Movie/Book Review: Ten Things I Hate About You

This is from an old, old draft…I don’t often write about movies; I usually experience movies as backgrounds to knit and/or fall asleep by. However, my husband and I once shared a Blockbuster Evening that inspired me, the next morning, to list ten things to hate about this low-budget remake of The Taming of the Shrew. Why waste a review? Those who remember Ten Things I Hate About You may at least get a chuckle out of this list of ten things to hate about Ten Things I Hate About You.

The book was written by David Levithan. I didn’t buy it, but in the unlikely event that this review makes anyone want a copy of it I could get it from Amazon, in which case it could be a Fair Trade Book.

1. There’s more than one male character in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. There’s also more than one male character in Ten Things I Hate About You, but, since all the teenaged male actors except the star look, talk, and act alike, we have to see them as a crowd to be sure.

2. There are only two substantial female characters in The Taming of the Shrew. To round out the cast, two girl characters have been added to Ten Things I Hate About You. Katerina gets a best friend who is nice but stupid, just like Bianca. Bianca, here played as even a dimmer bulb than Shakespeare made her, gets a worst friend whose wattage is almost low enough to excuse her nastiness, but not quite. So, there are three kinds of teenaged girls: dumb, mean, or both. Even in a farce, teenaged girls deserve more options than this.

3. All the older characters in The Taming of the Shrew are stupid clowns, but by and large the young characters are polite enough to ignore this fact. (There are exceptions.) Mostly it’s the audience who get to laugh out loud. In Ten Things I Hate About You, this instructive bit of social commentary disappears. There’s no pretense of courtesy or even civility toward the older generation. The teenagers use up all the laughter at the adults, and leave very little for any adult viewer to enjoy.

4. In The Taming of the Shrew, no explanation is given for Katerina’s character. She’s a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, spoilt brat who beats her sister up just because she can. In Ten Things I Hate About You, Kat becomes human, but wimpy: she’s depressed because she’s a rape victim. Recently. Shakespeare’s Katerina would have clobbered anybody who laid an unauthorized finger on her.

5. The movie looks consistently weird. The Taming of the Shrew is supposed to take place in Italy . All the characters are Italian. Although Ten Things I Hate About You is set in the United States, all the actors look Italian-American, except for Katerina and Bianca (who look Swedish-American) and Petruchio, here “Patrick Verona” (who looks Irish-American), and Bianca’s worst friend Chastity and one of the teachers, who are African-American. There might be legitimate reasons for characters having either Italian names or Italian faces but not both, and there might be casts of actors gifted enough to overcome this dissonant effect if they had to work around it; unfortunately, neither of these possibilities is fully realized in Ten Things I Hate About You.

6. The names and stage business allotted to Bianca and Chastity would be a cute reminder of Cher and Dionne in Clueless if they were the only reference to Clueless in Ten Things I Hate About You. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The second-rate remake refers to the brilliant remake constantly…to the extent that my husband, who hadn’t watched or read Clueless, had no idea where the verbal, non-slapstick comedy was found (or why I was laughing).

7. The Taming of the Shrew is a farce with no pretensions to redeeming social value or positive role models. Ten Things I Hate About You is a farce with delusions of redeeming social value (the “statement” that rape victims are often depressed) and delusions of positive role models (who constantly insult all the older people they know and wreck their property). These delusions are an insult to the audience.

8. The Taming of the Shrew has a plot that suggests, but does not require us to watch, scenes of gross violence or major property destruction. Everybody wants to marry Bianca, nobody wants to marry Katerina, nobody’s allowed to marry Bianca until some poor man has married Katerina, and Katerina refuses to marry anybody. While Petruchio undertakes, on a bet, to marry Katerina, Lucentio sneaks in and marries Bianca. Petruchio avoids fights with Katerina by abusing everyone else, ripping up new clothes, throwing food on the floor, and generally being a bigger jerk than she is. This spoils Katerina’s attempts to get her way by abusing weaker people and forces her to learn an unconvincing submissive act, which, in her case, is an improvement. Although Lucentio and Bianca are in love, they soon run into problems; Petruchio and Katerina, neither of whom knows anything about love come to terms that allow them to live together.

In Ten Things I Hate About You, virtually all of this plot disappears behind the violence, property destruction, and general misbehavior. Bianca’s date–one of the generic Italian-looking boys–mistreats her, Chastity turns on her, it’s her turn to get depressed, and there’s also a brawl. Neither Bianca nor any of the male supporting characters gets an adventure of his or her own. Bianca doesn’t even end up with a date for the prom.

9. The Taming of the Shrew was, as noted above, about Italians. There was no obvious reason to bring African-American characters into Ten Things I Hate About You, but, assuming that the director just happened to know a couple of African-American actors who were about as talented as the rest of the cast, one might have expected that at least one of the two would get a decent part; say, Kat’s dull but supportive buddy. One would be wrong. The Black man plays a burnt-out, stressed-out, hopelessly incompetent teacher who turns every scene into a stereotyped racist/sexist rant. The girl is cast as tacky, two-faced Chastity. Right. This is a stupid, obnoxious, tacky, racist movie that misrepresents White American consciousness to an insulting degree, and as a legally White American I find it deeply offensive.

10. After viewing Ten Things I Hate About You, we went on to view a violent action-adventure movie about Ku Klux Klan idiots, in which fake blood and blank cartridges were extravagantly used. That videotape contained a money-back guarantee: any convincing portrayal of a bigot is inherently offensive but if, after watching the whole movie, viewers found it offensive, they could write to the producers and get their money back. That movie did not make me want to complain and get the money back. It wasn’t in either of my preferred movie genres—lighthearted comedies, and sweet family stories filmed in scenes of extraordinary natural beauty—but it didn’t offend me. Ten Things I Hate About You did.

Need the snarkiness stop here? Why? A Buzzfeed writer found ten plot details to hate about Ten Things I Hate About You but, since she apparently enjoyed the movie, she used them to construct the plot for a sequel. Somewhere, somebody may actually make this movie.

And here, courtesy of Thesuccess at Morguefile, is a movie-watching cat:


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