Yes, Amy Heckling’s 1995 movie, Clueless, can be related to the novel Emma, published in 1816. There is no doubt that Clueless substantially derives, and is adapted from Emma. However, apart from similarities, there are differences and adaptations from Emma to Clueless. These are necessary as a result of the disparity in values and attitudes between the early 19th century England of Emma and late 20th century America of Clueless. Adaptations are applied to characters, plot, and settings.
Both the main characters, Emma, and Cher, have one major thing in common: money. Emma’s family lives in a huge estate, Hartfield and are well liked and high in society. The same applies to Cher’s world. Cher lives in an enormous mansion in Beverly Hills, and while normal teenagers are out shopping, Cher splurges thousands at expensive designer boutiques. The town Emma lives in, Highbury, is very stratified according to social position as well as wealth. Highbury is duplicated in Clueless as Cher’s high school, where there are stratified groups of students according to degree of “coolness” as well as money.
Both Emma and Cher are ‘do-gooders’- trying to ‘help’ people while at the same time, unconsciously making themselves feel better. An example of this is when Emma and Cher, respectively, ‘adopt’ Harriet and Tai. Harriet Smith is an innocent, 17 year old orphan of unknown parentage who Emma takes under her wing. Tai is the new girl at school who Cher adopts also, because she’s ‘so clueless!’. Tai, like Harriet, does not possess a high social status and comes across as a bit rough, noticeable by her accent, her cheap red hair dye and her statement, “You guys, I’ve never had straight friends before!”
Emma improves Harriet by filling her with grand pretensions that don’t suit her lower situation in society. Cher attempts to make Tai ladylike by...