Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Room for Improvement:
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Women: 4.5 Stars
Kat Stratford is openly feminist, athletic and educated. Unfortunately, she's also bitter and unfriendly and it may be difficult for audiences to separate the two. As the story unfolds, however, we start to see a more human side to Kat. She's still strong-willed and independent, but she also learns to have fun again and not take herself so seriously. In the end it's clear that Kat wasn't disliked or unloved for her smart opinions, but for her inability to let people in.
Bianca Stratford is a less impressive character for most of the story, but she also displays some surprising social courage and independence by the end of the film.
Gender Roles - Men: 4 Stars
10 Things I Hate About You includes an impressive variety of male characters. Patrick has the demeanor of a typical bad boy. Joey is an ego-centric pretty boy and underwear model. Cameron plays the part of the undervalued nice guy who never gets the girl. And Cameron’s friend Michael is an average computer geek with limited social skills. Although these characters aren’t given a wide range of emotion, it’s encouraging to see such a broad spectrum of masculinity. And even more encouraging to see that each of them does eventually find love, with the exception of Joey, who still has some growing up to do.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3.5 Stars
Most of the women in 10 Things I Hate About You are pretty and slender, though there are obvious distinctions between their heights, shapes and colors. The film does a fair job, however, of placing greater emphasis on these women’s personalities than their bodies. Kat may be conventionally beautiful, for instance, but she’s universally disliked for her unpleasant attitude. And even Bianca’s pretty face isn’t enough to stop Cameron from thinking twice when he discovers that she’s been lying to him, and that she may be as superficial and selfish as people say.
Plot: 3.5 Stars
One unique aspect of this story is that Kat Stratford, although she certainly appears to be the stronger-willed of the sisters, doesn’t play a large role in propelling the plot forward. To a large degree, she reacts to what's happening around her, but isn’t much of a protagonist.
Bianca, on the other hand, takes circumstances into her own hands. She enlists Cameron’s help in finding a suitable partner for her sister so that she can have more independence of her own. She is well-practiced at advocating for herself in front of her father, and at one point, even points out the paternalism in Kat’s support of her father’s dating rules. By the end of the film, Bianca makes it clear that she doesn’t intend to stand by while Joey and Cameron fight over her. She’s made her decision, and she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, for Cameron, and for her sister.
Character Development: 5 Stars
10 Things I Hate About You takes on the challenge of creating an angry, difficult woman and making audiences care about her. The writers are able to break down Kat's defenses a little at a time, showing us that she does care about her sister (despite some of her nasty comments), and that some of her meanness is disguising a deeper hurt. When Kat attempts to explain herself to Bianca, she gives us an honest, sincere story about a first experience with sex that paints her as vulnerable and human, but without turning her into a victim.
Bianca also goes through a transformation as the story unfolds. She’s fairly selfish and thoughtless when the movie begins, but comes to learn something about how she wants other people to see her and how she should treat others.
Love: 4.5 Stars (Spoilers)
Patrick’s initial attempts to win over Kat are superficial and fall flat. He learns simple things about her and pretends to have the same interests. While this is all a bit cheap and presuming, it does open the door for more sincere conversations between them. When Patrick takes her out for the first time and she begins drinking excessively, it becomes clear that she’s bottling up some unacknowledged hurt. He sees the human in her and treats her like one. He doesn’t take advantage of her, and even finds that she’s someone he can relate to.
The second love story in the film is also encouraging. In a rare turn of events, Bianca sees the superficiality in the pretty, obnoxious Joey Donner, and realizes that she might be happier with the nice guy that she blew off. Thankfully, Cameron does confront her on the way that she treated him. So often the nice guy is expected to welcome back the woman who hurt him without question. 10 Things I Hate About You doesn’t let Bianca off the hook so easily. Cameron actually throws some harsh words at her, forcing her to admit that she lied and that she’s selfish. It could have been a bit stronger scene if she had actually apologized to him, rather than making it all go away with a kiss. But the fact that he called her out before taking her back is a definite plus.
Language and Sexual Content: 3 Stars
On a few occasions, Kat is referred to as a “bitch” by the other characters. Though it’s possible, and even likely that this has nothing to do with her feminist leanings and everything to do with her anti-social personality, it’s still a bit troublesome to see feminism linked up with such a simplistic, derogatory term. All things considered, however, the label isn't used enough or endorsed enough to truly drag down Kat’s character.
The film also employs some discussion of sex that tends to gloss over the reality of female sex drives. The girls’ father is often told that “it’s just a party” or “it’s just kissing,” as if Bianca is too pure to experience lust. The film does balance out some of this, however, by indicating that male characters are as interested in emotions and connections as the female characters.
Family: 3 Stars
Kat and Bianca’s father is a comical depiction of an over-protective father who’s tortured by the idea of his daughters getting pregnant. He doesn’t speak to them about love and relationships, or trust them to act responsibly, but tries to frighten and control them. By the end of the film, however, he redeems himself by explaining to Kat how difficult it is for a father to admit that his daughters are independent young women and capable of making their own decisions. He lets her know that he’s proud of the person she’s become and that he intends to be more supportive, and less controlling, in the future.
Friendship: 2 Stars
Female friendships in this film leave something to be desired. Whether it’s Bianca and Chastity or Kat and Mandella, their conversations are generally frivolous and inconsequential. Surprisingly, the male characters have more in-depth conversations. At one point, Patrick pulls Cameron aside to tell him that Joey isn’t half the man he is and encourages him to go after what he wants. Although their loose friendship revolves around a shady deal to get Kat out of the house, they’re still able to communicate openly with one another, regardless of social status and reputation.