10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Comparing / Contrast the use of teen conventions in 'Juno' and '10 things I  hate about you'-Minoo Mirzaei | dynamicproduction
Life Lessons from "10 Things I Hate About You" | Teen Vogue
Is 10 Things I Hate About You Being Revived? – SheKnows
10 Things I Hate About You': When Heath Ledger Was Just Breaking Through -  The New York Times
Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Twitter: "Me w/ Heath Ledger and @mrDaveKrumholtz  in 10 Things I Hate About You.. https://t.co/kF5Ya3S6GV… "

Shakespeare Series #5:

“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) directed by Gil Junger (his directorial debut at the time), is one of the most beloved teen-comedies of its time and one of the most memorial adaptations to take on one of Shakespeare’s classic plays in the high school setting. Much of this is due to the unrelenting charm of Heath Ledger (who plays Patrick Verona), but there is plenty to be said about the wisecrack writing, the fun soundtrack and the stacked cast.

The story is based on “The Taming of the Shrew” which, of course, is a difficult one to revamp without laying heavy into the sexism and misogynic principles that govern that entire story: it is about an unruly woman, Katherina, who must be tamed by a suitor, Petruchio. The Wikipedia description actually says “Petruchio “tames” her with various psychological torments, such as keeping her from eating and drinking, until she becomes a desirable, compliant, and obedient bride.” Where does one start? That being said, the one aspect of using this play as source material over some of the others is that is a comedy through and through, making it much more adaptable for the modern fare.

Bringing us to late 1990’s Seattle (home of the birth of grunge), we are introduced to the characters through the plot device of new kid in school, Cameron (Joseph Gordon Levitt), is being toured around by the AV clubs honor student, Michael (David Krumholtz). Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) is the schools most popular sophomore – evidenced by the schools playboy Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) eying her aggressively after his buddy announces “virgin alert” as she passes by. Meanwhile, her sister is the schools “Rumpolian wretch herself” Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) who spends her time reading enjoying “Thai food, feminist prose, and angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion.” In order for someone to take Bianca out on a date, Kat must go on one first, according to their fathers high standards, and therefore, the thirsty boys of the school concoct a plan to make this happen: Cameron and Michael convince Joey Donner to pay Patrick Verona to take out Kat. Meanwhile, Cameron is going to be tutoring Bianca to try to get in her good graces, while letting Joey think that they came up with the idea to just get in his good graces. Patrick will jump through hoops trying to score a chance with Kat, but when he begins to fall for her, he runs the risk of messing up the scheme.

It is a clever update on an aged tale, and manages to develop a plot with enough convoluted character dynamics to make Shakespeare purists proud. There are still plenty of problems with the script that fall in line with many of the films of this era – especially the romantic comedy genre – but it holds up in the hearts of most viewers and remains one of the most celebrated 1990’s hits.

What Worked:

