In 1999, the year 10 Things I Hate About You came out, I was in sixth grade. It was the first teen movie I ever saw, and also the one I watched the most growing up, being the movie of choice for countless sleepovers and birthday parties. For us early millennials, Gil Junger, Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith’s take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew was our introduction to high school life, fashion and relationships. Julia Stiles was our cool big sister. Heath Ledger was our first celebrity crush.
This year, the movie celebrates its 20th anniversary, a perfect opportunity to dive back into the story of Kat and Bianca Stratford. 10 Things I Hate About You remains a stone-cold classic, and a perfectly preserved artifact of late-'90s culture. In honor of its big milestone, here are 10 things that stood out to me after watching it for the first time in almost as many years.
The music still rules.
The 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack fits the Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles mold, employing a balance of timely jams and legit classics. It’s got Letters to Cleo, Joan Armatrading, Semisonic and George Clinton all under the same roof. Those lucky bastards at Padua High even had Save Ferris as their prom band!
Some of the movie’s best jokes were wasted on teenagers.
In the big party scene, David Krumholtz tries to impress a girl by telling her he’s thinking of getting a Tercel (“that’s a Toyota”) because of its spacious backseat. Before Julia Stiles’ Kat famously flashes the soccer coach in the detention scene, the coach confiscates a kid’s weed, then slyly takes another’s bag of cheetos. Both bits produced belly laughs when I saw the film again, and neither were jokes I remembered from watching it growing up. Back then, they flew right over my dumb teenage head.
Some of the other jokes don’t age quite so well.
Most of this movie is still fantastic, but some moments are less than great. Krumholtz’s comment that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Cameron should “put (Bianca) in your spank bank and move on” isn’t awesome. Nor is Bianca’s snarky comment about a teen mom being “a crack whore who should’ve made (her) skeezy boyfriend wear a condom.” Ouch. The rest of the film more than compensates for these unpleasant blips, though.
Kat had a crush on Jordan Catalano.
There are '90s-specific references all over this movie, and every one is a delightful little time capsule. My personal favorite is the revelation that Bianca once found a picture of Jared Leto in Kat’s drawer, which she uses as proof her big sister is, indeed, into dudes.
I wish I’d gone to Padua High School
It’s a real place! The movie was filmed at Stadium High School in Tacoma. It’s gorgeous, and also features secret underground tunnels. Essentially, it’s a real-life Hogwarts, and it’s incredibly unfair I never got to go to school there. Fortunately, they offer tours.
This movie gave me outrageous expectations for high school parties.
My high school experience was disappointing for many reasons, but maybe the biggest was never experiencing a rager like the one in this movie. I never went to keggers, there wasn’t a DJ, and nobody danced on a table, to Notorious B.I.G. or anyone else. Given what 10 Things I Hate About You taught me to expect, this was a profound bummer.
I recognize Kat’s wardrobe.
Many of my outfits for a certain section of my life were influenced by Kat and her best friend, Mandella. The bell sleeves. The maxi-skirts. That singular Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness-inspired aesthetic. I had all of it. This look worked great for Julia Stiles. It did not, however, work as well for me.
I feel a deep kinship with the English teacher.
As a former high school English teacher, I have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Morgan, Padua High’s short-tempered literature instructor. I appreciated him telling Kat to check her privilege when she asks why they never read Sylvia Plath in class. Go ask the school board to add The Bell Jar to the approved reading list, Kat! While you’re at it, do Mr. Morgan a solid and request James Baldwin, too.
Is Patrick getting paid enough?
When Heath Ledger’s Patrick first agrees to woo Kat, the agreed-upon rate is $50 per date. Putting aside the fact that dating a person for money isn’t great practice to begin with, this seemed a little low. I’m a freelancer. Being paid fairly is important to me, so I did some math.
Let’s use Patrick’s hypothetical, a movie date. The average cost of a movie ticket in 1999 was $5.08. Two drinks and a popcorn were around $9-$10. Average mileage reimbursement was around 32 cents/mile. Say a trip from Patrick’s house to Kat’s, and then to the theater, is six miles each way, making fuel reimbursement $3.84. Minimum wage was $5.15 in 1999, so a four hour date is worth $21. Patrick’s profiting $26 per date. Not bad! However, it’s still not enough to afford that Stratocaster he buys Kat at the end of the movie.
It’s still empowering.
The feminist elements of 10 Things I Hate About You remain impressive. Bianca recognizes her agency over the course of the film, and goes after what she wants by the end. Cameron may put himself in her orbit, but Bianca’s the one who chooses to be with him. Kat also never has to change herself or her goals to be happy. I have no doubt she’s still planning to go to Sarah Lawrence after senior year, regardless of her relationship status with Patrick. There are many reasons to still love this movie after twenty years, but this is the best one.