Sometimes we struggle to empathize with a heroine who was created hundreds of years ago. Yes, we all know loss, longing and love. It can be difficult, however, for a modern woman to understand the rules of behavior the heroine is obligated to follow. Who cares if the literary character cut off her hair for money? What do you mean the heroine’s matrimonial prospects are limited thanks to a sister running off with a man? And when is this heroine going to stop caring about what people think?
A reader may not remember the last time they worried about such things. Did it ever matter so much to fit in? Maybe when they were in high school.
High school is a small world governed by unwritten and evolving expectations. But one thing never changes: popularity is power. And in a romance set in high school, the heroine’s social standing determines her dating pool. If she’s an outcast, her one true love might be out of reach.
So when Hollywood updates these classic stories, it makes sense to set them in high school. The viewer understands why appearance, association and access are so important. They instinctively know the risk the heroine is taking when she breaks the rules.
Feel like watching some classics with a contemporary twist? Here are three romantic comedies that will make you a little nostalgic about your school days.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999) starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger: Adapted from William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, “a pretty, popular teenager can’t go out on a date until her ill-tempered older sister does.” (IMDb.com) Fortunately, the movie ends the story at a different point than the play.
Clueless (1995) starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd: Based on Emma by Jane Austen, this classic movie is about how “a rich high school student tries to boost a new pupil’s popularity, but reckons without affairs of the heart getting in the way.” (IMDb.com) I think I enjoy this version over the faithful Regency period movies.
Easy A (2010) starring Emma Stone and Penn Badgley. Inspired by the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic The Scarlet Letter, this romantic comedy is about “a clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.” (IMDb.com) The story is light on the romance but delivers on the humor.