The following post was created for Sarah’s #pfmessages (personal finance messages) series presented over at The Yachtless! Sarah posed the question:
“What types of messages about wealth and personal finance do you see hidden in literature and popular culture?”
I was thrilled to take on this question. It reminded me of the topics/challenges that I had to expand upon in college. So come take this journey as I respond to this prompt below!
P.S. If you’re interested in also generating content for #pfmessages, Sarah has invited anyone & everyone to contribute by December 27th. Head on over to her post “Widening The Circle” to find out more details!
For Sarah’s #pfmessages exercise I am going to evaluate a movie – one that was pretty prevalent in terms of popular culture through my youth. I was completely enthralled with this movie because it was a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.“
That’s right! If you haven’t quite guessed it yet, the movie I’m going to break down is:
10 Things I Hate About You
Oh all the glory, the angst, high school parties, beautiful Seattle/Pacific NW scenery, and excellent Walter Stratford lines such as :“I’m down, I’ve got the 411, and you are not going out and getting jiggy with some guy I don’t care how dope his ride is.” (I think I could probably recite a ridiculous amount of lines from this movie)…
I’m going to provide an analysis on the main characters in terms of wealth and personal finance. My analysis of each character is not what is actually true to real life, but just so happens to be depicted through characters fairly consistently in popular culture. While reading each analysis of the characters, also think about other films/pieces of literature where you can insert the same depiction and qualities.
To me, a lot of what movies, television shows, and books provide are opportunities to relate to characters on a personal level as they develop throughout the duration of the story. Whether you feel in tune with their traits/personalities, or absolute disgust with their actions, we can critically evaluate and dissect whether we are similar to, different from each character. Not to mention, it also allows us to categorize other people’s personalities/characteristics we may have met, interact with, or have encountered in life.
Let’s begin the breakdown & analysis!
(Please note: for length purposes, each breakdown & analysis is quite condensed and only limited to 4 characters from the film. I know there is much deeper analysis beyond what I depict & much more to be said)!
Breakdown – The ‘meanest’ girl in school and against conformity due to people and their “meaningless consumer driven lives.” (now that’s deep)! Sister of Bianca and daughter to the infamous Walter Stratford. Is lured unknowingly into dating Patrick Verona after there is a scheme set into place so that her sister Bianca can date (which involves exchange of money set up between Joey Donner, Cameron James & his friend Michael).
Analysis – Against consumerism, Kat’s non-conformity is heightened to an extreme level where she is recognized as cold, scathing and even a “mutant” (as her sister exclaims). Her sister, Bianca and classmates view her behavior as ridiculous & rude (wait, people are seen as weird when they go against typical norms?). Kat is completely floored when she discovers she was used while dating Patrick Verona, simply to allow her sister to date. In the end, admits to loving Patrick (through an exceptional poem presentation in English class) and accepts his gracious gift of a new guitar to pursue music.
Breakdown – The most popular, pretty girl in school. At the beginning, is swept away by Joey Donner’s looks, fancy car and affluence. Eventually learns his ridiculousness, and once Kat begins dating, decides she wants to date Cameron James the new guy in school instead (which abides by the rules of her dad where the daughters can only date if both choose to do so: not either or). Bianca learns to separate their differences and is able to mend her relationship with her sister Kat. Ends up with Cameron in the end, and not the wealthy Joey.
Analysis – The classic plot line of pretty girl in school pairs with popular good-looking rich guy, because that just makes the most sense…right? After learning true qualities & characteristics of Joey (who she is expected to date), ends up falling for the good new guy Cameron because nice guys don’t have to finish last. Ironically, her relationship with her sister is fixed after she learns that Kat used to be like her (in the popular crowd dating Joey Donner) – wait, what?
Breakdown – The wild rebel in school who allegedly ate a live duck once. Is presented with an opportunity by Joey Donner to get paid to take non-conformist Kat out on a date, that way Joey can date his sister Bianca (to follow their dad’s rules). Initially, refuses his offer (go, Patrick)! Once he is posed with a higher dollar offer, ends up giving in and accepting the money to take Kat out. Ends up actually falling for Kat. Messes up & upsets Kat when she learns she was a bet. He says his iconic line: “I didn’t care about the money! I cared about you!” In the end, takes all the money that Joey had given him to buy a brand new, shiny guitar to gift to Kat so she can pursue her music passions.
Analysis – Sometimes against better judgment, people will go against character for extreme offers (i.e. once Patrick accepted the money Joey offered him to date Kat it was bound to be a doomed situation). Although completely generous that Patrick did not use the money received from Joey, he poured it into a gift for Kat that was one heavy spend endeavor (a guitar). Ironically, she accepts it (despite her anti-consumerism messages provided in the beginning of the movie). Patrick’s feelings for Kat when he professes his care for her shows that relationships truly should trump money.
Breakdown – Rich, stuck-up, ‘handsome,’ suit wearing, model, fancy car driving Joey. Donner. Believes he deserves everything he wants – including the prettiest girl in school, Bianca (even though his personality is awful). Has enough money to bribe Patrick Verona into dating Kat Stratford. Feels the urge to use foul & vulgar language whenever someone acts out of line (like when Kat damages his sports car while trying to leave the music store because he so rudely parks in her way).
Analysis – Wealth = attractiveness, power & popularity. You can only be the following as long as you have wealth. Wealth also allows you all the control to get what you want & with force if need be. Also if you’re wealthy & popular, you have to be paired with someone else who is wealthy & popular. At some point or another, everyone will begin to see through your awful character and wealth will not be the only thing that saves you.
As you can see, a lot of the character breakdowns & analysis mentioned above can actually be quite true to real life. Can you think of anyone you know/have had encounters with that may be like Kat, Bianca, Patrick, or Joey (maybe not just entirely, but certain traits)? These roles are depicted time and time again through literature and popular culture. The question is, has popular culture caused people to develop into such roles whether intentionally, or unintentionally?
Characters in movies provide us an opportunity to relate, empathize, or even stray away from what is depicted. The challenge is that in our youth, we are developing. Learning. Finding our way in the world. Unfortunately, we may be completely impressionable and begin to believe the trends of particular characters utilized often in movies are absolute truths, even in real life.
When we approach adulthood, we are more equipped with real life experiences, lessons and formal education that allow us to challenge even entertainment and popular culture “norms.” We have the opportunity to separate fiction from reality.
So can it be true…
…that people may begin to emulate character traits like those shown in 10 Things I Hate About You, or can we break away from the personal finance cultural messages we are continuously bombarded with in popular culture?
What other messages related to wealth and personal finance do you think are a part of 10 Things I Hate About You? Do you hear Barenaked Ladies’ song “One Week” also play in your head when you think about this movie? How do you break away from cultural messages that are prevalent in popular culture? Let’s begin the discussion!