So, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to preface this post by saying that I saw Clueless for the first time this past summer, and I was totally blown away. So, reading Much Ado About Nothing and watching Emma now before revisiting Clueless has me, well, still blown away by Clueless. It is at the same time perfectly 90s while currently relevant, distant from my perspective yet totally relatable, and devastatingly witty while emotionally satisfying. I felt this way after watching it for the first time, and I could not understand what it was about Clueless that appealed to me so much. But, after studying Much Ado and Emma, I get it. We like stories because they make sense to us. In the sea of chaos and mystery that is real life, stories are like a warm blanket telling us that everything can be okay.
You could argue that it’s all just entertainment, but why are we entertained? Sure, sometimes it’s because of fast cars and furious explosions, but usually, it’s because we see something in the play, television show, movie, or book that means something in the context of our own lives. We have a Beatrice and Benedick in our lives, or a Tai, or a Mr. Elton. Or maybe we’re one of those characters! And these stories mean so much to us because they tend to work out in the end. That tells us that our lives, too, can work out in the end. Even when the stories don’t have a ‘happy ending,’ they typically have some message that life goes on, even without a ‘happy ending.’
The stories are endless. Clueless is based on Emma, which is based on Much Ado About Nothing, which is likely based on another, older story as well. This is why we can always find something that relates to our lives. Maybe Much Ado About Nothing and Emma didn’t click for you, because of the time period and outdated language and norms. But Clueless feels worlds closer, because it’s set in an era with which you are familiar, with language and norms that still exist in our modern world. But even if Clueless was still too distant, maybe you could set an adaptation of Clueless at a small liberal arts college. All of the characters and scenarios could just as easily play out in our lives here at the University of Richmond as they do in Messina, Highbury, or Beverly Hills.