Emma and Clueless





In comparing the two texts you have become aware of how the contexts of the texts have chaped their form and meaning, OR, more interestingly, is a comparison of the values associated with each text. To what extent has this point of view been your experience?


The process of transformation re-expresses a story told for one audience\'s time and context, using methods appropriate to another time and context. Thus in the transformation of Jane Austen\'s classic novel of manners Emma, told for a readership of complacent 19th century gentry, into Heckerling\'s post-modern teen-pic Clueless, told for a cinema audience of average teens, Austen\'s original directives mutate as the context\'s shift and additional impulses emerge. Through director Amy Heckerling\'s manipulation of cinematic techniques, the setting and timeframe have been changed as well as the social milieu, however, similarities still exist alongside the cultural and historical discrepancies.



Both Austen and Heckerling write with an immense sense of fun about the social circle they moved in and understood, both composers adopting the same fondly indulgent but mildly critical attitude towards the characters and societies they depict. The shift in the composer\'s context however, reveals a change not only in time and setting but also in the society, and the values the composer depicts.


The transformation of Emma\'s 19th century rural English village, into the heart of 20th century America\'s consumerist culture, shows the extent of Heckerling\'s modification of cultural and historical contexts in the transformation process. Both texts however, depict an enclosed microcosm of society, the narrowness of the social circle making correct behaviour imperative. In Emma\'s world, Highbury is a rigidly structured society in which manner\'s are of the upmost importance, and knowledge of family and background is vital. In this 19th century world, values are based on welath, property, birth and marriage. Highbury is a small village where everyone knows eachother by name and the strict social hierarchy is evident- a living situation not unlike that experienced by Austen herself, albeit far removed from those experienced by comtemporary readers. Using descriptive authorial commentary, AUsten carefull establishes her setting and characters- a task achieved by Heckerling in seconds. However, where Austen emphasises issues on the strictures and conventions of 19th century England, Clueless invokes a contemporary culture defined by materialism and consumerism.


With the obvious advantage of a visual medium, in the opening shots of Clueless the viewer is absorbed into a whirlwind of movement, garishly bright colours, and music as a montage of laughing, flriting, happy, \'Kids in America\', and images of the heroine, Cher, laden with shopping bags visually establish the social milieu that is to be explored in the film. Through the use of fast motion camera shots, Heckerlings setting is extablished in seconds. While Emma, in gentile comfort, goes on picnics to eat strawberries and holds card parties for old ladies, and is required to consider the comfort and enjoyment of others rather than her own; Cher in lollypop colours, parties with friends her own age, and is selfish in her pleasures. Her reactions reinforced by an energetic and wittily relevan soundtrack e.g \'Kids in America\' in the opening sequence as they introduce Cher and her friends, and "I wanna be a supermodel\' as Cher and Dionne \'make-over\' Tai. In Cher\'s world, Beverly Hills, USA, in the mid 1990\'s, values revolve around the materialistic trappings of money, including fast cars, luxurious homes, beauty and image- and status is equated with assets. As Cher picks out her uniform for the day from her computerised wardrobe, the responder is informed via voice over- a technique used extensively by Heckerling to show Cher\'s dillusional views and naivety- that, \'I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl\'. Cher\'s vast wardrobe and her obsession with fashion and shopping reinforcing the superficialty of her social context. Language is also used to show the change in contexts. While Austen\'s characters speak formally and politley; \'But do not imagine that I wish to influence you,\' Cher and co. speak in an exaggerated form of contemporary slang; \'Whatever! Di, I\'m outtie...\'.



Both Emma and Cher subscribe to their social norms, and both are elitists in their own social circles. Both hold themselves in high esteem and look down on those who do not