Comparing “She’s All That” and “The Taming of the Shrew”
In William Shakespeare’s play "The Taming of the Shrew", relationships are only seen as a status symbol and possessions. Suitor Petruchio only wants to be with Katherine to prove his manliness and assert dominance. He cares more about having her as a possession and gaining status in Padua more than he cares about her as an actual person. He wants the money and glory that comes with marrying Katherine, he has no interest in actually loving her.
In the cult classic “She’s All That”, Zack Siler’s girlfriend Taylor Vaughn breaks up with him after coming back from Daytona Beach from Spring Break. Taylor is dating a reality television star, Brock Hudson and tells Zack that she can’t be with him anymore. Zack, fearful of losing his status as popular and wanting to prove that he’s still “top dog”, agrees to a seemingly impossible bet to turn any girl popular due to the association. He accepts a challenge from his shady friend Dean to get the “scary and inaccessible” outcast Laney Boggs to fall for him and become the school’s prom queen.
These texts reflect the timeless theme that both men and women use their relationships as a way to maintain or improve social status. Whether if it’s for proving their machismo to their peers or trying to earn notoriety and wealth, people will use their significant others as a stepping stone to get what they really want; a higher position in society.
PETRUCHIO: "And therefore, if thou know
One rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife,
As wealth is a burden of my wooing dance,
Be she as foul as was Florentius' love,
As old as Sibyl and as curst and shrewd
As Socrates' Xanthippe, or a worse,
She moves me not, or not removes at least
Affection’s edge in me, were she as rough
As are the swelling Adriatic seas.
I come to wive it wealthily in Padua;
If wealthily, then happily in Padua."
(Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 51-62 )
This quote is said shortly after Petruchio arrives in Padua from his town Verona. He tells his friend Hortensio that he has come to Padua in search of a wife who is wealthy. He is then pointed in the direction of Katherine. He is warned about her unattractive attitude but decides to brush it off. He doesn’t care that she’s a shrew, he’s just in it for money. This passage of text reveals Petruchio’s true intentions. He doesn’t need to marry someone he actually loves or someone who is gorgeous. He wants to marry someone who is rich because he wants to enjoy the same luxury since worrying about money is a burden for him. He wants to marry someone for the status that comes with it.
In the film, “She’s All That” mean girl Taylor Vaughn also uses relationships as a way to gain notoriety and to improve her status.
In this scene of the film, Taylor is explaining to Zach why she has to break up with him. She explains that when she went to Daytona Beach over spring break she ended up meeting reality television star Brock Hudson and claimed that they were “meant to be”. Although Brock isn’t that handsome or intelligent, the audience realizes that Taylor wants to be with him because he has a higher position in society, being a celebrity. However, Taylor is still concerned with maintaining her hierarchy in school so she tells Zach that they should still go to prom together because it’s only right that the two most popular people will be crowned king and queen. Similar to Petruchio, Taylor wants to live a luxurious lifestyle and achieves that by entering relationships with those who have a higher rank. She doesn’t care about Brock’s looks or intellect. Her main concern is his social status.
PETRUCHIO: “And therefore [for] assurance, let’s each one send unto his wife, and he whose wife is most obedient to come at first when he doth send for her shall win the wager which we will propose."
(Act 5, Scene 2, Lines 67-69)
During Bianca’s wedding, Baptista, Lucentio, and Hortensio are all teasing Petruchio about having a shrew for a wife. In order to prove them wrong, Petruchio comes up with a wager that whoever’s wife comes when she is called, will win twenty crowns. Hortensio and Lucentio accept this bet because they know Kate’s personality and that she is very headstrong. They believe that there is no way that she will come once she is called. Petruchio does this a way to not only assert his dominance over Katherine but to prove his machismo to his friends. He wants them to know that when it comes to manliness, he holds a higher status over them because of his ability to manipulate women and to be able to tame Katherine. He wants to prove his hierarchy over his male companions.
Popular jock Zach Siler agrees to a bet as a way to prove his machismo to his friends as well.
This scene of the film occurs after Taylor has publicly broken up with Zach. The audience can see that Zach is trying to keep his masculinity intact, by saying “There are over 2,000 girls in this school and I can bump uglies with every one of them.” Dean (Zach’s friend) decides to use this opportunity to present a bet. Zach has 6 weeks to get any girl of Dean’s choosing to fall in love with him and turn her into the prom queen. Zach agrees as a way to prove his manliness to Dean. Similar to how Petruchio’s actions were able to “tame” Katherine, Zach has the ability to manipulate women so that they will conform to his standards and he can improve what he truly cares about; his status and his hierarchy over others. Zach wants to do this because he wants to maintain his popularity after being publicly disgraced by Taylor.
“Why came I hither but to that intent?
Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?
Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puffed up with winds,
Rage like an angry boar chafèd with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field,
And heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies?”
(Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 170-176)
In this scene of “Shrew,” Petruchio has just told Gremio that he knows of Katherine and that he knows of her scolding and harsh demeanor, yet that won’t stop him from pursuing her. The reader can see that he isn’t phased by her because he has been in difficult situations before, so handling a woman like Katherine is the least of his worries. This allows the readers to see that proving his manliness is all that matters to Petruchio. He wants the status that comes along with “taming” a woman like Katherine. When he proves his manliness, it makes him feel higher than others.
In the film, Dean Sampson decides to insert himself into the bet as a way to gain notoriety as well and to prove his manliness over Zach. He thinks he can do this by trying to sleep with Laney before he does.
In this scene of the film, the audience witnesses a dispute between Zach and Dean after their team loses a soccer game. Dean says that Zach hasn’t been on his game because he hasn’t “gotten any action lately”. It is then revealed to the audience that Dean is tired of watching Zach walking around school like a god, receiving all of the fame and glory for managing to form a relationship with the newly popular Laney. He wants to change the conditions of the bet and decides to put himself in the running as a way to sabotage Zach. He also does it because he is tired of being in Zach’s shadow and wants to prove that he is just as good as Zach and worthy of being more popular. Dean believes that once he enters a relationship with Laney and manages to sleep with her, it will help improve his social status and knock Zach off his high horse. Just like Petruchio, Dean wants to be known as the guy who “tamed the Shrew” (hooked up with Laney first) as a way to prove his machismo and to gain a higher position over Zach.
Humans have always felt the need to compete with each other, which is why they have to prove that they are higher not only in historical periods but in modern society as well. In “The Taming of the Shrew”, Petruchio only wanted a relationship with Katherine for money and as a way to prove his machismo and his “shrew taming” abilities. He did it to earn notoriety and hierarchy over his male counterparts. In the film “She’s All That”, the characters Zach, Taylor, and Dean all seem to play the role of Petruchio and use people as a way to improve their social status or to prove their rank over those around them.The text and film both show us that relationships are built on what you can provide for the other person. People won’t enter a relationship unless it is beneficial to them.
She’s All That. Dir. Robert Iscove. Miramax, 1999. SolarMovie. Web. 13 April 2018.
Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. William Shakespeare, 1770.