  • The soundtrack and how it added to the story.
    • This film came at a moment in time that was characterized by grunge and hip hop, and I appreciate that though Kat Stratford is written as a lover of riot girl music (as she 100% would be), they still properly used Julia Stiles and her well-known ability to dance (predominantly to hip hop) by giving her that on-the-table party scene when she was drunk. It doesn’t take away from the plot, but adds to it and does it in a way that elevates the storyline because it finally humanizes her character a little bit and allows her to mess up and act in an immature way – instead of doing her part to enjoy the party that she agreed to go to, and get to know her date, she decides to “get trashed, man – isn’t that what people do at parties?” It also gave way to two different notable choices that the film made that deserve to be discussed:
      1. When Joey Donner sees Kat dancing on the table at the party, he is ecstatic. He claims that Patrick got her to “act like a human” and then runs over to cheer. However, like a typical misogynist, he is the first to publicly shame her about her behavior the second that they are back at school. “How was everyone’s weekend?” “You should ask Kat.” *high-fives fellow meat heads* An annoying, but accurate character moment.
      2. Gives Patrick Verona the opportunity to stand out as a decent person when he doesn’t try to sleep with her or even kiss her because she is drunk (yes, our standards for men in 1990’s rom coms are very low). It is nice that the screenwriters decided to take this route to show that his morals don’t reflect his outward persona, however, they dropped off in their convictions when they refused to write any proper conversation following up that behavior. Instead of Kat and Patrick to acknowledge that this is what happened, so he can use his words to resolve conflict and she can understand his intentions, he sings. Though, I – along with everyone else – love this scene (where Heath Ledger sings the Frankie Valli “I Love You Baby” while running across the bleachers), it would have been better if there was more acknowledgment of what actually happened there, especially considering the cultural problem of people taking advantage of others when alcohol or drugs are involved (culminating with the more recent MeToo Movement).
Kat closing her eyes BEFORE the kiss. Learn from this.
  • I also want to give a special shout out to the incredible use of the song “Sexy Boy” by Air.
  • The vocabulary. Every single character in this film is written with unique and superior diction (probably almost too superior for some of our lesser intellectual characters), but it makes for some really quotable lines: “What did I miss?” “The oppressive patriarchal values that dictate our education.” “Good.” *Leaves*
    “I’ll let you get back to Reginald’s quivering member.”
    “Have you seen the unwashed miscreants that go to that school?”
    “She’s a mutant!”
  • Allison Janney. Her character here is hilarious. It can be seen as problematic for a few reasons: at best, it is ageist that the woman who is older than 30 is written as desperate and horny; at worst, highly inappropriate that she is a high school counselor and takes a long look at 17 year old students package… “Bratwurst… aren’t we the optimist?” However, it is worth noting that the character was likely not written to be either of those things with malintent. It is comical that a schools counselor who is surrounded by young peoples raging hormones and is stuck in an office all day, spends all of her time typing up an explicit romantic novel. The entire concept is unique and Allison Janney is hilarious, so her performance here is incredibly memorable. I am constantly thinking about the line: “Same little ass wipe shit for brains everywhere” while she flips the bird out the window.
  • The anonymous song that plays every time that Joey Donner enters on screen in his car. Yes, he has his own entrance music. (Was unable to add the videos here, but have put them in my Instagram highlights under this movie in the Shakespeare Series).
  • The scene when Michael and Cameron are walking through the bar, and Michael PICKS UP THE BILLIARDS BALL that someone was trying to hit, gives it a single toss in his hand, trying to be cool, and then puts it back down. IMAGINE. Unreal.
  • All the moments when the gym teacher inexplicably gets brutally hurt (first an arrow, then a golf ball) and no one acknowledges it. This goes into the general incredibly random and bizarre humor that adds to the film.
  • The hilarious subcultures included that are so extreme. There is one callout to the Rastafarian white guys mentioned in the film, but Bustle pointed out the COWBOYS!
  • Has anyone ever talked about the parallels this film has to Disney’s 2013 hit “Frozen”? Welp, here goes:
    • Two sisters who misunderstand each other.
    • The older one is inexplicably a shut-in, and therefore, the younger one is forced to that reclusive life as well.
    • The reason the older sister is oppressive of her younger sister is because she is trying to protect her based on a traumatic experience that happened in the past.
    • There’s romance, but in the end, the two are brought together despite the chaos and the younger one is empowered by the older one.
  • The father played by Larry Miller is hilarious to me, and he is given so many excellent one liners. He is a terrible dad, but this will live in my memory rent free forever.
Pin on Laughs
  • This almost goes without saying, but the film has the lasting impact it has almost solely because of Heath Ledger’s presence in the film. It is his breakout Hollywood role (prior to this had just worked on small Australian soap operas) and he was only 19 years old (though, he looked much older than all the characters). His effortless charm, wirey curls and Cheshire smile can be frozen in time with this film and we are all thankful for it. At one point Gil Junger told NYTimes, “and I thought to myself, ‘If this guy can read, I’m going to cast him.’ There was an energy to him, a sexuality that was palpable.” He brought so much more to that screen, though, and, of course, was able to showcase his talent over and over in a short-lived, but electric career that spanned until his untimely passing at only 28 years old. **Will update with a link to my more thorough write-up on his life, which is coming up – part of my 28th birthday celebration series.
Pin on Eye candy

