Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Shakespeare Retold: The Taming of the Shrew (2005)

This particular Shakespeare Retold faces two unique challenges compared to the others.  The first is that there's already been a well-received (loose) modernisation of the play in the form of 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You.  The second is that it's The Taming of the Shrew.

So let's get why point two is an issue out of the way right from the start: the basic plot of the play is that a guy marries a notoriously hot-tempered woman, and then emotionally tortures her until her will is broken and she won't disagree with him even when he speaks nonsense like saying the sun is the moon.  All his friends marvel at his success as the former independently-minded woman delivers a long speech about how all her female friends should obey their husbands as utterly and completely as she now does because men are much more important and useful than they are.

... yeah.  You can see why George Bernard Shaw called the play "one vile insult to womanhood and manhood from the first word to the last."

Now there is some critical theory that this vileness is intentional: that in making his characters adopt such extremes, Shakespeare is in fact criticising misogyny.  I ... tend to think that's a very optimistic interpretation.

So anyway, this adaptation casts the woman (Kate) as an MP who is angling for the leadership of the Conservative party in the UK.  Her violent temper and aggressive demeanour mean she's very much single, at least until she meets a financially destitute Earl.  Sparks fly, they get married ... and I spent the next thirty minutes swearing at the TV.  Because you know, "it's okay that he's being a jerk to you if you love him" is not a theme that any modern film should be espousing.

The episode does redeem itself a little at the end, when Kate's long statement of submission to her husband is obviously intended to be satire, but it's far short of what would need to be done to save this story for me.

Stick to 10 Things I Hate About You.

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