Seattle in the Movies

10 Things I Hate About You Shows Us the Real Seattle

Leave it to an angsty teen to give us a nuanced look at our city.

By Zoe Sayler

As forced Space Needle shots go, we've seen worse.

Want a brutally honest take on Seattle? See the city through the eyes of a teenager.

Especially one as jaded as Julia Stiles's Kat Stratford—10 Things I Hate About You’s “tempestuous” protagonist (or “heinous bitch,” depending on who you ask), a soft-grunge senior who spurns the patriarchal establishment in favor of Letters to Cleo concerts at the Buckaroo Tavern, some solitary electric guitar testing at Ted Brown Music, and The Bell Jar. 

Uh, did Port Ludlow–born screenwriter Kirsten Smith find inspiration in Seattle for her retelling of a Shakespeare classic, or did Seattle find inspiration in 10 Things I Hate About You?

The Basics

Kat Stratford's venomous teenage misandry hampers considerable seduction attempts by bad boy Patrick Verona, played by Heath Ledger, who isn't the only one who stands to benefit from the taming of Kat’s wild heart. Her bubblegum-sweet freshman sister Bianca’s eyeing the situation, as are the lovesick new kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Joey Donner, the small-time model who paid Patrick to quash Dr. Stratford’s crafty rule for his sought-after youngest: No dating. Until your weirdo sister does.

Who Said It: Kat Stratford or Katherine Minola from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew?

  1. “People perceive you as somewhat…” “Tempestuous?"
  2. “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
  3. “Can you imagine who would go to that antiquated mating ritual?"
  4. “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart."

What 10 Things I Hate About You Gets Right about Seattle

Much like her The Taming of the Shrew counterpart from 1590s Italy, Kat's reputation precedes her. Theirs is a timeless angst—and it fits right in in 1990s Seattle, a land of “white rastas” and wannabe cowboys where an 18-year-old girl in belly shirts and leather jackets admonishes “oppressive patriarchal values” from the comfort of her five-bedroom Sound-view home.

Kat’s classmates are, by and large, terrified of her, and she gets little sympathy from anyone but her Shakespeare-obsessed bestie and her bitingly facetious Black literature teacher, Mr. Morgan: “I know how difficult it must be for you to overcome all those years of upper-middle class suburban oppression." It all amounts to a pretty balanced view of a city too often reduced to a one-dimensional liberal bastion. Yes, radical politics are part of the landscape. No, they’re not always well received, even here.

When Kat argues with her father about her plans to abscond to the East Coast for college, or when Bianca berates her for just not being normal enough, Seattle gets caught in the tempest and we see it for what it is: a hypocritical haven for the white, wealthy, and moderate. A place full of individuals, sure, but a place where being yourself only gets you so far.

But when Kat starts to fall for like-minded Patrick (who isn’t so bad, after all), the city lights up into a playground for paintball fights turned make-outs at Gas Works Park, romantic pedal boat rides across Lake Union, even an alt-rock performance on the roof of the city's storied high school (OK. that’s Tacoma’s Stadium High, but we’ll take it). 

Fresh off discussing Skechers and Prada backpacks.

What 10 Things I Hate About You Gets Wrong about Seattle

10 Things sometimes sees the city through rose-colored glasses (like the ones Gabrielle Union wears in the opening scene). Sure, teenage Seattleites are more likely than other age groups to participate wholeheartedly in fashion, but this film's full of it. Bianca looks a bit too Delia's catalogue to be typically PNW, even as she introduces the world to the Fremont Troll (without worrying about getting those white pants dirty?). Everyone manages to pull off unique and deeply '90s prom looks. Kat herself is surprisingly on-trend with her tiny tanks and cargo pants.

And the city's never been sunnier—if we really went an entire school year without rain, we'd gentrify the Hoh.

Never has the troll borne witness to such a trendy look.

Seattle Style Files

We hope Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz in a dorky friend role) wound up with a cushy Microsoft job. With those belted khakis, white tennis shoes, and a pen in his shirt pocket, he'd fit right in.

Is 10 Things I Hate About You a Seattle Movie?

Find a true Seattleite and you’ll have found someone with complicated feelings about this city—a cynical realist who balances awe at the obvious beauty of the place with plenty of opinions about its politics and its people. In that way, we’re all kind of like Kat Stratford: What we hate about Seattle is the way we don’t hate it, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all. 

Make. It. Happen.

The Grade

5 out of 5 punches to Joey Donner's gut.

Who Said It answers:

  1. Kat Stratford
  2. Katherine Minola
  3. Kat Stratford
  4. Katherine Minola
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