Dear Kat Stratford (I think I love you)

Hopefully I am not the only one who still remembers/watches weekly 10 Things I Hate About You. It is the the story of Kat Stratford, and her younger, more popular sister, Bianca. They are at high school and there are boys and bets and Important Dances. It is, ostensibly, a remake of The Taming of the Shrew (?). Mostly it is important to remember that there are a lot of great lines and a bit where Heath Ledger sings a song and that Kat Stratford Is Really Awesome OMG.

I was going to come up with some tenuous tie in for this post eg. “isn’t it still sad that Heath Ledger is dead?”[1], it is [some random year] since this movie came out[2], “isn’t Joseph Gordon Levitt cute?”[3] etc.    However, I have decided to eschew such fakery in pursuance of my art. My art called for me to write a list of things.

A (not entirely) random number of things I love about Kat Stratford, in a mostly random order.[4]

  1. “I suppose in our society being male and an arsehole makes you worthy of our time.” When I watched this movie I was in early high school and critical and/or feminist approaches to texts were not something with which I was familiar. The scene in English class near the beginning of the film is so perfect. This scene includes Kat informing Heath Ledger’s character (Patrick) that all he has missed is “The oppressive patriarchal values that dictate our education.” I didn’t know what patriarchal values were but gee they sounded bad and I wanted to know more.
  2. Kat is angry about things which are angry-making. So maybe injuring someone to extent that they need a testical retrieval operation because they groped you in the lunchline is somewhat disproportionate but also it’s awesome… Oups?
  3. Banter! So much beautiful banter. When I watched Ten Things the first time my “moves” around boys I liked were mostly a mixture of blushing, sweating and mumbling, sometimes I managed all three moves at once! So that exchange where Heath Ledger’s character says “I know a lot more than you think!” and Kat whips back with “Doubtful, very doubtful” and others like that, were very aspirational. Would I ever be so cool?[5]
  4. According to (unethical!) sleuthing it is found that Kat likes “Thai food, feminist prose and angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion.” Would I still like Pad Thai and The Handmaid’s Tale and Bikini Kill if I hadn’t met Kat Stratford at such a crucial time? A controlled trial is not forthcoming. I do know that I lived pretty far from a shop that sold Riot Grrl, so it certainly helped. (Shortly after watching the movie I used my parents newly acquired dial up internet to download Rebel Girl and it made my life better).
  5. Aside from Bikini Kill, Kat references some other pretty great stuff: Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Charlotte Bronte and the Feminine Mystique[6] for example. Women make great and important cultural works!
  6. The conversation between Kat and Bianca at the party. I was long from attending such events, and of course such events don’t really exist because yay, Hollywood movies![7] But that scene where Bianca refuses to talk to her because she’s not cool enough and Kat looks genuinely hurt? Oh my heart. She’s fierce and badass and has all the best comebacks but she is still a teenager girl capable of feeling hurt in the way that teenage girls are so very skilled at inflicting it.
  7. “You don’t always have to be what they want you to be, you know?” Which is just the best advice and an excellent tattoo idea and great words of wisdom I hope to impart on my future hypothetical sons and daughters. ([2] Of course my hypothetical future children will also no doubt fail to listen to me, just like Bianca).
  8. That bit where she makes out with Heath Ledger while rolling in the hay, covered in paint.[8]
  9. So Kat isn’t great at communicating all the time, but eventually she brings Bianca ‘round and then Bianca hits The Douchebag in the face. Who wouldn’t want to be that much of a positive inspiration in someone’s life???[9]
  10. That she takes him back. So maybe this is counter-intuitive but stay with me OK? You really like this hot guy and he seems to like you but then it turns out it was a bet.[10] So you think a) can I trust this guy again? b) does he even really like me? And then it turns out that yes you can and he does (as far as you can tell) actually like you. Choosing not to be in a relationship with someone should not be about denying someone the gift of your presence/vagina in payback. If you still really want to be with someone and have assessed things as levelly as you can, I say go for it! (Shockingly I may have over-thought this).[11] Also, he bought her an awesome-looking guitar!!!

