To say that 10 Things I Hate About You achieved icon status nearly instantaneously would not be an exaggeration.
The film, which hit theaters in 1999, posed a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: popular high schooler Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) wasn’t allowed to date until her older outcast of a sister, Kat (Julia Stiles), accepted a date of her own. Mix together two of Bianca’s would-be suiters, a bribe gone wrong, a dramatic house party, and a climatic prom night, and you pretty much have all the necessary ingredients for a classic ‘90s teen rom-com.
But 10 Things was more than that. It was special, and continues to be special, in a way that is hard to define with one singular explanation. Perhaps it was the hilarious one-liners, many of which are still quotable today (“Can you ever just be whelmed?”). Or maybe it was the soundtrack, filled with nostalgic songs that have the ability to transport you back in time whenever you revisit them. Or maybe it was simply because of Heath Ledger, who stole our hearts the second he stepped into Ms. Perky’s office, joking: “Should I, uh, get the lights?”
Regardless of the whys and the hows, 10 Things I Hate About You wasn't just a movie; it taught us some serious life lessons — even ones we never knew we needed. (I haven’t, for example, had to bust someone out of detention, but at least I know how to do it if the occasion arises.) Ahead, here are some of the things we’ve learned from Kat, Bianca, Patrick, Cameron, and the rest of the 10 Things crew.
Don’t feel pressured to follow the crowd.
If there’s one thing that’s made clear right off the bat, it’s that Kat Stratford doesn’t play by the rules. We first meet Julia Stiles’s iconic character as she drives through town, blasting “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation” in her convertible, glaring at the popular girls who dare pull up alongside her. While it can be easy to get caught up in the trends and pressures of high school, Kat serves as a reminder that it’s perfectly fine to march to the beat of your own drum without giving "a damn” about what anyone else thinks.
At the same time, it’s OK to let others see the real you.
Throughout the film, Kat puts up a front of being fearless. Her character is meant to be strong, resilient, and independent, and she was a role model for anyone aspiring to be all three. However, in one particularly moving scene, she reads a poem directed at Patrick (I can still recite it by heart). For a character who spent much of the film hiding how she truly felt, Kat breaks down, crying as she reveals how deeply she cares about Patrick. The scene served as a much-needed reminder of how important it is to let others see the real me. It’s OK to cry, even in public, and it’s definitely OK to admit “mostly, I hate the way I don't hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all."
There's no problem that music can't solve.
We all have our methods of coping with the daily stresses of life, and for Kat, her release was attending her favorite bands' concerts. Anytime I've ever felt overwhelmed, I've thought back to Kat, and how for one brief moment, the sounds of someone yelling alleviated just a tiny bit of her worries. Whether you choose to rock out to some seriously loud punk or you prefer something a lot softer on the ears, 10 Things taught me that music can always turn any bad day right around.
Life can be magical when you find someone as delightfully weird as you are.
Can we pause and talk about Kat's BFF Mandella for a second? Remember that whole subplot where she thinks she’s heading to prom with the William Shakespeare, despite the fact that, you know, he's been dead for centuries? Casual. Of course, it turns out that her Shakespeare is actually Michael, Cameron’s friend and mentor, and TBQH, I’ve never seen a more perfect match with fictional characters. Those two lovable weirdos are definitely still together in some universe!
Never underestimate the power of simply being kind.
Joey may have been the popular dude with the modeling contract, but at the end of the day, it was Cameron who captured Bianca’s heart. Sure, he wasn’t perfect (he did literally bribe Patrick to date her sister, after all), but it was clear that kindness was one of his best qualities, and he even taught Bianca a thing or two about being nice.
Our parents and guardians are often just trying their best.
Let's get one thing clear first: Kat's dad definitely had some undeniably sexist perspectives (yikes). But at the same time, he was clearly just giving parenting his all. Walter’s attempts at father-daughter talks may have been misguided, and even a little embarrassing (no dating, until you graduate), but at the end of the day, he loved his daughters. I may never understand why my parents banned MTV for a time, but like Walter, they were trying their best.
Appreciate your siblings.
Throughout the movie, Kat and Bianca are often arguing or avoiding each other in the hallways at school. As the story goes on, they both realize the importance of one another and their history. Their endearing, and sometimes rocky, relationship taught me that I can always count on my siblings to have my back. I don't know that my own brother and sister would necessarily be willing to throw a few punches for me at the school dance, but they are there anytime I need them.
Heath Ledger was a gem and should be cherished forever.
The moment that Heath performed "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (complete with incredible dance moves and savvy hand-held microphone skills) pretty much cemented him as one of Hollywood's greatest. And while he went on to showcase his acting chops in other notable films, it’s hard to ever forget his complex and enigmatic portrayal of Patrick Verona. There’s no doubt that Heath was a legend taken from the world of Hollywood — and our hearts — way too soon, and he’s missed all the time.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s a difference between “like” and “love.”
Say it with me now: “I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack.” Wiser words have never been spoken.
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