Emma and Cher

Ever since the first day of class when Prof. Tougaw showed us the opening clip of the move “Clueless” and how it relates to “Emma”, I can’t stop picking out things that occur in the book that coincide with the film. Below, I’ve chosen some of my favorite scenes from “Clueless” and described how they correspond to the novel “Emma”. Enjoy!

The first scene I’ve chosen is where Emma decides she wants to take Harriet under her wing and make her more desirable despite her lack of wealth. “The misfortune of your birth ought to make you particularly careful as to your associates”(23). After Harriet becomes Emma’s new friend, she bestows in her how to act and socialize in order to fit the mold Emma provides her with.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDrGHP9Z8vw -The character Cher represents Emma, while her friend Tai in the movie could relate to Miss Taylor or Mrs.Weston being that they’re Emma’s more experienced friends in the novel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vso2nP4edrk -Description of the cliques = the social structure in “Emma”.

Next, I chose to focus on how Emma tells Harriet to deny Robert Martin’s proposal because of his poor class status. Mr. Martin in “Emma” would play the character Travis is “Clueless”. He is a skater boy who does drugs and is known to be a lowlife deemed socially unacceptable according to Cher. Ironically enough, just as in the movie, Harriet and Robert Martin end up getting together at the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8-_aJ1BiFE -The lackluster qualities portrayed towards the character Travis in the film, display the low class in society he is known for in “Emma”.


Emma’s blindsided by Mr. Elton’s affection towards her due to the fact that she’s so set on pairing him and Harriet together. In the novel, Emma paints a portrait of Harriet, making her seem even more beautiful then she really is. Mr. Elton seems mesmerized at the painting and offers to bring it to London to be framed. Nevertheless, he only enjoys the artwork because Emma did it, not because it is of Harriet. In the movie, Cher takes a photo of Tai and Elton proceeds to hang it up in his locker; the same concept of a misunderstanding.

“Me. Elton in love with me!-What an idea!” … “I thank you; but i assure you you are quite mistaken. Mr. Elton and I are very good friends, and nothing more…”(80).


When Emma thinks that her and Mr. Churhill are suitable for eachother, she falls for him wholeheartedly. “Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma’s resolution of never marrying, there was something in the name in the idea of Mr. Churchill, which always interested her”(85). Though he is attractive and charismatic, Emma realizes that he is also irresponsible and therefore incompatible for her. Sardonically, Christian(Mr. Churchill) turns out to be gay in the movie, also making them quite incompatible.


In “Emma”, Mr. Knightley realizes he has feelings for Emma when Frank Churchill shows up in Highbury.

“‘He is a person I never think of from one month’s end to another,’ said Mr.Knightley, with a degree of vexation, which made Emma immediately talk of something else, though she could not comprehend why he should be angry.”

In the film “Clueless”, Mr. Knightley is played by the character Josh. When Cher (Emma) goes on a date with Christian (Mr.Churchill), you can see the immense jealousy and concern that Josh has towards this. Also, the portrayal of Cher’s father (Mr. Woodhouse) shows his attachment to his daughter and his dislike of change/seeing his daughter grow up.


Finally, the moment I had anticipated: Mr. Knightley confesses his love for Emma. “I cannot make speeches, Emma:”-he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intellibible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.-“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.- You hear nothing but truth from me.-I have blamed you, and lectured you, adn you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.-Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne eith them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.-But you understand me.-Yes, you see, you understand my feelings-and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice”(296).


Feel free to make more connections to the cips i’ve provided and the novel, as there are so many more comparisons. -Now that we’ve finished the book, go and watch the whole movie if you haven’t !




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2 thoughts on “Emma and Cher

  1. Nathan

    Further expanding on this and our discussions in class, while I only loosely remember the movie, it seems to me that a visual portrayal loses out on some narrative techniques that Austen uses in the novel that help to create a reader character relationship. I did notice in some of the scenes (where Cher is musing about Christian and her flat hair etc.) that there is a voice over with a scene of Cher being contemplative that then fades into the next scene of dialog. It is not entirely seamless as the musing doesn’t sound as if it was relating the events in the past but rather in real time, yet this may be a parallel technique. I do not know if it effectively causes the distance that Louise-Flavin postulates that FID does in the novel but its nice to see that this was appreciated whether subconsciously or consciously.

  2. Jason Tougaw

    Your clips make it pretty vivid how many liberties Amy Heckerling has taken with her adaptation of Austen’s novel. If you know the novel, the movie becomes even funnier, because part of the joke is how different the film is from the novel. It would be interested to take a close look at the way humor works in the novel and the film? Austen’s humor relies on irony and gentle satire. Is that true of the film? Or does the film deal in other types of comedy?

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