10 Things I Hate About Shrew

Gil Junger's "10 Things I Hate About You"

10 Things I Hate About You, a film directed by Gil Junger, is a teen culture classic that is still watched nearly 20 years after its release date.  The film is based on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, but has been appropriated to suit the audience and context of 1990’s America. America at the end of the 20th century had changed significantly from the 17th century. Technology played a huge part in life (film, television, the internet etc.), the “free love” of the 60’s had evolved views on sex out of marriage and females had gained a lot of independence and power throughout the 70’s. As apposed the the first wave of feminism (1800's) which focused on legal boundaries for women, the second wave of feminism (60's-70's) sought to remove any inequalities that women experienced. The plot is based heavily on that of Shakespeare’s original, but has been heavily adapted to suit the 1990's society.  The film explores the ideas of dating, individualism and trust. In contrast to The Taming of the Shrew, the context in which 10 Things I Hate About You was created promotes female independence and control (resulting from the feminist movement), a huge societal evolution that impacts texts created so far apart. Although set in a time of feminine power, the film still results to traditional views on dating and the archetypal “knight in shining armour” that every girl should find. With previous sexist views aside, and further use of the five elements of fiction writing; plot, characters, setting, theme and style, The Taming of the Shrew has been transformed into a teenage classic, in the form of 10 Things I Hate About You.

Dating; an unavoidable element of teenage life, often something teenagers feel pressured into doing. This is no different in 10 Things I Hate About You. The film is set in a 1990's American high school, Padua Stadium High School. The use of setting by the writers of the film, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kristen Smith, are effective in expressing the obsessions 90’s teenage American’s had with labelling their relationships. In The Taming of the Shrew (created in the 1500’s), marriage is a union of relationship that the contextual society obsessed over. In 10 Things I Hate About You (released in the late 1990’s), this has been appropriated, and dating has become a form of relationship that everyone obsesses over, especially in high school. Dating is shown as a result of peer pressure, Bianca constantly states, “I’m the only girl in school that doesn’t date”. She feels pressured by her friends, and the boy that is constantly asking her on dates, to “fit in” to teenage culture. The setting, representative of the context of the film, and theme of dating constitute the basis of the plot of 10 Things I Hate About You. The film tells the story of the Stratford sisters, Michael explains “It is a widely known fact that the Stratford sisters don’t date”. Bianca desperately wants to date, but is only allowed to when Kat does. Kat doesn’t want to date, so Bianca and Cameron attempt to find someone to take Kat on a date, Patrick.
The plot of the film reaches its complication when Kat discovers that Patrick is being paid to go out with her. This is resolved after they apologise to each other, and the film finishes stereotypically happy. The film's plot borrows heavily from that of The Taming of the Shrew, following a similar structure and timeline. The plot is simple, but achieves its desired result… entertainment.

The value of individualism is another theme explored intensely throughout the film, journeying through various forms and perceptions of individualism. The character that the journey is taken through is Kat. Kat is a very strong, independent and externally confident young woman. She is cynical about many things, and does not believe she needs to conform to the vapid teenage culture that surrounds her, maintaining, “You forget I don’t care what other people think”. She particularly dislikes her sister’s willingness to fit in and tells Bianca, “You don’t always have to be what other people want you to be”. The characterisation that occurs within the film is directly linked to the extreme individualism that Kat portrays, and how it evolves as her relationship with Patrick does. Kat is the protagonist of the text, with nearly every other character appearing to be an antagonist or foil to her perfect “I don’t give a crap” world. It is evident from the opening scene of the movie, a low angle shot of Kat’s beaten up car and loud punk rock, non-diegetic music originating from it, that Kat doesn’t fit in, and appears to not care. The style of film that Gil Junger has created is not un-unique to the teenage romance genre, a fairy tale ending with bumps along the way. The tone is mainly happy, but becomes serious, as Kat doubts herself and her individualism when she gets closer to Patrick. Kat’s individualism is a representation of the freedom available to women of the western world (America, Australia, majority of Europe) in the 1990’s, oppression from a patriarchal society no longer a key issue.

The fundamental elements of relationships are common themes explored in Shakespeare’s works, and their appropriations. Just as The Taming of the Shrew investigates the importance of loyalty, 10 Things I Hate About You reconnoitres trust in relationships. The film shows evidence of both trusting relationships, and untrusting relationships. Trust is one of the major themes within the film, expressing the advantages of maintaining it within relationships. Representative of the discriminatory attitudes held towards teenagers, Mr Stratford’s lack of trust for his daughters is disappointing; as it limits the opportunities Kat and Bianca have for life lessons and chances to have some fun. The lack of trust he possess for his children is highlighted when they wish to go to a party, and before sending them off he states, “No drinking, no drugs, no kissing, no tattoos, no piercings, no ritual animal slaughters of any kind.” Mr Stratford assumes that his daughters will engage in stereotypical “teenage” activities, and has absolutely no confidence in their judgement. Trust forms the platform for all of the lasting relationships within the film – Kat and Patrick, Bianca and Cameron, Mr Stratford and his daughters.

In conclusion, the culture and context of 1990’s America influenced the appropriation of The Taming of the Shrew, to become 10 Things I Hate About You. The increase in female freedom and independence impacts heavily on the portrayal of females in the film, resulting in a film that explores themes such as trust, the value of individuality and dating. The film strays away from its misogynistic basis (The Taming of the Shrew) and strives to entertain the audiences for which it is intended, 1990’s American teenagers, by portraying common problems they would be experiencing through another perspective.