Emma, Disapproved

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Richard Goulter
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Emma Approved’s most recent video, Boxx Hill gets us up to date with the part of Emma where they go to Box Hill. (Ohhh, now that makes much more sense).

Jane comes in and sets Emma down; (you go girl? I don’t recall this part in the book, though Jane does opt to snob Emma). Then Knightly comes in and knocks Emma down further; it’s emotional, where you think these two should be great companions, and they fight like this.

It’s at least partly satisfying when Knightly comes in with all his superior character and does it, as a way of “improving” Emma’s person, where she’s been such a twad. But I remember this part in the book a bit differently. (Volume III, Chapter VII):

“Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?—Emma, I had not thought it possible.”

Emma then tries to laugh it off a bit, and that when she mocked Miss Bates it was kindof true, how awful Miss Bates is. (As I suspected, Emma Approved is somewhat tamer than the book; in the book, Emma calls Miss Bates annoying for talking too much, insulting her character, rather than merely insulting homemade jams). But it’s still fairly clear that Emma feels really bad about learning how badly Miss Bates was wounded:

He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted, and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern.

So.. while it is kindof a satisfying part of the Emma narrative to see Emma so humbled, the video misconstrues the character here. In the book, and in renditions like Clueless or Emma Approved, Emma is quite an annoying twit who thinks she knows better than she does. But by denying apparent remorse to the character – Emma Approved’s Emma feels bad for disappointing her friends, rather than for doing wrong – it makes Emma more purely an annoying twit, rather than a person of good character whose attitude has been a bit malformed by being spoiled.

That’s no great sin. And eventually even Emma Approved’s Emma will be given some kind of redemption of character. But having a character who’s both “a good person” and “quite a twit” is more sophisticated than having someone who’s purely “quite a twit”, so this simplification is a bit of a shame.

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