An aside:  Black “panties” don’t mean you want to have sex some day. Those underpants don’t even fit the stereotype given they look like the type of cotton hipster bikinis you get in a ten pack at Target.[12]  That bit is so weird and I am impressed with Patrick Verona’s skeptical face when delivered with this as evidence that Kat is worth pursuing.

[1] Yes.
[2] It is… twelve years. God, who feels old now? Also why the fuck does this movie only have a 6.9 rating on IMDB?
[3] Yes.
[4] Other keen scholars of the film will note that actually in that (I think we can admit, pretty bad) poem there are actually more than ten things! Scandal! Lied to by Hollywood!
[5] The short answer is no because I don’t have a script writer, or a soundtrack, to my ongoing disappointment.
[6] I read this book when I was 16 mostly because of Kat, but also because of a great sociology teacher I had and the fact my mum already had it sitting on the bookshelf. In short: women are great!
[7] Although I have discovered that American parties do actually feature those ubiquitous red plastic cups.
[8] This was also very aspirational to teenage me.
[9] Disclaimer: violence is not the answer. Most of the time.
[10] Happens all the time, am I right? Oh late 90s/early 00s teen movies, why all the bets?
[11] Note to SJL: possible series idea “Sex Advice for the Protagonists of Teen Movies”???
[12] I suspect they are, in fact, “period panties”.

4 thoughts on “Dear Kat Stratford (I think I love you)”

  1. I obviously agree with pretty much all of this, because TTIHAY, right?[1]

    The one thing I will disagree with[2] is point number 10.

    Yes choosing to have a relationship with people is ultimately a decision for the people who are in that relationship. Guy you like is kind of a dick and has been reformed by actually getting to know you. This is good. You can trust him, fine. But it’s not about reward or withholding, it’s about whether you’d be happy to be in a relationship with a guy who would take that bet. By the end of the film he hasn’t decided that it’s kind of misogynistic to have taken a bet to “tame the shrew” and learnt better of it. He’s decided she’s not really that shrew-ish after all so maybe by giving her a lavish gift he can get in her pants please now?

    I really love this movie. And I love the fact that at the end everyone is happy (except when I’m in my Moods where I just wish, for once, the ending would be real instead of happy). Despite this, that ending is very much reflective of the fact that this is a remake of The Taming of the Shrew. That makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

    In real life, you’d celebrate if a person did this, but in media it’s telling men that being a misogynistic can be fixed by being a bit less of a dick later on.

    Or maybe not. I think maybe I should spend less time analysing 90s movies and more time analysing 80s movies (or working or whatever).

    [1] Yes this is me imitating your writing style, though it’s not entirely intentional.
    [2] Aside from the slightly technically imprecise use of the word ‘random’

    1. Yes I totally agree with your point here. There are still plenty of problematic things in this movie (see all pop culture) and at a macro/representations in media level The Taming of the Shrew is a terrible narrative.
      Having said that, and not to get all fanwank on this but I don’t know that Patrick Verona is necessarily a misogynist? More that he is a dick who happily takes the money? And if she also wants in his pants, surely a guitar just sweetens the deal? y/n?

  2. The Handmaid’s Tale is probably the best book I read last year. As I was reading it I was thinking: “This is great but kind of far-fetched. I don’t remember the 80s because I was too young, and Ronald Reagan seemed like kind of a dick so I am going to give this novel the benefit of the doubt, but in 2011, I think society has progressed to a point where this level of social regress can’t have happened in the timeframe set by the novel.”

    And then the Republican Primary happened.

    I would also like to compliment you on your excellent use of footnotes[1].

    [1] Though I feel you should have given your footnotes some footnotes [2].

    [2] For example, this.

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