Independent Trial 2004 – EmmaClueless

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					Independent Trial 2004 – Emma/Clueless
Evaluate the relative importance of differences or similarities between the
texts, and the ways in which these differences/similarities reflect values in
the text.

The novel Emma has been used at the basis for Hecklering’s Clueless and many of the
characters of Emma have parallel characters in Clueless, however, the film does not
follow the novel precisely. The setting of Emma, is that of the world that Jane Austen
lived in, the England of the early 1800’s. Emma and Clueless are largely comparable and
by viewing Clueless, the contemporary audience is able to gain further insight into
Austen’s world, and the novel Emma. By comparing the texts through context and
setting, character relationships, and techniques used by the composers, one is able to gain
more understanding of the values of materialism, status and relationships and exhibited in
the texts.

The transformation of Emma into Cher has warranted the need to transform Emma’s
conservative village of Highbury into the contemporary Beverly Hills, and the attitudes
and materialism that go hand in hand. In Emma, Austen focuses on a small circle of
upper-class country people in Highbury, and describes their social relations and
individual reactions. This village of Highbury and its machinations are transformed into
Beverly Hills High School in 1995, by Amy Hecklering in Clueless. Hecklering
develops this highly commercialised decade the 1990’s, where consumerism drives the
culture, to be able to parallel the aristocrats in early 19th Century Highbury. The
differences in the two societies are vital to both the audiences understanding of each text,
as well as to be appropriate to the context each text is set.

The openings of both texts focus on the protagonists, Emma and Cher, and both give the
audience insight into their personalities and lifestyle. While Cher and Emmao belong to
different era they are both quite similar. They are both very confident, self-important,
and because of their spoilt upbringing, they are quite unaware of how misguided theire
opinions are.

‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy
disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly
twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.’ This, the opening
statement of Emma, suggests to the audience the kind of character that Emma is, and only
later are they to discover that Emma also has unpleasant qualities: she is spoilt and
opinionated.

For the opening of Clueless, the value of status is explored as Hecklering uses contrast to
create humour, as well as to give insight into Cher’s life. Through the cinematic
technique of voiceover, Cher is depicted as a normal teenage girl, ‘So ok, you’re
probably thinking s this like a Noxema commercial or what?! But seriously, I actually
have a way normal life for a teenage girl… I get up, I brush my teeth, and I pick out my
school clothes.’ However, when watching the montage on the screen Cher is portrayed
somewhat similar to how Emma describes herself, spoilt, rich and popular. Comparing
the openings of the two texts is important to the audience, as it clearly defines the
similarities between the two protagonists and also emphasises the value of status and
contexts expressed by both texts.

Another similarity between the texts is how Emma and Cher are both so aware of their
positions in society, and they both have definite views of who of their peers are socially
acceptable. When Harriet tells Emma of her friendship with Robert Martin, Emma
advises her that the class of Robert Martin is one of which Harriet should not mix, and
comments that he is ‘very unfit to be the intimates of a girl who only wanted a little
knowledge and elegance to be quite perfect.’ Similarly, when Tai meets Travis and
expresses an interest in him, Cher is quick to discourage her attention in him, as she
believes he is unfashionable and the people he mixes with take part in apparently
undesirable activities. She say to Tai ‘loadies generally hang on the grassy knoll over
there’ which indicates her belief of her superiority to the ‘loadies’ and that Tai is also
better than the. The reason for the rejection of these men, by the protagonists is
important as it reflects both the similarities of their attitudes, and the differences in social
context as Emma dismisses Robert Martin purely due to his financial status.

Both Emma and Cher, when meeting new people such as Harriet and Tai, immediately
assume that they are in need of help and advice, and they each enjoy the power that this
gives them. On Emma’s assistance to Harriet, Emma believes that ‘She would improve
her, she would detach her from bad acquaintance, and introduce her into good society.’ In
Cluesless, where Cher and Dionne are trying to convince Tai to let the make her over,
Dionne says ‘Oh, c’mon! Let us! Cher’s main thrill in life is a make over. It gives her a
sense of control in a world full of chaos.’

