“Are we supposed to like Kat?” isakregal asked on an IMDB thread. “She is in fact just a normal suburban chick with daddy-issues.”
Kat Stratford is the outspokenly feminist version of Shakespeare’s Kate in Ten Things I Hate about You–the 1999 Hollywood adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles plays Kat with just the right amount of jaded antipathy for her bouncy fellow high school students. What’s more, she can be seen curling up with a copy of The Bell Jar, listening to indie rock, and actually frequenting an independent bookstore. (Whoa…that’s really pushing it.)
Doctor Nado took up the thread from isakregal to declare that feminism is over: “I challenge you to name one single little law that points to female oppression.” What’s more, “feminists like Kat Stratford…are the kind of people rightly labeled Feminazis.” I won’t recreate it here, but the debate about feminism got quite heated on this strand of the thread.
But that image of Kat–as scarily skinny as Julia Stiles appears–deriving nourishment from a big hardcover copy of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar made a impression on me. The film (fourteen years old, at this point) doesn’t lend itself to serious social criticism. But when was the last time you saw a young woman reading a somewhat challenging book in a Hollywood film for the pure pleasure of it? In fact, do young women–or does anyone else, in fact–even read anymore? (Texting doesn’t count.)
A May 2014 issue of Maclean’s cites the following statistics: in 1978, 42% of Americans said they had read 11 books or more in the past year. In 2014, that number had plunged to 28%, with 23% of the population bragging that they hadn’t even read one book in the entire year.
Which brings me back to the young men (and women) on IMDB: log off, and pick up a paperbound friend!
I hope the girls who see this film want to be like Julia Stiles’ character, even if they only emulate her interest in unwinding with a good book. “Feminazi” is an unfortunate term, like “Cumberbitches”…but a “bad-ass chick” like Kat wouldn’t let it phase her.
Nor would she forward cute cat videos or giggle about the Kardashians or flip the pages of a glossy celebrity magazine. It makes me wonder if there is an app to keep us all off of the stupid websites that drain us of time and energy…something that would encourage us to read as if our lives depended on it.