Adapted by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith from The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.
The main reason I watched 10 Things I Hate About You recently is because of the cast. And when I say “cast”, I mean Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both of whom went-on to feature in The Dark Knight Trilogy as the Joker, the greatest on-screen comic book villain, and an actor renowned for being America’s Hugh Grant. Not to mention that it’s a modernisation of Shakespeare, and one of his comedies too. What made Shakespearean comedies so popular is their uplifting tone – they were amongst the first written farces, and ended with everyone happy with their new situation. Basically, if Shakespeare wrote it and nobody died, it’s a comedy.
And that’s what the teen genre is really about. There are recognisable characters who face a few challenges, but the ending leaves them in a new state of being that they prefer to that of the beginning. They’re relatable, because it’s an accurate and nostalgic look-back at the best days of our lives. Or, in some cases, appreciating them while they’re still here. And 10 Things I Hate About You is parodic in nature: while teenage communities will be highly influenced by each person’s relationship with the next, the two protagonists are teenagers who insert a mutative catalyst into the status quo in order to put two characters together. Ergo, it’s in watching these two characters go through the process of pretending to love each other to pretending to hate each other that makes the story interesting, especially because there isn’t a moment of change. Rather, there’s a discrete metamorphosis with no clear distinction, which makes the ending all the more satisfying.
The best scene is that which has become the go-to scene for clip shows for inclusion of 10 Things I Hate About You, in-which Ledger interrupts Julia Stiles’ game to perform an impromptu cover of You’re Just Too Good to be True, accompanied by a flash-mob orchestra and then proceed to flee security while carrying-on. Yes, it’s cliched, and has been done countless other times in other romantic comedies, but that’s not the point. The romantic comedy’s rule of thumb is that if it feels good, do it. So all the other teen stereotypes featured only compliment the story. This isn’t a mish-mash of what worked for everything else, because most others used scenes from this and just remixed it. Instead, it’s more of the de facto or archetypal teen rom-com. And if it teaches the genre anything, it’s that you can’t beat the Bard of Avon. So you may as well join him.
10 Things I Hate About You: legitimate teen issues handled respectively. 6/10