen’s conservative Regency England, Emma. The use of different techniques and medium allow Emma’s themes of personal growth, social structure and the role of women in society to be conveyed in a more appropriate form in Clueless. The main characters, Emma and Cher are representational products of their society and parallels can be drawn in the opening scenes, particularly in relation to self-knowledge. The Bildungsroman progression from delusion to social awareness is a universal value in both texts despite their differing contexts. Emma is introduced as “handsome, clever, and rich” who had “a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” Austen’s satirical tone as the omniscient narrator alerts the responder to Emma’s inability to understand her position in society. Furthermore, while Emma successfully matches Mr. Weston and Ms. Taylor, her motives are superficial as she sees it as “the greatest amusement in the world!” She also believes Harriet’s beauty “should not be wasted on the inferior society”, and it would be “interesting and highly becoming” to “improve her”. Austen employs verbal irony through Emma’s dialogue, which exposes her flaws of arrogance and shallowness. However, Emma eventually develops self awareness as shown when she realizes her mistake of matching Harriet with Mr. Elton and influencing her to refuse a suitable marriage with Mr. Martin. There is a similar character development in Cher despite the difference in context. Heckerling implements voice overs to create an immediate sense of irony when Cher’s “way normal life for a teenage girl” is juxtaposed with a dolly-tracking shot of her choosing outfits from a...
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