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Emma vs. Clueless

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Emma and Clueless, are two movies that illustrate Jane Austen’s novel entitled “Emma”. The stories illustrate the importance of self-development and personal growth by using the theme of social status and moral worth. The protagonists, Emma and Cher, are bound to transform from callow young adults to mentally and emotionally mature women, given their similar situations.

The major difference between Emma and Clueless is the way situations in the plot of the story are illustrated, and the different time frames used in the context. The setting of Emma is in nineteenth century England, while Clueless sets in Beverly Hills, U.S.A. in the 1990s.

Both Emma and Cher are young ladies of the rich, high-class society and cultural elite. Money is important for both societies, because money is synonymous to power and high social status. Because of their wealth, the protagonists are spoiled, and they encompass a sense of vanity, arrogance, and social superiority. Emma and Cher are supposedly the “epitome of perfection” of their time frame and setting. Emma appears to encompass the beauty, charm, grace, intelligence, and wealth of an ideal woman in nineteenth century England, and Cher has everything a teenage girl could possibly want: a car, a mansion, and an endless line of expensive clothing. And with all their wealth, they have acquired the idea that they are superior to others. Emma’s arrogance is first seen when she brags about her skill in matching couples. Likewise, Cher exposes a sense of her pompousness when she and her best friend, Dionne, teach Tai how to be popular.

Emma and Cher’s arrogance and self-confidence has challenged them to do things beyond the norm. They have taken two lower-class girls- Harriet and Tai- “under their wing” to assimilate with the upper-class society. Emma thinks that Harriet has been associated with “unworthy” people, and embarks on a mission to introduce her to the upper-class society. In Clueless, Cher takes pity on Tai and embarks on a mission to make Tai popular. In the process, Emma and Cher tried to match Harriet and Tai to men they considered of upper-class status. However, Harriet and Tai seemed to have been interested in men of lower class- Robert and Travis. Emma disregarded Robert Martin because he was a farmer who posed a threat in her mission to improve Harriet.

Likewise, Cher disregarded Travis because he was a skater boy, which was considered of lower social status in high school. Emma and Cher forced Harriet and Tai to rethink their initial judgment of the two lower-class men. Harriet and Tai, naïve as they are, were brainwashed by the protagonists, and have eventually developed a certain fondness for the upper-class men who they were being linked to. However, the guys that Emma and Cher tried to match Harriet and Tai with, were actually in love with the two protagonists.

The stories take a new direction with the arrival of the characters Frank Churchill from Emma and Christian from Clueless. Emma and Cher instantly become infatuated with Frank and Christian. But nothing would come of this infatuation because Frank Churchill is found out to be engaged with another woman, and Christian is a homosexual. It is a humbling experience for the two protagonists because they have further realized that they can make wrong judgments about other people.

The characters of Mr. Knightly in Emma and Josh from Clueless, have been seen throughout the movie, but only towards the end, did they come to the foreground of the story. Mr. Knightly and Josh became the object of Harriet and Tai’s latest infatuation. Through jealously, Emma and Cher begin to realize their love for Mr. Knightly and Josh, and the two men have also realized their love for Emma and Cher.

In the end, Mr. Knightly and Emma were married, and Josh and Cher became a couple. With Emma and Cher, being a little more open-minded about social issues, Harriet and Robert Martin reestablished their wandered love, and it was likewise for Travis and Tai.

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