10 Things I Hate About the Taming of the Shrew

Let me preface this by saying I have probably seen 10 Things I Hate About You at least at 5 different occasions in the past 3 years. Teenage Heath Ledger with a sort-of Australian accent peeking through is something that will always, time and time again, melt my icy cold heart into something that resembles a human.

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, Julia Stiles & Heath Ledger, 1999, © Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection

That being said, not once in those 5 times have I realized that this was a “modern” (now retro) adaptation of none other than William Shakespeare. Many of you probably already knew this, especially considering the late 90s habit of modernizing classics (Clueless, anyone?), but I was 2 when this movie came out. Give me a break.

I have always been a fan of the classics and generally always preferred the true-to-form adaptations far more than their reimagined modernized counterparts. Yes, I’m a purist. But interestingly enough, this time around I’m not quite sure.

This time was the first time I’ve seen 10 Things I Hate About You after reading the Taming of the Shrew. While the similarities are now glaringly obvious, it’s the differences that sets them apart and distinguishes the clear winner in my opinion

In the Shakespearean classic, the originally interesting feisty and opinionated Katherine quickly becomes a problem to be solved by the play’s end. Katherine initially is one who speaks her mind, is witty, and much more intelligent than many of her male counterparts. Something to be admired by readers, but this quickly changes and she begins emulating her younger sister’s character, essentially just a beautiful yet unremarkable character. She becomes even less willing to challenge the men in her life than her sister, with her husband praised for “taming” the “shrew”.

The 1999 adaptation, however, is explored far more internally. A shift from the feminist second-wave to the third-wave. In his article for Shakespeare Bulletin, Michael Friedman highlights Kat’s movements in this regard by exploring her rigid behavior and idolization of the older feminists and their stand against the patriarchy. This is furthered exemplified by her choices of books or scathing critiques of classic literature, down to her sister referring to her as Gloria Steinem, a second-wave feminist staple. He states that Kat’s “taming” is via her own “acceptance of alternative goals for the feminist movement, as well as alternative means to attain them.” He concludes that through her often volatile relationship with Patrick, Kat evolved from a second-wave slightly outdated man-hater to a more contemporary version of herself: a feminist that embraces the contradiction of maintaining her political opposition to patriarchy while participating in the different aspects of social structures that bring her pleasure.

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, Julia Stiles, 1999, © Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection

In an effort to further understand his arguments and read a few comparisons in regards to the different waves of feminism, I found Melissa Klien’s Duality and Redefinition: Young Feminism and the Alternative Music Community. In this piece, Klien explored just that. Simply because I lack the experience or knowledge it takes to further examine her work, I leave you with her thoughts: “I was born in 1971 and am part of a generation of young women who grew up during or after the feminist ‘second wave’ and who, as a result, have mixed feelings about traditional feminism. Man young women hesitate to take on the mantle of feminism, either because they fear being branded as fanatical ‘feminazis’ or because they see feminism not a s a growing and changing movement but as a dialogue of the past the conjures up images of militantly bell-bottomed ‘women’s libbers’. The issues pertinent to older women do not necessarily resonate in our lives,” she said, “feminism has moved away from a struggle for equality toward an engagement with difference, an assertion that girls can have the best of both worlds (that they, for example, can be both violently angry and vampily glamorous). This feminism owes much to the struggles of the second wave, yet differs in so many ways, especially in the way it is defined by contradiction.” 

Now, there might be a few of you who just wanted to know what I thought of the movie. To that I say five stars! A fantastic movie, a true classic of the teen rom-com genre, one I don’t think I will be bored of any time soon.

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