How does Heckerling’s Clueless sustain interest in the values presented in Austen’s Emma?
Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, while maintaining the core plot and tone of Jane Austen’s Emma, sustains interest by its appropriation into a humorous teen flick in a post-modern style. Heckerling adopts the narrative and characterisation of the 19th century novel and transforms it to a contemporary film that satirises the consumer-driven world of 1990s Los Angeles, presenting it with a more blatant and slapstick humour to suit the changed values of society.
Emma is set in early 19th century Highbury, a parochial society dominated by class structure, which placed males of inherited wealth at the top of ...view middle of the document...
Elton, Mr. Martin with Harriet and Mr. Knightley with Emma, which reveals her support of the class structure.
In Clueless, the setting is dramatically changed by Heckerling into 1990s Beverly Hills, the epitome of superficiality and consumerism. Here, although relationships are still a priority, marriage is not the sole and primary objective. There are constant references to divorce, with Mr. Horowitz having been married four times and Christian Cher’s ex-stepbrother dividing his time between his two families. This illustrates the impermanent nature of marriage and families in contemporary times in the “disposable” society of 20th century America. Moreover, there is no longer a need for women to get married in order to achieve wealth and status, due to the changed rights and roles of women. However, Clueless still portrays the stigma attached to being single, with the ludicrous illustration of Cher matching her teachers together in order for their happiness, so that she can argue her way to better grades. Furthermore, to accommodate for modern society’s lighter attitudes to sexual relationships, sexuality is openly discussed in Hecekerling’s film. Sex before marriage, which would have been completely unacceptable in Emma’s traditionalist society, is shown to be the norm in Cher’s social group. Although Cher is shown to be more conservative than her peers, her clothing and makeup are still sexually suggestive. Cher’s saying “You know how fussy I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet!” is rich in humour, and whilst entertaining the audience with the illustration of Cher’s naivety, it shows Hecekerling’s disapproval of the values of contemporary society, where people are more careful about the choice of their outfits than their sexual partners. Furthermore, the idea of Christian’s homosexuality is depicted as an object of humour rather than of disdain, which shows the newfound acceptance of society. However, in the end Heckerling, like Austen endorses conservatism, depicting Cher to submit to the sensible male figure, Christian, and submitting to his favours by wearing pastel coloured clothes and a sensible amount of makeup as he declares, “college girls wear less makeup”.
Moreover, the notions of social structure are underlined in both Emma and Clueless, with emphasis placed on the upper class. In Emma, Austen portrays a hierarchical system where one’s birth, wealth and land strictly denoted their class. Thus Emma, being the head of the genteel society has no equal in Highbury. Moreover, Mr. Knightley, being the master of Donwell Abbey, takes his position very seriously being the gentle and paternalistic “caretaker” of everyone around him. Furthermore, Jane Fairfax, although being a thoroughly accomplished woman, must improve her social position through her marriage to Frank Churchill.
Similarly, in Clueless “class structure” is still evident, however is appropriated into cliques to suit the social setting. Cher’s commentary of...