As both writer and director, Amy Heckerling ingeniously reworked Jane Austen's novel Emma for a modern day audience, simultaneously managing to offer a more gentle picture of the Beverly Hills teen and satirizing teen films as a genre.
Cher Horowitz is based on Emma Woodhouse. Both characters are from the high society of their time, both are enthusiastic matchmakers and both like others to see things from their perspective. Austen's book influences every character: Hecketlung cleverly modernizes Henry Woodhouse into Mr Horowitz, both caring and somewhat over protective fathers. Austen's Mr Elton becomes Elton, inveterate snobs both. Their situations are similar in that both Emma and Cher try to pair them up with newcomers whom they take under their wing and try to mold into a reflection of themselves.
Throughout Clueless Heckerling reworks snippets of the plot of Emma, using the dance as a focal point for romantic machinations. In Emma the dance draws Harriet and Knightly together; Heckerling's party scene mirrors this. Both Emma and Clueless contain satire that is used by both writers to comment on their respective societies. Heckerling has said that she took the take of a spoilt child in nineteenth century England who thinks she knows everything and transformed her into the movie Clueless. In both stories the main characters deceive themselves into thinking that they can manage others lives much more adeptly than they can, although Clueless's Cher is a far more likeable character than Austen's Emma, a fact Hecketlung attributed to the fact that whatever is newer is essentially more attractive.