Kate vs Kat: the Independent, Feminist Role Model

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In the past one hundred years, one of the most important social issues has been the subject of equality. However, this has not always been the case. For centuries, western civilization was a primarily patriarchal society, but in recent years, this issue of equality has permeated all parts of our social world, including literature. Thus we find literary critics placing twenty-first century values on ancient works, hoping to find elements of social equality where, often times, there is none to be found. For example, critics in recent years have attempted to describe William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew as a feminist work; however, it is largely the opposite. Petruccio's actions can been seen as patriarchal, enforcing the generally misogynistic culture of the day, and Kate, the supposed feminist hero, is presented to both the characters in the story and the audience as spiteful, vicious, and generally spoiled. The only real reason to wed Kate, it seems, is for financial gain. However, modern critics still attempt to proclaim Kate as the model of female individualism. In Gil Junger's film adaptation of the play, 10 Things I Hate About You, the character of Kat transform into this feminist ideal. In the film, Kat is seen much in the same way as Kate from the play is by other characters in the film, but is presented to the audience, and thus later "tamed", in an entirely different way. Kat is a true individual with a sense of independence and a heart waiting to be won by a man who will accept her, temper issues and all. Conversely, the play portrays Kate as a spoiled brat who wants nothing but to get her way, and can only be won by someone strong enough to tell her what to do. These contrasting natures of these two characters highlight the patriarchal nature of The Taming of the Shrew. At the same time, they highlight the attributes of pop culture in the film which provide new insights to the play. The main characteristic both Kat and Kate share is their shrewdness. Each set of characters in the film and in the play perceive Kat's/Kate's shrewdness. Kate is often called "a shrew" or "curst", or rather "intolerably curst/ and shrowd and froward, so beyond all measure" that men "would not wed her for a mine of gold," (Shakespeare, I.ii.76) for she would make a "shrewd, ill-favor'd wife". It is that reason that Hortensio states, "No mates for you, / unless you were of a gentler, milder mould" (Shakespeare, I.i.63) Gremio, concerning marrying Kate, states, "I had as lief take her dowry with this condition: to be whipt at the high cross every morning" (Shakespeare, I.i.119). Tranio simply states "That wench is stark mad or wonderful froward" (Shakespeare, I.i.72). Even her own father calls her "hilding of a devilish spirit" (Shakespeare, II.i.29). Her father has the desire to get rid of her and denies of her of parental love: in his own words he states "make a stale of" (I.i.58) her. Kat receives the same treatment from the characters in the film. Characters call her a "shrew", as well as a "mewling rampallian wretch". Bianca labels her sister as "completely wretched", "a particularly hideous breed of loser", and simply "a bitch." In one scene, she speaks with the guidance counselor about her conduct and the way others perceive her. The guidance counselor tells Kat that "heinous bitch is the term used most often" by her peers. Patrick, her would-be suitor, even calls her a "wild beast." This is similar to what Gremio calls her: a "wild cat" (Shakespeare I.ii.171). These similarities prove to the audience and reader just how the characters in both mediums feel about Kat/Kate. However, it is in the case of Kat's/Kate's sister, Bianca, that the stories take their first diversion. In The Taming of the Shrew, Kate is called "good sister" by Bianca (Shakespeare II.i.1). In that same scene, Baptista asks "when did she cross thee with a bitter word?" (II.i.28), implying that Bianca has been nothing but polite to Kate. On the other...
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