“You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” – Tai Frasier

I have watched Clueless probably 5 times in the past 5 years, but after watching and dissecting Emma, it makes sense in a completely different way! Out of context, it was fantastic, but with this new information, I have a new appreciation for the way the original Emma was adapted. All of the main dynamics that existed within both Much Ado About Nothing and Clueless remained in this 1995 film: the brother and sister relationship (Beatrice and Benedick, Emma and Knightley, Cher and Josh), the witty banter between the two characters, the idea of class (or popularity), the relationship of support between most female characters, and even some similar character names (i.e. Elton).

Overall, I was most intrigued by the dynamics of privilege within the story. When looking at privilege in Much Ado About Nothing or even Emma, the difference in country and time period makes it feel more distant. Put in the framework of our modern time, it becomes much more relevant but not for every one per se. Don’t get me wrong, I love Clueless and have laughed at it for years, but now I see how large a role white privilege and class play in the way that characters are perceived and discussed throughout the film. Thinking about our own adaptation of it, I want to see how having a more diverse cast and progressive student planning group can help us make the product even better and more relevant to our modern audiences!

4 comments

  1. It is definitely a new experience watching Clueless, a movie I grew up loving in my early-teen years, to now dissecting it in this new context. I agree that seeing Much Ado and Emma being played out in a more modern context creates a more accessible connection to the themes and tropes addressed in Much Ado. Seeing the way class division and white privilege were concepts more clearly exposed in Clueless, I agree that now, in 2020, we can do even more to analyze, tackle, and deconstruct these issues in our adaptation.

  2. What I liked about. the version of Emma that we watched is that there are discussions of class and your role within that class, while Much Ado never addresses them. Granted, the discussion of class is very dated, and often problematic, but it is talked about. Clueless feels unaccessible at times because Cher’s life is so far off from my personal experience, and I agree I think it is an important conversation to have in our production.

  3. For so long, I thought of Shakespeare’s world as a incomparable, distant world. I mean it’s 1600’s England, obviously life is different 400-some years later, right? Even Emma’s world seemed a little too far for reach. But after seeing and relating Much Ado and Emma to Clueless, I now see how the lessons explored in Shakespeare’s world translate to the 90’s and even today. Clueless definitely introduces the added layer of white privilege within the story (why are the Beatrice and Benedick foils of D and Murray the ones who fight all the time and the comment Cher makes about her maid and her gardener…CRINGE) which I think makes it all the more important and attentive to real problems today.

  4. I also think there is an interesting correlation between Dionne and Hero. Both are characters that take the backseat compared to their counterparts. The most interesting part to me is how it manifests itself in terms of race in Clueless, as Dionne is a black woman in the 90s. I wonder how much of the casting for that role had to be someone of an identity that could take a backseat to Cher.

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