Although the movie Ten Things I Hate About You is based on a Shakespearian play, it was released in 1999 so it was essential that the director Gil Junger made it both relevant and appealing to a modern audience. He does this primarily through alterations to the setting and the characters, with few changes to the basic plot. The target audience is teenagers, and all the major characters are also teenagers and are all in high school, making it much easier for the viewers to relate to them.
The film is set in Padua Stadium High School, which is intended to be representative of a typical American high school. The film isn’t meant to be realistic and would be boring if it didn’t dramatise teenage life, but at all times it retains the suspension of disbelief. The two best reasons for choosing a high school as the setting for this film are that the target audience will be able to relate to it better and it is more believable that teenagers in high school would act like the characters in the play than any other age group.
This setting allows the use of many stereotypical groups, as are pointed out by one of the characters early on, which helps the audience understand the characters faster and also makes it clearer when there is character development as they no longer fit with their old groups. The two lead characters are Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona. Their names are references to the Shakespearian play, as Kat Stratford is based on the character Katharina and Stratford-Upon-Avon was Shakespeare’s birthplace, and Patrick Verona is based on the character Petruchio, who came from Verona in the play.
Both of them play roles designed to contrast against the other students in the school who are driven by peer-pressure, the desire for popularity and acceptance and the fear of embarrassment. This makes them even more appealing to the target audience of teenagers, the majority of whom wish they were more like Patrick and Kat but remain more like the other students. At the start of the film Patrick is portrayed as the stereotypical teenage rebel, not afraid of any punishments or repercussions and not influenced by others’ opinions.
When the other character discuss him they usually do so in hushed tones, spreading rumours of criminal activities he has been part of. He is shown to drink and smoke and is aggressive towards anyone who tries to talk to him, at one point when he is addressed by Cameron he simply drills through a book Cameron is holding without a word until he leaves. However, as the film progresses so does Patrick’s character, and we see him develop into a much kinder individual but also realise that he was always much more considerate than people assumed. Cameron: She never wanted me.
She wanted Joey the whole time. Patrick: Cameron, do you like the girl? Cameron: Yeah. Patrick: Yeah, and is she worth all this trouble? Cameron: Well, I thought she was, but you know, I… Patrick: Well, she is or she isn’t. See first of all, Joey is not half the man you are. Secondly, don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want. Go for it. Kat Stratford is another rebellious character, with her most distinguishing characteristic being that she is never afraid to voice her opinions, no matter how unpopular or controversial they may be.
At one point she states ‘Expressing my opinion is not a terrorist action. ’ She is a feminist and primarily listens to underground feminist punk music, which represents her views against the commercial and the mainstream. She, like Patrick, shows signs of major character development during the film, eventually attending the prom with Patrick despite mocking it and considering it pointless for the majority of the film. Cameron James is another major character, and he is starkly contrasted against Patrick.
While Patrick is rough, aggressive and tough, Cameron is kind and sensitive. From Cameron’s very first day at Padua High he becomes infatuated with Bianca, despite warnings from Michael, who was assigned to guide him around the school; ‘What’s there is a snotty little princess wearing a strategically planned sundress to make guys like us realize we can never touch her, and guys like, uh, Joey realize they want to. She, my friend, is what we will spend the rest of our lives not having. As the film progresses he matures and becomes more realistic, while also gaining the strength of character to stand up for himself and say what he thinks. Whereas at the start he is fawning over Bianca and going to such lengths as learning French to get her attention, in the second half of the movie his character has developed enough for him to say to her; ‘Just ’cause you’re beautiful, that doesn’t mean that you can treat people like they don’t matter. ’
While many film codes and narrative techniques are used in the construction of this movie, characterisation and setting are arguably the two most important when it comes to its relevance and appeal to a modern audience. The film is far more enjoyable for teenagers due to the fact it is set in a high school and stars teenagers that deal with similar issues to themselves, albeit much more dramatised versions. By successfully utilizing the techniques at his disposal, Junger has been able to adapt a Shakespearian play into something that a modern audience can both relate to and appreciate.