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‘10 Things I Hate About You’ is still a classic 20 years later

This romantic-comedy remains a timeless tale

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‘10 Things I Hate About You’ is still a classic 20 years later

(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

By Lauren LaMagna, Assistant Arts Editor

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The 1990s and early 2000s developed a new trend in cinema: Shakespeare for young adults. Across the nation, American cinema started creating films based on Shakespeare’s classic work, but directed for teenagers. Some of these films were actual adaptations like 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet” staring a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Others were modern stories based around Shakespeare’s plays like the 2006 romantic comedy “She’s the Man” where Viola (Amanda Bynes) pretends to be a man in order to play on the soccer team. It’s funny and cute, and based on the classic play “Twelfth Night.” Most of the films were box office and critical successes, but out of all of these romantic comedy Shakespeare treasures, none of them shined as bright as 1999’s “10 Things I Hate About You” which turned 20 years old on March 31.

The film is based on Shakespeare’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew.” The premise involves Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), the most beautiful woman in town, who is not allowed to get married until her older sister Katherina does. The only problem is that Katherina (Julia Stiles) is too headstrong and has no interest in getting married. The film follows the same plotline but bases the characters in a modern California high school. Now, Bianca is the most beautiful girl in the school but isn’t allowed to date until her sister does, who again, would rather watch paint dry than spend time with a boy. So Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) convinces Patrick (the late Heath Ledger), the toughest boy in the school, to date Kat so he can ask Bianca to the prom.

Unlike today’s retellings, the film doesn’t seem like a Shakespearian adaption. There are no period costumes or Shakespearian verses unless they’re coming from the drama club. Screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith and director Gil Junger perfectly fit the story in the modern day. Instead of dramatic Shakespearian dialogue, there’s clever jokes filled with teenage angst. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, you may still love the movie and fall in love with the characters. You would want to play soccer with Kat, or fall in love with Patrick. However, if you are a fan of the British playwright, there are little Easter eggs that would put a smile on your face. This adaption is completely its own and stands perfectly by itself, which also shows how Shakespeare’s work truly is universal and timeless.

“10 Things I Hate About You” is a film that falls under the category of the modern teenage romantic comedy based on Shakespearian literature, but it is more than that. It was a smart and thought-provoking, feel-good film that captures what it was like to be a teenager, both in 1999 and 2019. It is full of young spirit, as it was the first film written by McCullah and Smith (they would later write other classic comedies like “Legally Blonde,” “House Bunny” and “She’s the Man”). The film was truly ahead of its time, for while the characters talked about unrequited love and how hard the French test was, they also spoke about important concepts like gender and sexual politics. This mostly came from the female lead Kat, who makes it a point for everyone in the school to know that she has no interest in boys because in doing so, she’ll give up her power. This is why she is considered a “loner,” a “shrew” and “scary.” Kat is not afraid to speak her mind and offend people in doing so. She says what she says because she knows that she is right, even if it means not having a lot of friends or every boy not running to ask her to the dance. The film is a feminist film without the audience feeling as if they are being lectured on feminism. We’re not annoyed at Kat, we’re inspired by her. She’s funny, smart and always has a comeback. She’s focused on getting into college and doesn’t want to deal with the fakeness that is high school.

What makes this film better as time goes on is how fun it is. Junger knew he was making a teenage romantic comedy and that is exactly what he did. The film never takes itself too seriously. It’s a fun film made by young people for young people, and it shows. It also has an all-star cast who are all treated equally. Every character is complex and full, with an amazing actor that brings the role to life. Even the adults, played by Alison Janney and Larry Miller, are funny, and they do their job without being annoying as most adults are in teen movies. The stars of the film are the young cast members who allow McCullah and Smith’s script to sing. The script isn’t cheesy like most romantic comedies. Like Shakespeare, it’s fast and complex and no one misses a beat. As an audience member, you feel like you genuinely get to know the characters and are part of the friend group.

Every once in a while, a film just works. No one can say why or how, it just does and withstands the test of time. “10 Things I Hate About You” is one of those films. It brilliantly depicts high school life, the innocence of being young and what happens when you let your guard down while still being strong and assertive. It’s fast, upbeat and has guts. Don’t let the title fool you, “10 Things I Hate About You” has a lot of heart, a lot to love and will continue to inspire young generations for decades to come.

Lauren LaMagna can be reached at [email protected].

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