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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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