This movie is loosely based on Jane Austen's novel
Emma, transposed into a modern
US high school. Special thanks to Sally Palmer and Janet
Elizabeth Hayes for having made postings that pointed out parallels between the two
I notice that people who have read Emma
tend to get more enjoyment out of the movie than those who approach it as
merely yet another teen flick.
The counterpart to the Mr. Weston / Miss Taylor match is a romance
(which is promoted by Cher -- the Emma counterpart -- and Dionne) between the
debate teacher and the school's guidance counselor. The movie ends with
The counterpart to Robert Martin is a skater/druggie boy with a good
heart who is deemed socially unacceptable.
The counterpart to Mr. Elton is actually named "Elton".
The counterpart to the portrait of Harriet Smith is a photograph of Tai taken by Cher that
winds up in Elton's locker.
When Elton snubs Tai (the Harriet Smith counterpart) at a dance, Josh
(the Mr. Knightley counterpart) steps in to save her from embarrassment.
The carriage maneuvers are repeated with the teenagers' cars. Elton
tries to attack the Emma-counterpart in a car after the dance.
The counterparts of the Gypsies (who threaten Harriet Smith in
Emma) are gang bullies at the
local mall who threaten Tai; she is rescued by Christian (the Frank Churchill counterpart).
Tai, the Harriet Smith counterpart, burns the contents of her box of Elton memorabilia
and confides that she thinks the Mr. Knightley counterpart likes her.
Miss Bates and the Box Hill incident become a maid from El Salvador who
is rudely described by Cher, the Emma-counterpart, as speaking "Mexican" (though Cher is more emotionally affected when she fails her driving test).
The secret of the Frank Churchill counterpart (that allows him to flirt with
Emma without any chance of a serious involvment) turns out to be that he's
gay (there is no real counterpart to Jane Fairfax).
Some reactions from Janeites
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 08:20:01 EST
From: Carolyn Nelson
"I finally rented Clueless this weekend and saw it for the
first time. Not the typical movie experience, since I was scrutinizing every
line for the parallels in Jane Austen, but fun! I think my biggest
laugh-out-loud was when Cher was sitting in class realizing she ought to find
a guy for herself. The sultry music rolls and Christian, sensual mouth,
pompadour, and jacket slung over his shoulder, steps into the classroom bathed
in a golden glow. I screamed, ``It's Frank!!!'' -- my son thought I was
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 10:35:33 -0700
From: Karen P
"My favorite moment from Clueless is the scene in which Cher walks along
Rodeo Drive in total misery at the mess she has created, but even in the depth
of her despair catches sight of an outfit in a window and can't help wondering
whether they have it in her size. It matches the moment in the book where Emma
is kicking herself for having made Harriet love Mr. Elton, and then catches
herself incorrigibly thinking of matching her instead with William Coxe,
``a pert young lawyer''."
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 07:41:58 -0700
From: Karen P
"In Emma, Mr. Knightley begins to sense consciously the
real nature of his feelings for Emma when Frank Churchill shows up in
Highbury, because he feels immediate jealousy. Emma notices that
Mr. Knightley shows less than his usual generosity of spirit toward
Frank, but she has no idea why. The movie Clueless displays a
clear understanding of the moment when Mr. Knightley's view of Emma
changes. In Clueless, the Mr. Knightley figure, Josh,
watches as Cher [~Emma] comes downstairs, looking unusually beautiful, for her
first date with Christian [~Frank Churchill]. The scene is accompanied by the
music from the movie Gigi, from the scene in which Gaston
suddenly realizes that Gigi is no longer a gawky girl but a beautiful young
woman to whom he is much attracted."