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Importance of Social Status in Emma and Clueless
Emma Woodhouse of the Jane Austen novel Emma, is part of the rich, upscale society of a well off village in nineteenth century England, while Cher Horowitz the main character of the movie version Clueless, lives in the upscale Beverly Hills of California. The Woodhouse family is very highly looked upon in Highbury, and Cher and her father are also viewed as the cultural elite. The abuse of power and wealth, arrogance, and a lack of acceptance all prove that the class status of these families plays a significant role in the shaping of both the novel and the video.
Emma and Cher both abuse the power of wealth and become spoiled, socially dominating, and overly confident with themselves. However, they both feel very comfortable in this lifestyle because of their possessions and social status. Jane Austen secures Emma in the very first paragraph of her novel. She states, "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 vex her" (Austen 1). Cher has everything a teenager could possibly want: her own jeep, an endless wardrobe, and amounts of money that seems to be collected from a money tree outside the backdoor.
Emma's arrogance shines through when she brags that she is exceptionally skillful at matching couples. She believes that she is in control of fate and must play matchmaker in order for couples to discover their true love. Austen confirms, "The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself" (Austen 1). Although Emma is so spoiled and overbearing, she truly doesn't realize this fact.
Likewise, an example of Cher's pompousness can be seen in the scene where she and Dionne are explaining to Tai how to become more popular. Cher states that she has already started to elevate her social status "due to the fact that you hang out with Dionne and I" (Clueless). Cher may be sympathetic to Tai, but she does so with conceitedness because she knows she is from a higher social class.
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Emma and Cher appear to have everything they could ever possibly want with their seemingly endless supply of money and power. Unfortunately, this prosperity becomes somewhat of a hindrance as they let it go straight to their heads. They acquire the idea that they are the perfect model for everyone in society. This misunderstanding causes Harriet and Tai to end their relationships with the men in which they are truly in love with. Unfortunately, Emma and Cher feel that their friends have made the best decision by ending their relationships. Now that they are single they are on their way to advancing their class status.
Cher decides to give Tai a complete make-over: new clothes, a different hairstyle, and even a toned body. Cher innocently believes that she is taking "that lost soul in there and making her well dressed and popular. Her life will be better because of me" (Clueless). Obviously Cher, like Emma, is not only helping out of the goodness of her heart, but she is also feeding her own self-esteem and pride.
According to Emma and Cher there are certain rules to be followed when it comes to dating and even marriage. Tai and Harriet are not allowed to see certain males and should only date the men Cher and Emma find suitable. Harriet is in love with Robert Martin, but she allows Emma to talk her out of her feelings for him. Emma feels that she could do so much better simply because he is from a lower class. Although Harriet has doubts as to whether Emma is right or not, she falls helpless and allows Emma to tear apart a love that was meant to be.
Neither of the girls have a maternal figure in their life to admire or view as a role model. Their fathers are their main caregivers and are the only family member in which either girl has to look up to. However, the fathers are always occupied with other matters leaving very little time to converse with their daughters. The lack of the "perfect couple" was shattered in each of their parents' lives. Emma and Cher attempt to make their friends enjoy the concept of the "perfect couple" by having them date men from a higher class instead of the men that they love. This presents Emma and Cher's feeling of superiority of members of the higher class.
Emma Woodhouse and Cher Horowitz live in two dramatically different time periods; however, they clearly live within the same world. Their world revolves around the abuse of power and wealth, arrogance, a lack of acceptance, and most importantly class. It is class that sets them apart from others and labels them as someone else.