10 Things I Hate About You

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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

This modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is set in an upper-middle class Seattle high school. When the sweet Bianca Stratford decides she wants to start dating, her paranoid father establishes a rule that she can date when her slightly older sister, Kat—an angst-ridden harpy who alienates everyone around her—gets a boyfriend of her own. In other words, never. Rivals Cameron (the decent straight-shooter) and Joey (a narcissistic rich kid with a sexual agenda) both want to date Bianca badly enough to hatch schemes to find a match for Kat. That’s where Patrick comes in. He’s the school “bad-boy” with a reputation far worse than any evidence to support it, an Aussie heartthrob who contracts to be Kat’s social escort, but develops genuine feelings for her in the process. Before too long, the deceptions start to unravel and people are seen for who they really are.

Positive Elements: Patrick encourages a disheartened Cameron by telling him, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.” The girls’ dad takes issue with the sexual morals of the hit TV show Dawson’s Creek (though he ignorantly refers to it as “Dawson’s River”). In a major revelation, Kat tries to protect her sister from Joey by explaining that she’s been living with the regret of once sleeping with him herself—a poor choice that has contributed to her growing bitterness and anger. Kat says, “Not all experiences are good” and pledges to never again do something just because everyone else is doing it.

Sexual Content: Lots of sexual dialogue and crude references to anatomy (such as, “What is it with this chick; does she have beer-flavored nipples?” and “I’m sure you’ve thought about me naked”). Joey draws a penis on the side of a boy’s face. Kat flashes her bare breasts at a teacher and refers to his “package.” Between rushed appointments with students, a guidance counselor writes erotic literature and even gets suggestions from the kids. Condoms are presented as the solution to teen pregnancy. One young man says he’d prefer sex with sheep to dating Kat. A wild party includes immodest makeout sessions.

Violent Content: A gym teacher is shot in the backside with a wayward arrow. Joey punches Cameron and is, in turn, decked by Bianca. Guys fight at a party and sail through a window.

Crude or Profane Language: This PG-13 release doesn’t use the f-word, but there’s significant profanity and sexual innuendo throughout.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Teens throw a keg party. Kat drinks to excess, which leads her to climb on a table and dance seductively. A teacher confiscates a bag of marijuana from a teen, clearly intending to consume it himself.

Other Negative Elements: Like many teen films, this one portrays adults as uptight and/or clueless authority figures. Grown-ups are either paranoid parents, smug and opportunistic educators, or foul-mouthed professionals frustrated with the roles they’ve inherited.

Summary: It would be tempting (and very easy) to list “10 Things I Hate About 10 Things I Hate About You.” Let it suffice to say that, among the spate of teen exploitation films hitting theaters lately, this one is predictably mediocre as entertainment. A profane bore. It’s equally run-of-the-mill when it comes to stances on sexuality, foul language, drugs, alcohol, deception and disrespect for authority. The film tries to be a ’90s equivalent of Shakespeare-meets-The Breakfast Club. But while it may indeed jump-start the careers of its capable, often likable young cast, it won’t make the grade with families. Parents familiar with the high-school hijinks taking place on-screen will expel 10 Things I Hate About You from their teenagers’ must-see list.

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Bob Smithouser