Emma vs. Clueless
By Julia A. Keirns
Emma — a 2020 film directed by Autumn de Wilde is based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel and stars Anna Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse. Emma interferes in the love lives of her friends. This film is now available on Amazon Prime.
The new and old versions of this timeless tale represent different aspects of their societies and times. Emma is a story placed in early 19th century England at a time when women were expected to simply perform womanly duties, marry and have and raise children. They were not expected to seek higher education. They were doomed to cook and clean and remain homebound, although the upper-class women like Emma and her family had servants to do most of the cooking and cleaning for them so these women simply spent their days conversing with other women and finding creative ways to use their idle time — like matchmaking.
Women in this time period were smart and educated in their own way. Embarrassment was not tolerated by the family and it was planned for the women to act in a certain way and marry at a certain time in their life. Should they not be successful at finding a suitable man to marry them, they were dubbed spinsters and still were expected to perform household business and chores without any hope of procuring a higher education or purpose.
Clueless — a 1995 movie directed by Amy Heckerling stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a rich and shallow socialite who interferes in the love lives of others. This movie is also based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma.
From a modern point of view, Clueless is set in a time of upper-middleclass valley girl American culture when girls were ditzi, airheaded and excessively worried about their appearance and their social status. Very similar to Emma but different in its own way. Cher was expected to be smart and get a higher education, but she herself was more concerned with her popularity life at the moment and was not worried about her future. Her family was not necessarily concerned with her reputation as much as she was. If she embarrassed herself, it was her problem, not theirs. The family business would go on and succeed with or without her.
Both of these characters enjoyed matchmaking couples and both were romantic in their own ways. They each desired love and romance and enjoyed life to the fullest. Both movies are comical and enjoyable. Just goes to show that a well-written novel can be timeless and relevant in any century.