Emma (2009)

| 10+
Cautions: some immodesty and mild sensuality, mild ethical confusion, and brief mild morbidity

Emma of 2009 is a longer but fuller adaptation of the nineteenth-century classic novel, reintroducing usually forgotten characters and subplots. Emma herself is friendly and unambitious but stubborn, with a talent for convincing people she’s right. Usually an unstoppable force of nature, Emma begins facing criticism from wiser friends, undue gratitude from weaker ones, and all the awkward consequences of playing with other people’s tastes, emotions and positions in a once quiet, small-town society.

2009 | Jim O'Hanlon | 4 episodes, 60 min each

Some Immodesty and Mild Sensuality

Women wear gowns that reveal more or less cleavage (usually less). Emma tells a young woman that she must look “demure, but at the same time alluring,” though nothing comes of this.

Engaged or married couples kiss a few times.

At a picnic, Emma allows a young man to lay his head in her lap while he spouts flattery to her. Neither of them actually intend this sensually or romantically, and both are negatively portrayed for it.

A character is said to be illegitimate.

Couples dance.

Mild Ethical Confusion

A negatively-portrayed character is a clergyman, and his inappropriate behavior is occasionally seen in the pulpit, though not associated with his vocation. He is spoken of in accurate, negative terms, without touching on his role as minister. At one point he describes “Let deceitful lips be made dumb” as some of the most spiritually uplifting words from the Old Testament (which, objectively, they are not). A viewer could interpret this as an imbalance on his part or on the Bible’s, but the former is more likely.

Emma offends a friend, repents, and tries to make amends and communicate affection, but is not actually seen apologizing.

A young woman destroys a memento of a man she loved, but only after he has been married to another for some time. The young woman is not portrayed as wise, generally, and she is not necessarily portrayed as having kept the memento that long deliberately.

A woman is rumored to have been fallen in love with by a married man, but nothing ultimately comes of the suggestion.

Brief Mild Morbidity

In episode one, an image of a woman’s smiling face transitions into an image of her lying dead in a coffin. Shortly after that, another woman is briefly seen, having just died, with her eyes open.


Emma has several obvious character defects which are resolved as the series progresses. Side characters also have miscellaneous character flaws, which are neither resolved nor approved.

Emma and another character regularly argue, at times intensely. The arguments are, however, always over Emma’s foolish behavior, which is gradually resolved.

Throughout the series, Emma’s father is portrayed as somewhat eccentric and paranoid about health-related issues (for instance, saying that opening a window is “remarkably reprehensible,” or hoping that a woman does not have children, because of the health risks to herself). He is portrayed as incorrect, but all of the characters, and especially Emma, clearly love and respect him.

The word “luck” is used in reference to positive circumstances, but not to positive forces. Emma once says, “Jane, Frank Churchill and I are bound together in a mysterious sort of way.” A side character refers to a place as a “ghost house”.

Emma calmly and sincerely “wish[es] to God” that she had not done something. “Oh my goodness” and “Oh my heavens” are used a couple of times.

A young man and woman (side characters) are seen chasing each other around the garden and swatting at each other with branches.

Emma sarcastically compares her relatively secluded life to “poor little pygmy people who never leave our fire.”

Emma is briefly shown distracted in church.

Characters drink wine and beer. The behavior of a negatively-portrayed character is suggested to have been influenced by wine.

References to “reserve” as a negative character trait are made, but in the context of deliberate unsociability and secrecy.

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