Back to school, back in time: When old books and modern ideas clash

By Kara Lewis

Who’s already overwhelmed by their semester reading list? *Raises hand* While making a dent in one of my 10-pound textbooks this week, I came across a slightly less obvious question.

I’m an English major, so I’ve read a lot of classics. From Jane Austen to Edgar Allen Poe and Charlies Dickens, I’ve been entertained, horrified and sometimes flat-out bored by these texts. This week, however, I was offended.

My Shakespeare class read and analyzed The Taming of the Shrew. Its modern adaption, 10 Things I Hate About You, is one of my favorite movies. The original, however, is filled with sexist jokes, and revolves around forcing the main female character into an arranged marriage.

Of course, I angrily thought about consent and gender equality, preparing to unleash my rage in my weekly Blackboard discussion post. Then, I stopped. I considered the same question that arose when I read Jane Eyre, which has been widely interpreted as racist, and The Catcher in the Rye, which many readers call misogynist: Can modern values be applied to classic texts?

I posed this same question on Blackboard. While many of my classmates ranted back, one argued that texts like The Taming of the Shrew show us how far feminism has come.

The contrast between the original play and 10 Things I Hate About You reinforces this viewpoint. Where Shakespeare’s lead, Kate, abandons her convictions and submits to her husband, 10 Things treats Kat’s fiery attitude and ambition as strengths. The film’s modernized message rings clear: Women don’t need to be tamed at all.