With its 20th anniversary looming, I revisited one of my favourite teen films of the 90s - a comedy that proves teenagers can be just as dramatic as Shakespeare. How do I love ’10 Things I Hate About You’? Let me count the ways.
1. A tough female lead
From the opening moments of the film, pulling up next to a car full of her peers with ‘Bad Reputation’ by Joan Jett blasting from her car, it’s obvious that Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles, the ‘Bourne’ series) was not your average teen film heroine. Kat wore camo, listened to girl punk pop, wasn’t a virgin, and would back her car into yours if you tested her. Labelled a "tempestuous bitch" by her oblivious peers, Kat was an independent, take-no-shit role model for many girls growing up.
The numerous references to the Bard himself throughout the movie are a nod to the film's source material, the play ‘The Taming of The Shrew’. The film inspired other modern takes on Shakespeare, such as ‘Get Over It’ and ‘She’s the Man’. As a Shakespeare fan myself, I love seeing how his tales are retold and twisted in pop culture, and ’10 Things’ is one of my favourite incarnations of his work.
3. Young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Before he was the problematic ‘good guy’ in ‘(500) Days of Summer’, a baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt was shouting, "I burn, I pine, I perish!" in the middle of a schoolyard. Cameron starts the story as a shy guy who thinks he needs to scheme to get what he wants. Watching him realise his worth, stick to his good intentions and get the girl of his dreams as a result is one of the film’s most wholesome moments.
4. The soundtrack
A film as trendy as this one needs an appropriate soundtrack. The music of Semisonic, Save Ferris and The Cardigans are all featured in the film, but the best musical moments come from the band Letters to Cleo, who actually make guest appearances in the film at the school prom and, of all places, on the school’s rooftop, playing a sweet cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You To Want Me’ as the credits begin to roll.
5. Heath Ledger
To say that the supremely talented Heath Ledger was gone from the world far too soon is an understatement. His performance as Patrick Verona is as perfect as his smile. Who wouldn’t want to be serenaded on the school bleachers, school marching band in tow, in front of your entire P.E. class?
6. The house party scene
In a scene full of red cups and teenage destruction, Patrick gives Cameron one golden piece of advice: "Don't let anyone, ever, make you feel like you don't deserve what you want." It’s a line immortalised, along with Kat’s climactic poem, in the black-and-white-gif Tumblr culture we were all apart of at some point growing up.
7. Larry Miller
One could argue that Kat and Bianca’s overprotective father Walter gets the best laugh-out-loud moments of the film. The nightmare of teenagers anywhere with a misguided heart of gold, Walter putting a pregnancy suit on Bianca to remind her to make wise choices is a hilarious image I won’t forget any time soon.
8. The fashion
Seeing a Fiorucci angel t-shirt in this film sends me crashing straight back into the 90s, where clashing patterns, matching your shawl to your prom dress and platform flip flops are in. Fashion is very much a cycle, and it is fascinating to see which trends in the film have (chokers) and have not (Bianca’s ill-fitting prom crop top/skirt combo) been back in vogue since.
9. Joey’s idiocy
Bianca’s crush Joey isn’t the typical jerk jock one would expect from a film such as this; he’s also a dumb-as-bricks model. Just try watching him ask Bianca to give thoughts on two near identical headshots without laughing.
10. It’s timelessness
As easy as it would be to simply list all my favourite quotes – and there are many – my love for this film extends beyond what it’s done for expanding my reference vocabulary. It has been used in high schools as an entry point for studying Shakespeare for years, and with good reason - so many people remember this film fondly. It is a sweet, clever comedy that I will always treasure.