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Cameron. Sorry, JGL, but Cameron is the most nagging, annoying character of all. He is so self-absorbed, entitled and delusional. It perpetuates the trope that if men just ignore women who say “no” and do everything they can to wear them down, they will be rewarded. Also, I would be so irritated if I got a new French tutor because I needed to, I don’t know, get better at speaking French! And 4 seconds in, he asked me on a date. Get out! Also, it is very confusing why Cameron is so surprised that Bianca wanted to hang out with Joey Donner instead of him at the party when he knew that Joey was pursuing her as well. He could have just approached her as a kind friend at the party, and the outcome may have been the same. To make matters worse, when Patrick is trying to help Kat who is about to pass out drunk with a possible concussion (truly a possible emergency), Cameron interrupts and finally says with clear irritation, “UH, CAN YOU GIVE ME A SECOND?” it does nothing but exemplify his obnoxiousness and inconsiderate nature. The good news is that it at the very least created the the opportunity for Heath Ledger to deliver one of the most quoted lines of the whole film: “Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want!” It still needs to be said that Cameron is no hero in this film. Also, why are we supposed to feel for him for falling for a woman because she is hot and popular, despite her being vapid and unintelligent, instead of learning to get to know girls with his actual similar interests? We are supposed to cheer for him because he’s a “nice guy,” but we are given zero examples of him being any “nicer” than any of the other boys in the high school slobbering over Bianca because of how she looks.
  • The complete and total lack of fully fleshed out people of color and LGTBQ characters in this film, and the shameful under-use of Gabriel Union (who they decide is going to turn on her friend and act like a monster???) and Daryll Mitchell (who played English teacher Mr. Morgan). There should have been so much Mr. Morgan!
  • The general themes of rewarding bad behavior in men (which I mentioned previously in this write-up) and never forcing them to grow or learn to better communicate:
    • Patrick Verona does a hideous thing of taking money to date a girl, and he never properly apologizes. He buys her a guitar. They somewhat address this – “You can’t just buy me a guitar every time you mess up, you know” “I know… but then there is always bass, drums, and maybe one day a tambourine” – an undoubtedly great line, but let’s move past the era where men are continually absolved for their behavior with nothing but a meager apology, if one at all (see: “She’s All That,” “Two Weeks Notice,” “A Cinderella Story,” “Runaway Bride,” and so on).
  • The general concept and underlying story that Kat needs to be the one to change in this scenario. She should be encouraged to prioritize her studies, her sports, her side passions like the concerts she enjoy sand reading Sylvia Plath, and working hard to get into college. There is an overarching tone that she is still the “shrew” here for being independent. The film never really lightens on this idea, they just have her fall in love and alludes to the argument that her heart has been softened by a guy, when it would be more accurate to healthy outcomes for him to actually become a better person and elevate himself to her level, instead of just tricking her into spending time with him.
Her Badass Taste In Music | Angry girl, Favorite movie quotes, Girls music
  • The scene where she flashes her teacher is also problematic. Namely, it goes against all of Kat’s beliefs. You could make an argument for the fact that her beliefs are more in line with not caring what people think, more than her angry feminism, but it still feels out of line with her character to pull her shirt up and use her body in this way to get a man out of detention.
  • I know that the poem at the end is a crowd favorite, but wow, it is not good. First off, what Shakespearean reference is this? Isn’t that supposed to be the assignment? Second, I feel like they did not hang out enough for this level of detail about him to even make sense and why make her cry in front of the whole class! I would have so much rather her said something VAGUELY reminiscent of their situation, while still pertaining to the actual assignment (a sonnet about the feminist issues with the play “The Taming of the Shrew” and her plight to be respected by men while holding her own independence, and general disappointment of what happened when she tried to “soften up” and let someone in. It just feels so unbearably cringey this way. All that I can think about every time I see it is what were the other kids in class doing?! I’m so uncomfortable thinking about it.
  • Why is there a professional server bringing shots around the party?
  • If you listen to “The Bechdel Cast” I want to give a shoutout to that podcast for hilariously pointing out that during the scene where Heath Ledger’s character says, “You’re telling me I’m not a pretty guy?” if it were a woman, it would have resulted in a makeover scene that is actually a nauseating trope. He “projects a confidence that is never given to female teenage girls.” LINK TO THEIR EPISODE AT BOTTOM OF PAGE.
Allison Janney Forgot She Was In "10 Things I Hate About You" And I'm  Gobsmacked
I Rewatched "10 Things" As An Adult And It's Definitely The Best Teen Movie  Ever
10 Things I Hate About You GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
Guilty as charged.
Petition for the deleted / behind the scenes shots of Heath Ledger wearing leather pants from his debut at Club Skunk.

