Despite a title alluding to the a state of being lost, the film is right on par with Austen’s original intent with Emma; to critically engage with modern day society through the eye of a female character who is grappling with the society herself. The setting for Emma is early 19th century England, a place where people traveled by carriages and wrote letters to one another. “Clueless” brings the viewer into the world of Beverly Hills circa 1995. There are sports cars and cell phones. However there is still a female protagonist trying to deal with all of it.
Cher is a high school student who goes to school to social first and learn second, but ends up getting an education through those around her. She sets up two of her teachers in an effort to get better grades for herself and the school overall. Her friend Dionne and her boyfriend Murray are an example of an unhealthy relationship filled with bickering and name calling. So she turns to also single and less socially aware Tai with an eye of making her over and giving her a healthy relationship. She shifts Tai’s attention away from the cliché early 90’s teenage boy, Travis, and toward a more proper suitor Elton, who would in-turn wants Cher. After rebuffing him, Cher pursues a boy named Christian who ends up being a shopping buddy rather than a boyfriend. Finally at the end she ends up with My Knightley, who is transformed into a socially concerned college student named Josh. In line with the novel, it does not matter that he is her former step-brother. Also Tai turns back her attention to Travis and everyone lives happily ever after.
In the midst of all this pursuing, the references to early 90’s America are, to quote Tai, not sporadic. The movie opens with Cher using a computer to pick out her outfit. She receives her report card in her first period and proceeds to call Dionne on her cell phone to report the bad news. Travis makes a comment about the band Nine Inch Nails and compares them to The Rolling Stones. Murray shaves his head a party and claims to be “keeping it real”. Tai holds up a cassette tape containing the song she supposedly had with Elton. The only one who is not partaking in the culture is Christian, who is a throwback to the culture of the 1950’s, a fact he is aware of when asking if a jacket would make him look like James Dean.
At the end of the film I walked away with two thoughts in my mind. I was aware of the outrageous and over the top nature of the culture of the film’s setting and I was able to over look the mixing and matching of partners and enjoy the love stories of the film. These were the same two thoughts in my mind at the end of Emma and all the other novels we have read in this class. For that reason alone I dub this a successful adaption of a Jane Austen novel.