Clueless About Emma? It’s Time to Give Austen a Chance

It’s like that long book I read in the 9th grade that said, ”Tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people.’”
― Cher, Clueless

“There are persons who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.”
― Jane Austen, Emma

Are you hesitant to read a Jane Austen novel?

This day and age, it is rare that you find a teenage youth who has voluntarily read a classic novel without the education system forcing them into it. Luckily, thanks to some fashionably cool re-issues, the masterpieces of the past can once again be appreciated by today’s youth. One such example is the beloved classic, Emma, by Jane Austen.

As a lover of the works of Austen, I still find it difficult to argue with society as to why they should read one of her works. “It’s so outdated,” they claim. “I’m booored,” or “I just couldn’t connect!” they lament. Today, I will prove those naysayers wrong.

Classic Lines: Emma by Jane Austen

So, how exactly can you get anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 to enjoy Emma? The answer is easy. Simply have them watch the 90′s film Clueless first, then give them a fashionably cool copy of the book to read. Tell them to look for the similarities between the two mediums and they will find themselves immersed in a novel that nobody this day and age should ever have to miss.

Quoted from the opening lines of Jane Austen’s Emma:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

How many of you can say that this line does not describe the majority of teenagers today? Although Jane Austen is describing a young lady from the 19th century, she could have just as easily been describing my 12 year old niece or the 16 year old girl next door. It’s a coming of age tale that any girl today could relate to.

Jane Austen called the character, Emma, “A heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” She’s rich, interfering, and 100% convinced of her own superior knowledge of what other people need. Oh, but her heart’s in the right place, of course! In Clueless, Cher Horowitz is the 20th Century Emma living in Beverly Hills: “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition.” She is delightfully self-satisfying, yet easy to love.

Then there is Cher’s best friend Dionne (aka. Emma’s best friend, Isabella) – an Africa American diva with her boyfriend, Murray (aka Emma‘s Mr. Weston). The awkward Harriet is portrayed as the lively and equally awkward, Tai. And Mr. Knightley is none other than Cher’s life-long (unbeknownst to her) “Baldwin”, Josh. Imagine these movie characters while reading the book, and you may find that the overall experience is highly enjoyable!

“AS IF!” Right? Read on…
(Warning: Animated GIFs abound ahead.)

“Okay, so you’re probably going, “Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?” But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl.”
― Cher, Clueless

As did Emma. Most kids today worry about the latest fashion trends, how to act around their peers and where the next party will be this weekend. Emma shared the very same concerns about her fashion and accessories, the proper protocols and which gown to wear to the next party (or ball) over at the neighbor’s house. In fact, you could say that the very same social lines, peer pressures and obsessions with status existed in Emma’s society as they do today.

At one point during the movie Clueless, Tai (who much like Harriet had become a self righteous “social elite”) slights Cher by putting down her experience with the “gentlefolk”. Likewise, in the novel Emma makes a similar thoughtless insult to Miss Bates. When put in this light, human behavior has not changed much through the years.

In discovering the errors of her ways, Emma and Cher both discover in themselves the ability to follow their hearts, and also to let others do the same. What lesson could be more timeless than that?

By bringing Emma’s world to our time, the film Clueless makes the classic Emma more accessible than ever before. The movie should in no way replace the reader’s experience with the original material, it should be used as a way to allow readers to more easily relate to and enjoy the novel.

So if you haven’t already, here’s your plan for your next available evening: (Are you ready for this?) Make Clueless your (and/or your teen’s) next film choice on Netflix, then pick up a copy of the Classic Lines Edition of Emma by Jane Austen, available now from Splinter. While you’re at it, check out the other books in this ultra-gorgeous line of classics. Experience them all as you never have before. Or, if you’re already a fan of the classics, these must-have editions, illustrated by fashion illustrator, Sara Singh, should be added to your collection today.