Transformations of texts into new texts usually reinforce the same values, even though their context may be vastly different. The concept of transformation refers to any kind of change of a text. The change between the two texts is usually conducted in order for the text to be adapted into new text’s context. Transformation between two texts can be seen through character changes and social theme changes.
The novel “Emma” is formed around Emma Wodehouse’s constricted social group and her journey of transformation from being an impulsive matchmaker who does not oblige to her social role, to an insightful lady with the correct social role and etiquette according to the novels context. “Clueless” is a modernized interpretation of “Emma”. The film was based in the opulent and superficial Beverly Hills. The film highlights Cher Horowitz change from an obnoxious, naive girl with a materialistic aim for popularity, into a mature lady with a greater sense of self and less materialistic needs.
Both texts maintain the same themes that supports their respective societies and audience, even though there were changes in context and form between the two texts. Social structure is seen in both “Emma” and “Clueless” and the concept is maintained throughout both of the texts. Social structure is able to influence Emma’s perception of her surroundings and matchmaking skills. Cher’s amount of knowledge and actions towards the school cliques is also influenced by the concept of social structure. Emma” and “Clueless” both explore female gender roles in their appropriate context, highlighting the limited power and control of women in patriarchal societies. The theme of roles of women is demonstrated through the numerous women figures that help structure both “Emma” and “clueless” and the impact they have on both their perceptions and their self-awareness. Heckerling’s upholding of the themes that were originally depicted in ‘Emma’ that were transformed into ‘Clueless’ demonstrates the existence and acceptance of these notions in both contexts.
Ultimately, ‘Emma’ is transformed into ‘Clueless’ by using examples and techniques in order to display these comparative notions. Through comparison of the ways in which wealth and social structure (hierarchy) are examined in both texts, greater insight can be gained of these contexts, and the values and ideas they portray. Firstly, the theme of social structure is depicted in both ‘Emma’ and ‘Clueless’ through the direct comparison of the car scene in “Clueless” and the carriage scene in “Emma”.
In “clueless”, Social structure can be highlighted in the scene after the Valley party when Elton gives Cher a lift home and attempts to kiss her. Cher abruptly backs away and questions Elton on the math she made between Elton and Tai to which he replies ‘Do you know who my father is? This rhetorical question portrays the idea that Elton’s father has a high social ranking and is in a high position in the social order. By Elton’s rhetorical question, he is suggesting that Cher would be a more suitable math for Elton and Cher is seen to be on a closer social level to Elton rather than Tai.
Emma is left to share a carriage home with Mr Elton, because Harriet was not able to attend the ball. In the carriage, Mr Elton violently professes his love for her. Through Emma’s dialogue that was shifted from Emma’s narrated feelings, Austen highlights Emma’s surprise. Emma then exclaims ‘This to me! You forget yourself, you take me for my friend. ’ When Mr Elton professes his love for her as Emma had always thought that Harriet was the fittest match for him. Emma ends up feeling offended by his assumption that she would have similar feelings towards him as she believes she is of a higher class than Mr Elton.
Emma’s bewilderment comes from the fact that he believes she would ‘lower’ herself to his standards. This is similar to Cher’s disgust for high-school boys. When Cher is asked if she has a high school boyfriend, she replies with ‘Oh, as if! ’ when Cher replies with this, it exaggerates her superficial views on relationships in the concept of social hierarchy. These references highlight both Cher and Emma’s materialistic and fake views on social status and reflects their poor amount of awareness, which ultimately contrasts with their prosperous social positions.
Although the context and language has changed in both scenes, the theme ultimately remains the same. Using rhetorical questions and changing the narrative style to depict the theme of social structure, it is seen that both ‘Clueless’ and ‘Emma’ render the same themes and transfer them into their different contexts. Similarly, social structure is highlighted through the parallel between the actions of Cher’s and Emma’s matchmaking projects.
When Emma accepts Harriet in the society which Emma is included in, her plans were to improve her social status by finding someone oh a higher social class than her. When the novel “Emma” is coming to an end, Harriet admits her feelings towards Mr Knightley. In the novels context, it was not seen fit for Harriet, someone with a much lower social class than Mr Knightley to be having feelings or associating on a close level with him. The theme of social structure is greatly evident in this chapter of the book, it is shown through Emma’s dialogue after Harriet confesses her love for Mr Knightley to Emma.
When Emma states, in an exasperated manner ‘Mr Knightly and Harriet Smith! … Could it be? No, it was impossible’, it can be seen that having Harriet and Mr Knightly together is a disturbance in the social hierarchy and class level. Austen’s satirical fixation with the social structure within the 19th century in England was somewhat reinforced by the statement in the novel that personas from lower or middle class could not marry or have close relation with personas within the high class or the high social group.