Austen contrasts the characters of Emma and Mr Knightly with their attitudes to those
who are socially inferior to them. Emma is unashamedly snobbish when she says, ‘It
would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance which must have been the consequence
of your marrying Mr Martin’, to Harriet. Emma feels that Robert Martin is not good
enough for Harriet Smith, who Emma is convinced, is the daughter of a gentleman. This
naivety shown by Emma proves that she is unaware that the wealth and social status are
not indications of a persons intrinsic worth, and it is Mr Knightly who inadvertently
teaches Emma about self-worth, and helps her to mature.

Personal relationships are integral to the texts Emma and Clueless. Both Emma and Cher
initially fail to recognise where their true affections lie, and are ignorant to the care
displayed by Mr Knightly and Josh. Throughout each text, the protagonist is attracted to
a man who does not reciprocate their affection, as Frank Churchill is secretly engaged,
and Christian is a homosexual.

The relationship between Cher and Josh in Clueless parallels the relationship of Emma
and Mr Knightly. Hecklering communicates teenage social snobbery to be the pompous,
modern equivalent to the aristocratic elitism shown in Emma. Hecklering uses Josh to
confront Cher’s awareness by expressing his opinion to her in various scenes in the film,
for example when he comments of Tai’s makeover he says ‘You have found someone
even more clueless that yourself to worship you… You are acting out on that poor girl as
if she were your Barbie doll.’ Both Hecklering and Austen use an authorial mouthpiece,
through Josh/Mr Knightly to guide their respective protagonists’ journeys to self-
actualisation. Also both Mr Knightly and Josh do not hesitate to reprimand Emma/Cher
when they are rude to Miss Bates/Lucy, as the men do not tolerate rudeness.

Like Mr Knightly and Josh, Harriet and Tai are also comparatively similar in their
reaction to the alien environment they are placed into. They are both accepting and
grateful for the overwhelming situation in which they find themselves upon meeting
Emma/Cher, and the apparent helpfulness and selfless kindness that they provide.
Neither Harriet, nor Tai question the advice that is offered to them, and their desire to be
accepted is too strong for them to remain true to themselves. This results in the
transformation of their minds and bodies to adapt to the attitudes of their mentors in order
to be accepted.

Both Hecklering and Austen use chronological narrative style to contrast their stories.
The different mediums of the texts serve different purposes, and there are strengths and
weaknesses of each text in relation to their respective mediums. Emma lacks the visual
effects of clueless, however through the use of literature Austen has been able to give a
careful build up of characters ‘actual disparity in their ages was much increased by his
constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity’,
with many examples to prove her point. This detail results in a long novel which may
seem trivial to some readers. On the other hand, Clueless relies on its considerable visual
impact, and is fast paced and comparatively short, however the use of slang language,
which was current at the time of production, is quickly dated.

While Jane Austen has Frank Churchill write a detailed letter of explanation for his
behaviour to fill in the gaps about why particular events occurred, Hecklering uses
cinematic techniques, such as reflection in the form of collage flashbacks and a montage
of memories. When Cher and Emma discover their love for Josh and Mr Knightly,
Austen uses broken sentences which depicts the language Emma would use, and
exclamation marks to emphasise the importance of the moment, as Hecklering has the
exaggerated lighting up of the fountain behind Cher to emphasise her discovery. The
ways in which the texts are shaped, ane the style in which they are told obviously vastly
differ due to the differences in the techniques available to each medium.

Through Amy Hecklering’s Clueless, Emma is elevated to a timeless classic, as Clueless
shows how the plot of Emma can be transformed and developed in a different
contemporary context and still hold the same integrity and meaning. Through comparing
the texts, both similarities and differences are evident to varying degrees of relative
importance, and have been employed by Hecklering in Clueless, in order to demonstrate
the values of both texts.

				
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