Sociology and 20th Century

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Clueless by Amy Heckerling is considered to be a faithful appropriation of the Austen classic Emma, despite the disparity between the various paradigms within the two texts. Heckerling has acquired and adapted the fundamental concepts from Emma to create a text which reflects the transfigured values and morals between the Regency period and 20th century society. Nevertheless, Heckerling not only reflects these modified views for her modern audience, she also criticises modern society through various cinematic and visual techniques.

Emma depicts life in Highbury, a microcosm of England in the Regency period, where Emma is ‘first in consequence’ and has ‘rather too much of her own way’. Austen presents the responders with Emma and her misconception of herself and reality by the use of authorial intrusion. Emma is described as having ‘very little to distress or vex her’ which is ultimately Austen’s satirical comment on what Emma thought of herself. Heckerling appropriates Austen’s use of authorial intrusion and satire transforming this strategy by employing the visual and cinematic techniques relevant to her medium. These film techniques are utilised to epitomise the superficiality of modern society, where character is based on visual representation and image. In the opening sequence, the modern audience is visually enraptured by the quick-paced, vigorous montage of Cher’s ‘world’. However, this visual medium of Cher’s lavish and superficial lifestyle is contrasted with Cher’s voice-over. “But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl.”

The gap between the position of Austen as the narrator and Emma’s limited view of the world can be clearly observed. This is comparable to Cher, who also cannot distinguish between her own perception of the world and reality. Not only does Heckerling adapt this idea from Emma, she also criticises the material values and attitudes of modern day society, where the initial characterisation of Cher based upon...
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