My brother and I have spent years watching 10 Things I Hate About You. From the time it hit the New Release stand at our local Network Video to tonight, when he walked past as I had it playing when I sat down to write this Flashback Friday and said “I watched this the other day!” Growing up, Andreas and I would rush home from the video shop to sit on the couch or build a fort in our mum’s room and recite every line word for word, killing ourselves laughing though we probably didn’t actually quite understand the jokes yet. This was around the same time I was adamant that I hated Shakespeare without realising that through this adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, he was actually a big part of my life. Just not as big as Mandella’s.
I may not have cottoned on to the Shakespeare connection until later, but at that young age, this is a film taught me two other lessons. The first: being your own person is pretty damn great. Another shoutout to Mandella, who is and forever will be, the epitome of that.
The second: music is one of the greatest storytelling devices. For me, it was the soundtrack that got me hooked on 10 Things from the get-go. From the moment Kat and her resting bitch face pulled up, Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation drowning out the nonsensical Barenaked Ladies, I knew I wanted to be her. That was before I even found out that she got to pash Heath Ledger on the actual face.
Every time I write a new character for documentary or for fiction or for my own amusement, I assign them theme songs or personal playlists so I can better understand them. When I listen to an album and I really love it, I often find myself thinking that it would work as a soundtrack. One of my favourite past times is creating playlists for certain feelings, occasions, seasons or people. I know that this is not something unique to me. What I do know is that for me, this is the movie is responsible for pretty much all of it.
Find me a better song for a character introduction in a teen-comedy circa 1999-2001 than this one right here. I dare you. In fact, find me a better soundtrack, because this is the best. Right away, when Kat pulls up, we know who she is. The same goes for Joey and Michael though they’re more minor characters. Everyone has their sound. As does every scene.
I don’t think I will ever hear F.N.T without suddenly wanting to go paint-balling. Just as I will always (parodies aside) see this when I hear Imogen Heap‘s Hide & Seek (soz mum, I def watched The OC when you weren’t looking) I know I will never be able to hear Sexy Boy without seeing yellow pieces of paper raining down from the top of a sixth (or thereabouts) floor in my mind.
Music is so much a part of 10 Things… that it is almost a character in itself. The Big Romantic Gesture of the piece is Heath Ledger’s Patrick landing himself in detention by singing Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You over the PA.
War by The Cardigans cuts off perfectly at “no one has won this time” just as Cameron is about to spill his guts about what a shit person Bianca is. In her defence, I’m sure she was just trying to live her life from under her father’s thumb.
The band Letters To Cleo play an important role in the entire development of the story. Kat’s favourite band, they are there at every single key turning point. They are there when she and Patrick get together; when they fight in her car; when Kat finds out what’s been going on all along at the prom and of course; when they make up at the end of the film. Their rendition of Cruel To Be Kind plays in at least two of those aforementioned scenes.
Cruel To Be Kind may be the lead song of 10 Things, but for me it is Joan Armatrading‘s Weakness In Me that takes the cake. Maybe it’s because I was brought up listening to her. Maybe it’s because she is the person who made me want to learn guitar; she is certainly still one of my personal guitar heroes. This song, however, is piano lead and shines a light on Armatrading’s skill as a poignant, pointed lyricist. I have watched this song take the form of a knife and gut people in both catharsis and in anguish. The scenes it plays over may perhaps be cheesy: Kat feeling a ‘presence’ in the music store just after Patrick has left, but with this song it works.
When I was in high school, I picked The Weakness in Me for rehearsal one day. We had to stop because the teacher started crying. Not because I was any good, but because this was the song that she had listened to throughout her marriage breakdown. It was part of her personal soundtrack. Since then, I too have cried to this song.
I’m terribly sorry if you had been looking forward to a Christmassy Flashback Friday. Short of writing about How To Make Gravy or Wiggly Wiggly Christmas (dunno about anyone else, but Feliz Navidad was my shit growing up), I wouldn’t really know what to write about. To me, it makes sense to have written about 10 Things… today more than ever. 21 years ago, Andreas had the utter misfortune of being born on Christmas Eve. It’s never been just Christmas for either of us. The same way that 10 Things… isn’t just a teen rom-com.