Heckerling’s Eccentric Adaptation

Amy Heckerling’s exaggerated depiction of Jane Austen’s Emma, proves a comical counterpart  to the novel. The characters are transformed and dramatized to provide the viewer with a completely different and somewhat analogous view of the novel:

Emma – Cher

Cher is the 21th century Emma. Snobbish and rich, with an innate inclination to help people and fix certain situations around her. Although Cher is not as eloquent as Austen’s Emma, we can still see that their characteristics are the same. In the novel, Emma’s reasons for befriending Harriet are shallow. Emma befriends Harriet for mere convenience, seeing Harriet as someone with “good looks” who complements her character. In Heckerling’s dramatization of the novel, we see the same intention with Cher’s  friendship with Dee, “we are friends because we know what it is like to have people who are jealous of you.” Cher goes on to state that the base for their friendship is founded on the fact that both her and Dee are named after famous singers that had gone on to become infomercial models. Not the best way to choose friends.

Culturally Relevant:

Within the novel, there is one scene where Emma informs Mr. Elton of her attempt to paint a portrait of Harriet , in an attempt to bring them together, however in Hecklings version she swaps the canvas and paintbrush for a camera and takes pictures of Tai (Harriet) instead. I found it to be a genius way to make the movie more relatable to its 21st century audience.


Tai is depicted very differently from docile Harriet. Funky and free-spirited. Emma attempts to pair her with another character who just happens to be called Elton.

Mr. Woodhouse – Mel

Heckling’s depiction of Mr. Woodhouse is eccentric  and unique. Mr. Woodhouse is not the self-pitying father as we see in Austen’s Emma, but a brash and shrewd lawyer.

The Voice Overs

The voice overs in Clueless do the movie justice as we can track Cher’s internal monologue and see what drives her character. The voice over takes the place of the narrator in Emma and provides us with insights to Cher

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One thought on “Heckerling’s Eccentric Adaptation

  1. Actually, I thought one of the weaker links to Emma was Elton putting Cher’s photo of Tai on his locker. A watercolor portrait seems to be a personal emanation of the painter far more than a snapshot does.

    Interesting point about Mel: perhaps the key link to Mr. Woodhouse is that Mel despite his active busy life (or I should have said because of it) is also a kind of “absent father” who is less engaged in directing Cher’s growing up than the standard father might be. Like Emma, Cher doesn’t have a parent who is seriously doing any parenting (for example, taking his daughter out to teach her to drive). He makes rules and gets mad but that’s it.

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