25 Years Ago 10 Things I Hate About You Came Out, And The World Was Forever Changed

25 Years Ago '10 Things I Hate About You' Came Out, And The World Was Forever Changed

By Anne T. Donahue

Every Easter weekend, I celebrate an anniversary. Back in 1999, my aunt and uncle took me and my cousin to the movies and let us choose what we wanted to see while they went for dinner. At 13 and 12, the decision was easy: 10 Things I Hate About You was being advertised intensely in YM and Seventeen, and therefore we knew what we had to do.

Understandably, my wee world was rocked. Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) boasted the confidence I would lack until my late twenties, and Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) was a dream crush for anyone not entirely seduced by their fellow classmates’ affinity for yelling “Suck it!” in the hallways. I loved the dialogue, the jokes, the fashion, the music. I bought the soundtrack with my babysitting money the following week, and I bought the novelization (with pictures!) to relive the magic when I couldn’t physically see it again in theatres. (Although I did see it three times.) I knew high school the following year would be nothing like anything I’d seen in my new favourite movie, but for the first time, I had hope: maybe if I played my cards right, I too would be feared by my enemies (like Kat), adored by the masses (like Bianca), and prone to smoke cigarettes in my ninth grade science lab (like Patrick, who absolutely would have been kicked out of school for that alone). I already wore my hair in a messy bun like Julia Stiles, I assumed the kingdom would be mine.

25 Years Ago '10 Things I Hate About You' Came Out, And The World Was Forever Changed - 2
ABOVE: Heath Ledger as Patrick and Julia Stiles as Kat in the Gil Junger directed film 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

I don’t think anyone will be surprised that high school was nothing like 10 Things and that, like the majority of anyone who’s braved grades nine through 12, there’s no amount money on earth that would convince me to return for even a day. High school, by definition, blows. It is a tornado of feelings and social politics and not quite understanding why so-and-so’s mad, but who cares, you hate them now. Prom is a school dance held in a random location that does not feature a performance by Letters to Cleo. Everybody is trying very hard to be cool all the time, and it never actually works because not a soul is a 20-something playing a high schooler in a major motion picture. I was also so desperate to be liked that I could hardly assert myself like Kat or Bianca; I was a Michael through and through, thirsting for popularity and fixating on my own personal Bogey Lowenstein. There was no Patrick, only the guy who likes sheep. I didn’t even read The Bell Jar until I was 23.

Yet unlike She’s All That or Never Been Kissed (more Y2K-era movies I saw repeatedly despite neither aging particularly well), 10 Things managed to remain resent-proof. Yes, it had set my expectations for high school freakishly high, but I could not turn my back on the smartness and strength exhibited by its leads. Kat was a feminist who had zero interest in entertaining systemic social hierarchies. Bianca was unabashedly herself, so much so that she ended up punching the school misogynist in the face. (Not that I condone violence, but also . . . I mean, the scene is classic.) The boys didn’t shy away from “difficult” women who challenged them (my dream, my absolute dream). Kat and Bianca’s dad had depth and changed and grew, right along with his headstrong kids. Plus, it’s so fucking well-written and acted. “I want you, I need you, oh baby, oh baby” is a line that deserves to be etched and set in gold.

25 Years Ago '10 Things I Hate About You' Came Out, And The World Was Forever Changed

And so this weekend is Easter, and Saturday (March 29) marks the quarter century anniversary of 10 Things I Hate About You. You’d think this would make me feel old, but instead, it will once again transport me back to the 13-year-old I was; the small child who thought paintballing wasn’t anything like it actually is or that house parties would resemble Bogey Lowenstein’s. And while she was cringe, she was free. I loved 10 Things with my whole heart and modeled my wardrobe after the Stratford sisters (tragically, I did fail), but most valuably, I began learning that humour and language were powerful tools with which to ward off absolute morons.

So this weekend, raise a glass and welcome Nigel with the brie. And may we spend our Easters eating chocolate eggs while watching Heath Ledger sing “I Love You Baby” the way it was meant to be sang. You’ll never find a copy of The Bell Jar as oversized as Kat Stratford’s personal copy, but that’s okay: we’ll always have Allison Janney writing a softcore novel.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: 10 Things I Hate About You, Anne T. Donahue, heath ledger, julia stiles, top story, topstory

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