Transformation: Emma and Clueless "When you compared these texts and their contexts, how was your understanding of each text developed and reshaped?"

Essay by CrabholeHigh School, 12th grade August 2005

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The process of translating Emma into Clueless requires the 'new' author to extract the transcending values and morals imbedded in the original text, and reinstate them in a modern context in a way that appeals to a modern audience to capture the "zeitgeist" of the time. Clueless is a modern filmic replay of Austen's Emma built on the novel's narrative skeleton. Both are multilayered examinations of their societies and the individual's role in it. Their universal exploration of relationships, social character types and social satire on the mannerisms of the wealthy elite remain relevant despite the change in context. The parallels and contrasts that arise through comparison of the texts are a poignant illustration of Emma's world and Cher's, allowing us to see how society and an individual interaction with their society has changed.

The shift from the English, feudal society of Highbury to the fast-paced, global city of Los Angeles parallels the shift from Emma's cultural blinkers: long connection with the land, values that spring from tradition and chivalry - to a capitalist contemporary culture defined by blatant consumption and obsession with image.

The bright technicolour of the film gives their world a kitschy artificiality. (Girls with nose bandages constantly haunt the background in school scenes, sending up of the prevalence of plastic surgery and the obsession with the external.)

Heckerling mirrors Austen in her satirical voice, painting a portrait of wealth and privilege without political awareness or a sense of responsibility. Cher's doesn't distinguish Shakespeare from crib notes, or Mexico from El Salvador. Her charity doesn't extend beyond donating "many expensive Italian outfits to Lucy". The Cher and her friends' pampered lives have alienated them from virtues like responsibility and perseverance. This recalls Austen's ridiculing of the social pretensions of the Eltons, limited outlook of Mr Woodhouse...