Thursday, August 16, 2007

Critical Analysis of the Modern Day Film Adaptation of Taming of the Shrew

The 1999 film Ten Things I Hate About You is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s immortal play, The Taming of the Shrew. The plot lines are almost the same with character names that tacitly pertain to the original work. In Ten Things I Hate About You, the father of the beautiful sisters Kat and Bianca, who is rich and influential, will not let Bianca near a man until her older sister dates. This is a slight departure from the original play where the women were supposed to get married, as the movie is basically a teenage date movie. There is also the presence of two teenage men, Cameron and Patrick, the former is deeply in love with Bianca and the latter is perceived by the entire Padua High school population as never-do-gooder with preposterous myths created behind his back. As Cameron knows that Bianca’s father will never let her date anybody unless Kat dates as well, he devises a plan to have a guy date Kat as well by contracting Joey, an arrogant and popular high school guy, to pay Patrick, the rebel, to date Kat for a sum of money. While Patrick was at first reluctant to seriously take on the proposition by Joey, he soon after went along with it to the extent that he eventually fell in love with Kat. On the other hand, the other hopeless romantic, Cameron, is now in danger of losing Bianca as popular guy Joey has started making his moves to win her heart. Troubles also erupt towards the end of the film as the contract between Joey and Patrick is discovered by the softening yet still rebellious Kat, triggering her to revert back to hating all men – until she reads a sonnet she wrote in front of the whole class, professing her love to Patrick despite all his quirks and weirdness. Bianca would also get to know about Joey’s deception and his hidden objective to simply get her to bed, bereft of love, trust and affection. In the end, after the conflicts between Bianca and Cameron, and Patrick and Kat are resolved, the two couples all become lovers in this teenage romantic comedy. Nonetheless, this paper seeks to provide a discourse on the sophistication and intelligence given to women in film adaptations of Shakespearean plays, and the women in focus for Ten Things I Hate about You are no other than Kat and Bianca.

The two characters are central in the exposition of the different types of women and the role they play in a given society or environment, such as a Padua High School, in the context of the movie. Both characters represent the different psyches and personas of women throughout American society, in the same manner that the original Katarina and Bianca were representations of English society. But before we delve deeper on the individual characterizations of Kat and Bianca, it is imperative to present a background of the teenage milieu in which they were immersed in, in order to fully understand the nature and dynamics of both characters.

High school culture is very familiar to many Americans who took their education under the public school system, and the stereotypes of the kind of students who studied in these institutions are only further reproduced until it is changed by socio-cultural conditions in the future. Even present popular culture has been clearly adept in representing this culture and the social groups in which they interact and exist – groups of nerds and African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians, rich pretty-boys, sexy cheerleaders and popular girls, rockers and deviants, and many other permutations of the stereotypes that characterize American high school culture. The film is admirable for its accuracy in describing some of these groups, but best of all, for tacitly differentiating the various types of women and their worldview – in the person of Bianca and Kat.

Bianca is the popular high school girl who only wanted to be free in dating teenage boys and make the most out of her high school experience. While not exactly a bimbo, in popular parlance, she only begs for the opportunity to live the normal high school experience where dates come and go in between the intricacies of academic work, especially when she knows that she is being pursued and wooed by a rich and handsome guy like Joey, notwithstanding recognizing how beautiful she is that many people in school, including his French tutor Cameron, are really admire her. In response to all of these things and the conditions set by her father, Bianca at the onset blames Kat, the rebel sister, endlessly, as though dating men is the end-all, be-all of her high school life.

Her character is simple and shallow, as the primary interest has been the look for true high school love, which he never saw in Joey but found in the little yet sweet actions of Cameron. She is sophisticated, only perhaps in terms of her confidence and popularity in school. But in terms of sophistication in which women taken hold of their destiny in asserting themselves to men, including her father, there is none present. Bianca is a tacit representation of the subjugation of women as mere love objects that they themselves now also feel that true love is the only thing that would make their lives worthwhile. While she is empowered in terms of material wealth as she gets to strut fabulous clothes in front of the entire school, her empowerment is limited only to that. By blaming the perceived social deviance of Kat, she herself is sucked into the whole long-running stereotype that all women should fit only one ideal – to date men and be happy, in her context.

On the other hand, Kat is a repudiation of the stereotype set by Bianca for a teenage woman. She is rebellious and even hates men, in principle. She is a deviant in a sea of high school conformism. She is the representation of all things sophisticated and intelligent in a teenage woman. Her rebelliousness and non-conformism are mere tacit indications that another world and life is possible for women instead of trying to grab the attention of men and get out on dates. Kat, though her fellow students consider her a difficult to deal with, is never as trapped in the stereotype as Bianca nor as Shakespeare’s Kate. Even if her social life is a disaster, she enjoys music and intellectual pursuits. She has a car and a credit card. Best of all, she has been accepted to Sarah Lawrence. All of these indicate the tacit necessity for women to take control of their lives and strive to be independent of the prevailing high school stereotype of beauty and popularity. Her intelligence and sophistication is unquestionable and her rebellious behavior can be interpreted as more driving home a point that she will not stand down in the face of a pervasive high school culture that engulfs most American young women. Such intelligence and sophistication, however, does not preclude her from falling in love, as there is nothing wrong with love per se but the mad pursuit of love – the way Bianca seeks it. Her sonnet for Patrick is actually better, in fact more liberating, than the original Kate’s submission to place her hand below her husband’s foot. In Kat’s context, the sonnet is a true recognition and admission of love with mutual consent and trust, notwithstanding equal relations between her and Patrick. In the original Kate’s context, while it was an admission of love, intertwined with it was her consent of unequal relations between her and her husband.

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