1) That I just saw it for the first time. 10 Things I Hate About You came out in 1999, when I was 11 and firmly in my Kat Stratford phase. Since it is a teen movie, I can guarantee that my 11-year-old self thought it was stupid. (There was a lot of black lipstick in my future. Also purple scented hair mascara, which was an actual product you could buy. I’m glad the 90s are over.) I’ve never fully grown out of my Kat Stratford phase, so I never felt the need to revisit my opinion on this stupid-teen-movie. I should have. It’s awesome. It’s so totally awesome I don’t know what to do with myself. Even so, I’m really glad I didn’t see it when I was the appropriate age because it would have warped me more than I am already warped. This brings us to Thing #2.
2) Patrick Verona. I’m the kid who read The Outsiders at age 10 and instead of thinking, “Wow, Ponyboy sounds really soulful,” or “Sodapop is so committed and dreamy,” thought, “I want to cuddle Johnny Cade until he stops being sad and also he sounds pretty” with the even warpeder part of my tiny brain going, “Dallas Winston Dallas Winston Dallas Winston.” (I blame The Outsiders for about 90% of my disturbing/disturbed bad-boy thing. The other 10% has no blame, I am just like this you guys, send help.) I saw Grease and immediately adored Kenicke. And, of course, I saw Good Will Hunting when I was 21 and – despite having seen it at least ten times already – realized that Will Hunting was the only man for me. (I am the old dog who does not learn new tricks.) What I’m trying to say is that I developed and nourished this bad boy thing from a very young age, and I’m pretty sure that if I’d seen 10 Things at age 11 I’d have been indelibly imprinted to date only moody loners. Which is totally unlike my current dating pattern in ways that I will explain to you if you’ll just LOOK TWO TIGERS
Anyway, the point is that Patrick Verona is a babe.
3) Julia Stiles. Julia Stiles is one of my favorite actresses and has been since Save the Last Dance (which for some reason my 13-year-old self didn’t think was stupid, and which I distinctly recall going to see while wearing a t-shirt from Hot Topic, some epic elephant bells, a ball chain, and cuffs. In related news, I need to find every picture of me in middle school and wallpaper my bedroom with them because that shit was hilarious). I kind of love everything about her. I love her flat chest. I love her crooked teeth. I love that she’s beautiful and luminous but still looks like a normal human. I love that even when she’s ostensibly making a fool of herself doing a table dance, she’s actually really good at dancing. But most importantly, I love her talent. Kat could have been a caricature of an angsty teenager a la Janis Ian in Mean Girls (which, don’t get me wrong, I love), but in Stiles’ hands she is complex, relatable, and really fucking smart. You want to be her buddy, or if you’re me, you want to be her. Which is why it’s good I saw this now and not when I was 11. Anyway, she brings a depth and sincerity to the role that allows potentially cheesy/dumb moments, like Patrick’s marching-band-accompanied serenade, to be really touching. Watch her reactions to him:
The highlight of her performance, though, is the famous 10 things poem:
The crying was unscripted!
4) The chemistry between my girlfriend Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. I have seen grown-ass actors getting paid grown-ass salaries to make movies for grown-ass adults have less chemistry in entire films than these two have in each scene. I don’t know if it’s because they were young when they made the film and hadn’t yet had an opportunity to get jaded/bored, or if it’s because they’re both just that good, but I believed in them as a couple every time they were on screen together.
5) Baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He was the same age as Stiles and only two years younger than Ledger when 10 Things was made, but … that wittow face!! He’s so cuuuuute. I have had a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt since he was 15 on 3rd Rock and I was 9 in my living room. That crush remains alive and well due partly to his incredible talent, but largely to the fact that he’s a gorgeous nutjob who does stuff like this:
That’s right. He has a goal (to be King of the Germans) and he knows what he would do if he achieved that goal (his German dance every day).
6) That it mostly doesn’t condescend to anyone. Despite containing one of the most tired tropes of all time (guy dates girl for ulterior motives but learns to love her ~*~for who she is~*~) and maybe the least plausible plot device (a dating ban would stop the Stratford sisters from dating for the exactly 5.2 seconds it would take them to construct plausible lies about where they go on Friday nights), 10 Things is refreshingly straightforward. Kids talk about jerking off. Kids curse. Kids make stupid choices, but those choices don’t destroy their lives. Film and television tend to make kids talk like overeducated twentysomethings while ignoring the fact that their parents exist as a substitute for writing believable teens, but 10 Things avoids these pitfalls. Kat talks exactly like you’d expect a smart, motivated, and pissed off 17-year-old to talk, using phrases like “their consumer-driven culture” with aplomb.
7) The minimal sexism. Look, it’s a teen movie from 1999. I’m not going to say it’s not sexist. But apart from a few PMS jokes, 10 Things does pretty well on the gender front. Even Kat’s bitchiness is presented less as a function of her gender and more as a function of her personality – we aren’t merely told she’s bitchy, we actually see her mouthing off to teachers and cursing out other students. The girls and women in the film are all agentive, and while some of them are idiots … well, so are many real women. Also, water is wet and the Pope is Catholic.
8 ) Alison Janney. Janney’s cameo as Ms. Perky, the porn-writing guidance counselor, is a brilliant bit of both casting and writing. I especially enjoyed her Australian-themed insults to Heath Ledger (“kangaroo boy” needs to “keep it in his pouch”).
9) The 90s aesthetic rolling off the screen in waves. Kat’s hideous platform flip-flops with pajama pants, not as sleepwear but as pants. Women with slightly puffy hair and make-up just this side of overdone. Ska bands with female singers. Seriously, this movie is so jam-packed with 90s cultural touchstones that I’m shocked it hasn’t yet been profiled on The Quest for the Most ’90s Movie of All Time. Maybe he is saving it because it will win? In related news, I’m glad I was too young for most of the 90s to really rock that stuff. Yeesh. I had enough fashion challenges without jumping on those bandwagons. (Did I mention the hair mascara? I’m not sure you grasp the full import of the hair mascara.)
10) Being reminded of the existence of Andrew Keegan, Gabrielle Union and Larisa Oleynik. I’m pretty sure every guy-loving kid in the country had a crush on Andrew Keegan in the 90s. I am sure because he looked like this:
He hasn’t really done much in the past ten years, which is unsurprising. But hey, now I know his name!
Gabrielle Union still “acts” sometimes (air quotes because she’s not very good at it), but it’s heartening to see a gorgeous, incompetent black actress reach levels of success about equal to those of her gorgeous, incompetent white colleagues.
And finally there’s Larisa Oleynik. She was Alex Mack, whose show I did not watch but whose books I read, and I hear she is lately on Hawaii Five-0 and prior to that, at Sarah Lawrence College for all four years. So that’s nice. It’s always good to see a child actor whose career didn’t implode in a fiery tempest of drugs, alcohol and petty thievery. Or hell, large-scale thievery. Let’s not understate Ms. Lohan’s accomplishments.