As a lover of romantic comedies who has spent the majority of her life in Tacoma, the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You” has always been one of my favorites. The movie is supposed to take place in Seattle, so it has some iconic Emerald City spots mixed in, but the majority of it was shot in Tacoma and that’s a big reason why I connect with the film so deeply.
The movie’s Padua High School is fictional, but the castlelike Stadium High School where many of the scenes from the movie were filmed is very much real and happens to be the high school I went to. So even though I was barely 3 months old when the film came out, attending Stadium gave me a very different lens through which to view the film.
The school was renovated in 2006, so it looks a little different now than it did in the late ’90s, but nothing major was done to make it look unrecognizable. The scene where Heath Ledger’s character Patrick sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles’ character, Kat, makes my heart melt every time, but it is also particularly impressive because I know those stairs he was dancing and jumping around on are very steep.
Just the other day, my friend sent me a tweet of that scene that was captioned, “There’s no teen rom-com that can top this scene.” Or when David Krumholtz’s character, Michael, zooms on his motorbike off the sidewalk and down into the bowl where the football field is? I know that could never happen again because a fence was put up at the top of the hill after filming. What the characters knew as the lunchroom, I knew as the library. And while I always thought Letters to Cleo’s rooftop performance of “I Want You To Want Me” during the final scene was awesome, I want to know how they got their equipment up there because I believe the only way to get there is to climb a ladder.
This movie shows off one of Tacoma’s most famous landmarks. In college, if someone asked where I was from and did not know about Tacoma, I would ask if they had seen “10 Things.” If they had, I explained I went to the high school there and people would usually perk up with intrigue. One friend who had not seen it really amused me when I showed her a picture of the school. She was genuinely a little upset at the fact I went there because she said her high school looked like a prison.
I haven’t seen many movies that were filmed in locations where I’ve lived. I admire that while the movie could have easily been filmed at a studio in Los Angeles, the filmmakers took a different approach. The use of a real high school as opposed to a set made the film feel more real.
Despite some cheesy lines and clichés, “10 Things I Hate About You” is a classic that has aged well. For me, romantic comedies should do several things: make you laugh, provide a feeling of warmth and throw your emotions for a loop with suspense, conflict and the (usually) satisfying resolve. This movie does all that for me, and like the best romantic comedies, it takes you through a full gamut of feelings upon every watching.
So while I have seen the movie several times, just like Kat told Patrick in her sonnet, I do not hate it, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.