Back to the 90s: 10 Things I Hate About You

Aren’t you totally wiggin’? Over the next three months, Friday nights at the TIFF Lightbox will feature 11 of your favourite 90s classics. Grab your coziest flannel and let your mood ring read excitement as we rediscover these nostalgic masterpieces.

A Little Bit About 10 Things
Released in 1999, written by Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith (the writing team behind many rom-coms like Legally Blonde, She’s the Man, and The House Bunny), and starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larissa Oleynik.

The story
Cameron wants to date Bianca, but her dad won’t let her date until her antisocial older sister, Kat, does. In the grand tradition of 90s dating-bet plotlines, Cameron orchestrates a plan that involves getting dummy pretty boy Joey to pay bad boy Patrick to take Kat out. While Joey thinks he’s the one running the show to get at Bianca, Cameron plans to swoop in and steal the girl. Of course it’s all contingent on Patrick’s ability to seduce Kat, who terrifies all men with her crazy ideas about feminism. A flawless plan, right?

Why you loved it then
We couldn’t get enough of dating bets and makeovers in the 90s. In She’s All That, the boy makes a bet that he can turn any girl into a prom queen. She takes off her glasses and—gasp—she’s beautiful, but the discovery of his ulterior motives almost breaks them apart. (Obviously, it doesn’t.) Same deal in 10 Things. True love blossoms out of lies and deception, but Patrick buys her a guitar in the end so it’s all totally cool. Your next ’90s dating-bet plotline will arrive at TIFF on December 12th, with Cruel Intentions.

Anxiety about teen sex has always been a feature of these movies, but the irony of 10 Things is that, aside from Joey, the teens’ romantic interests are pretty tame. It’s the adults who are all sex-obsessed. Bianca and Kat’s dad is an obstetrician who’s been “up to [his] elbows in placenta all day,” and is terrified that his daughters will become his next patients. He makes Bianca wear a fake pregnancy belly before going to a party, and blames those “damn Dawson’s River kids sleeping in each other’s beds.” Meanwhile, the high school guidance councilor spends her days writing erotic novels and asking her assistant to find a synonym for “engorged.”


Why you need to watch it again
10 Things is our second Back to the 90s film that is an adaptation of a literary/dramatic classic. While Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma, 10 Things is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. Thankfully, the movie title is a little less offensive.

In fact, one of the things that I’ve liked most in rewatching 10 Things is Kat’s unapologetic feminism. She’s tough, driven to get into Sarah Lawrence College, content with her own interests like riot grrl music, and has female friends whom she talks to about subjects other than boys (thereby passing the Bechdel test). She calls things like she sees them:


But she also isn’t allowed to get off without her own privileges being called out:


One of the great things about teen rom-coms is that the characters are too young for us to assume it ends in some neatly packaged happily-ever-after. Yes, Kat forgives Patrick and they make out while the band Letters to Cleo plays on the school roof. But we still know that in September she’s going to Sarah Lawrence, and a high school romance won’t be her defining moment.

The soundtrack

90s nostalgia is nothing without the music:

•    “I Want You To Want Me” – Letters To Cleo
•    “F.N.T.” – Semisonic
•    “I Know” – Save Ferris
•    “Your Winter” – Sister Hazel
•    “Even Angels Fall” – Jessica Riddle
•    “New World” – Leroy
•    “Saturday Night” – Ta-Gana
•    “Atomic Dog” – George S. Clinton
•    “Dazz” – Brick
•     “The Weakness In Me – Joan Armatrading
•     “War” – The Cardigans
•     “Wings Of A Dove” – Madness
•     “Cruel To Be Kind” – Letters To Cleo
•     “One More Thing” – Richard Gibbs



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