Why Hero/Harriet/Tai Should Not Be Clueless

I agree in part with Glen Weldon’s comment from the NPR podcast, “the more you feel for the “Harriet” character the better the adaptation becomes”. I had not considered this point before listening to this podcast, however, this comment has allowed me to think differently about the various adaptations we have seen. In a way the Hero/Harriet/Tai characters we have seen are clueless, however, I believe the more they know about feminism and their independence, the more likable they could be.

When reading the original play, Hero’s character came off as extremely submissive to the gender roles imprinted on her by social norms as well as her acquaintances. She was likely raised with the understanding that she must marry well and this will bring her happiness. Therefore, throughout the play, we do not hear much from her and she is perceived to play into the norms of her time. From a modern perspective, this was frustrating to read as she did not fight for her freedom or reputation when needed.

The character of Hero from the Shakespeare in the Park version was much more animated and personable, however still submissive to the social norms. Her happiness was contingent upon her marriage with Claudio but, she had more of a personality and expressed her emotions, which in turn made her a more agreeable character.

Harriet from “Emma” was, again, quiet and submissive to the social norms. She was rather innocent and Emma helped to guide her in her decisions regarding marriages. However, I do think that she was less likable because of her inability to gain independence and stand up for herself.

Clueless has a fresh take on this character by introducing Tai. Tai, like Weldon, said is much more likable, thus changing the rhythm of this adaptation. At first, Tai falls subject to Cher’s “guidance” and or manipulation. However, she ends up with Travis, showing that this character adaptation has more independence and values her own feelings.

Comparing these characters has allowed me to determine that the ones I find more “likable” are those who speak up for themselves and find happiness in their own ways. I understand that the character’s ability to speak up is contingent upon the era they are in, however, Hero and Harriet continued to irritate me. When we are creating our Hero character I think we should make her understand her ability to choose for herself through lessons she learns. In a sense, making her less “clueless”, and more independent.

4 comments

  1. I agree with your arguement, I think the characters are easier to like when they are independent and stand up for themselves, there is a sense of girl power. I think because of this, there was a good representation of how women have gained more independence and confidence over time. Although Emma was made in 2020, it stayed with its historical time period of the book, but Clueless gives us a more modern take on how women act in society.

  2. I love your idea of making these characters a bit less clueless — especially if we continue to put a modern take on our class adaptation. Even if they may begin a little clueless, I want to see them grow and learn for themselves how to use their voice and be a strong woman.

  3. I love the idea that you can see the development of feminism through various adaptations of Hero/Harriet/Tai. Hero is a someone you pity, because she seems without agency, but Tai in contrast has a fierce personality, and seems to relatable in comparison to the sometimes bland Hero.

  4. The point about the portrayal of Harriet making or breaking an adaptation of Emma also stood out to me. When I watch movies, especially movies that tackle gender as a theme/lesson, I find myself in a battle between sympathizing for the quiet, more submissive female character and cheering on the girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (aka Emma v. Harriet and Cher v. Tai). The main difference I noticed between Emma and Cher is that Emma is straight up mean, whereas Cher hides her bluntness under a cover of cluelessness which leans into that sympathizing/cheering on battle going on in my head while watching the movie.

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