Fun Facts:

  1. David Krumholtz (AV Club Michael in the film) loved the experience of being a part of this film so much that he wrote a piece for Vulture about it in 2016.
    “Joseph Gordon-Levitt turned me on to Phish, and I turned him on to Wu-Tang,” the actor wrote. “Gabrielle Union had us in stitches, Julia Stiles brought her own brand of SoHo-bred artistic intellectualism (at only 17, mind you), Larisa Oleynik’s laughter filled the room, and we marveled at the tonedness of Andrew Keegan’s muscles (a great sport!).” He went on to say that Heath Ledger was then added, and being late, they were worried that could change the dynamic, but it only got stronger. “But it was Heath — a natural storyteller, and always reliable for a cheesy joke — who transfixed us.

2. The final credits include a helicopter shot of a rooftop performance of the band Letters to Cleo, & it was apparently terrifying for the performers.

The setting of the film at Padua High School (which was filmed at actual impressive looking high school in Washington called Stadium High School) and the final shot has the band performing on the roof.
“So they told us, ‘This is a helicopter shot, and it costs $500,000 every time the helicopter has to take off, so don’t fck this up!’” Hanley recalled. “As we started playing we saw the helicopter appear, off in the distance. It’s hard to say how far away it was at first, because we were so high up in the air. But then all of a sudden the helicopter does this dive bomb directly toward us! Is the helicopter out of control? Is it supposed to be coming at us like this? And I’m thinking, ‘Don’t fck up, keep singing the song, don’t f*ck up, it costs 500 grand every time the copter takes off.’ It was unbelievably scary—but it turned out to be such an amazing shot.”
Also, the crew did not have permission from the production company (Disney) to film on the roof because it was too expensive but the director decided to do it anyway.

high school 10 things i hate about you
band on roof 10 things i hate about you

3. The film premiered just months before “The West Wing” made Allison Janney a household name.
Making her performance as Ms. Perky even more iconic, this was just right before she achieved unanimous acclaim as C.J. Cregg on Aaron Sorkin’s political drama. She has since gone on to continue to bolster her delightful filmography with unique characters such as LaVona Golden (Tonya Harding’s mom) in “I, Tonya” for which she won an Oscar, Bren MacGuff (Juno’s stepmother in “Juno”), Susan Estrich (Roger Ailes lawyer) in “Bombshell,” Charlotte Phelan, (mother to Skeeter Phelan, the film’s heroine) in “The Help.”

Allison Janney Is One Tough Mother in 'I, Tonya' | Time
Allison Janney in “I, Tonya”

4. Kate Hudson could have almost been Bianca Stratford.

Hudson was close to getting the part, but she ultimately passed because her mom (Goldie Hawn) didn’t like the script for her. Instead of playing the vapid popular girl, Hudson took on the role of Penny Lane in “Almost Famous” one year later, which resulted in her Oscar win. Goldie knows best!

5. The film was written by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah who were inspired by the success of “Clueless” a few years prior, which also got its foundation from classic literature.

“Clueless” was inspired by Jane Austen’s “Emma,” and that successful framework ultimately led McCullah and Smith to adapt “The Taming of the Shrew.”

After “10 Things I Hate About You,” the writing duo went on to create classic rom-coms like “Legally Blonde,” “Ella Enchanted,” “She’s the Man,” and “The House Bunny.”

Costumes/Costume Ideas:

I can never find the journalists names on articles from “Hello Giggles,” but this has a thoughtful breakdown on the various 90’s girl looks that are captured in the film.

However, if you want to go with a truly memorable, albeit ridiculous, look from the film, the obvious choice is Bianca’s prom dress, as pictured below.


Of course, you could also always go with Sketchers and a Prada backpack.

23 Iconic 10 Things I Hate About You Moments

Film Food and/or Drink Pairings:

“Must be Nigel with the brie!” Let’s go with that.

Sources: Most are linked when discussed throughout the article, but I also listened to this podcast which I highly recommend, as they break down the film from a feminist lens.


One response to “10 Things I Hate About You (1999)”

  1. […] throughout, as she seems slightly older and more grown than her previous two roles in “10 Things I Hate About You” and […]


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