By Rohail Karim
Clueless, based on a 19th century novel by Jane Austen – “Ugh, as if!”. Its not until you read Emma by Jane Austen (and have a lecture on film adaptation) that you realise just how much material Clueless producer Amy Heckering ‘borrowed’ from Jane Austen. Without explicitly acknowledging Austen, the film relies on the viewer to establish this relationship. If it isn’t however, the film looks as though it is a stand alone, original film.
The 90s pop sensation is centred on Cher Horowitz, a rich and popular high schooler who lives in Beverly Hills. Similarly, in Austen’s novel, titular character Emma is also a well-off teenager, with both girls enjoying the art of matchmaking. Heckering’s level of originality is quite shocking, as the plot remains entirely the same for the most part, only with a modern twist and new setting. This modern spin on the novel however, is the key in allowing Heckering to be recognised as adapting the film, rather than her straight up copying Austen.
With Clueless already being an adaptation of Emma, it begs the question, should the film be left alone? This question has already been answered, as the adaptation has already been made into a TV series and also a collection of books both released in the mid-late 90s. More recently, a Broadway musical has been developed, set for release later this month. Disney actress Dove Cameron is set to replace Alicia Silverstone as the main character. This concept is already quite the mind fuck, like Russian dolls, as it’s an adaptation within an adaptation. Whilst the musical hasn’t been released yet, it will undoubtedly stray further and further from Austen’s Emma, as it tries to make a name for itself away from the original Clueless film.
If that wasn’t enough adapting for you already, the film is also being remade. A reboot film is being produced by Paramount pictures, the same studio who produced the original. It’ll be interesting to see how they’re able to change Clueless in a way that stays faithful but also adds something new, as simply adding Iphones and the internet won’t be enough. The film has already been angering loyal fans of the film, with many of them taking to twitter to express their anger. They want to film to be left in it’s original state, and leave it untouched, despite the argument being relevant to the original Clueless in terms of Austen. There is also the on-going debate as to whether it should become more accessible to a 21st century audience of if they should experience it as a 90s film. Loyal Austen fans likely felt the same when they found out that Emma was being adapted into a 90s High school film. Without either the musical or remake being released yet, the answer to this debate is unclear, however one thing is : These adaptations need to either credit the original more or have a lot more originality