This statement is portrayed in many ways, including Emma’s astonishment by the idea of Harriet and Mr Knightly, this was quite heretical in the novels context. Furthermore, Emma’s interests in Harriet are almost paralleled with Cher’s motivation to give Tai a makeover as Cher saw her as a ‘personal project’. Emma’s intentions are transformed into a modernized goal to relate with ‘Clueless’ audience. Tai’s make over from Cher involves changing Tai’s style and pronunciation to simply ‘improve’ her character and make her popular.
Although this change will make Tai more accustomed to Cher’s social level, these changes are mostly beneficial to Cher, this notion is very similar to the Harriet’s welcoming into Highbury as it was mainly beneficial to Emma. When Tai meets Cher and Dionne and is immediately recommended a makeover, Dionne says, ‘it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos’ regarding to Cher’s need to improve Tai’s status and outlook. Cher’s need to adjust Tai’s lifestyle is almost symmetrical to Emma’s need of having to influence and make couples through her act of match making.
In the film ‘Clueless’, a makeover is compared to a saviour from a ‘chaotic world’, this not only highlights the superficial and materialistic views of the 1990’s Beverly Hills, but also shows how much trouble Cher would go to, to improve Tai’s social level, trying to bring her to higher class and ‘popularity’. The transformations of social structure from ‘Emma’ to ‘Clueless’ has been disguised and depicted throughout the film as popularity.
The notion of social structure was reinforced through hyperbolic references ultimately displaying very similar themes of social hierarchy =, structure and ‘popularity’ in both ‘Clueless’ and ‘Emma’. Greater understanding can be gained of the two text’s context by the comparison of the role of women between both ‘Emma’ and ‘Clueless’. The notion of the necessity of romantic love, marriage and the expectation of woman are all equally important themes in both texts.
Although, these themes are evident throughout both ‘Emma’ and ‘Clueless’, they have been transformed from Emma’s context to suit the audience and the context of ‘Clueless’. The themes that are evident in both texts are constantly defined by gender. Austen’s narrative characteristic for the novel ‘Emma’ is an ironic and amused commentary conducted by the narrator when describing the character’s actions. In Austen’s novel, an early description of Emma’s character, narrated from Mrs Weston’s perspective, in fact is an ironic publicity of Emma’s faults. She could not think, without pain, of Emma’s losing a single pleasure, or suffering an hour’s ennui, from the want of her companionableness: but dear Emma was of no feeble character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would have been” The irony of this part of text is that while Emma ultimately does not have any trouble finding new companions in her social group, her idea of companionship is to manipulate others into advantageous marriages.
Furthermore, shown with this example is Emma’s obsession with marriage which subtlety makes socially related comments on the unequal status of women. This originally descended from the cultural status of women at the time; if they were unmarried they were of a lower rank in society and potentially financially destitute. Conversely, the depiction of Cher’s character in Clueless is much more definite about exposing her faults.
While she, like Emma, is popular amongst her peers, she also has ditzy and ignorant characteristics which are not present in Emma’s character. This change in characterization can be linked to the changes in social values and perceptions on the abilities of women; in the context of ‘Clueless’ it was no longer considered desirable for women to be culturally and academically ignorant. This change in cultural values follows from the stereotypical gender role of the typical popular teenager in the context of clueless.
This stereotype of girls are characterized as a beautiful and wealthy but book-dumb teenager. There is no narrator present to comment on Cher’s character or to make ironic statements exposing her flaws like in Austen’s novel, so Cher’s characterization is presented as directly as possible. Film narration as a medium is objective, so Cher’s flaws are immediately visible to the movie’s audience and are not hidden by irony.
Although Emma’s characterization was seen through the narrator’s comments, Cher’s characteristics were shown through her actions and her dialogue throughout the movie. Throughout the film, Cher’s expensive branded clothes are used as a symbolisation throughout the movie in order for the audience to perceive her a beautiful and wealthy girl. Her patriarchal values towards her fashion statements and shopping is seen through the opening scene of Cher becoming frustrated while picking through various expensive items in her closet to find an outfit.
The notion of Cher being stereotyped into the classical 1990’s women also occurs in the scenes of when she goes to the mall and has a makeover to get ready when Christian arrives at her house. Cher’s book-dumb characteristic is shown through the symbolisation of the comparison of the TV shows both Cher and Josh watch. In the middle of the film, Cher is scene to change the channel from the news to her favourite cartoon which ultimately shows her lack of realisation of the non-materialistic events occurring around her.
This symbolisation of the news channel later reoccurs when Cher states that she thought ‘they declared peace in the middle east’ when Josh had asked her why she looked confused watching the bombing and shooting attacks on television. The transformations of women stereotypes between ‘Emma’ and ‘Clueless’ shows a change in method to convey the gender roles and also alterations in concept in order to adapt to the modern cultural context.