Guilty Pleasures: Jimmy Callaway

Ten Reasons I Hate Myself for Liking 10 Things I Hate about You
by Jimmy Callaway

1. Leave Cheap Trick Outta This
Y’know what, 1990s? I’ve really got to take my hat off to you. You followed a decade that produced such atrocities as Paula Abdul and Whitesnake, and you certainly must have been scratching your head, wondering just how in hell you were gonna top that. Well, if the god-awful soundtrack to 1999’s 10 Things I Hate about You is any indication, your plan of attack was to grab any band out of the Kill Rock Stars back catalog, hose them down, strategically muss their hair and let ‘em loose with a horn section from Orange County. The results are bands like Save Ferris, who make The Dance Hall Crashers look like Gorilla Biscuits. So while I’m dousing my ears with lighter fluid and searching for a match, I must say, again, ‘90s: way to go. I’d like Debbie Gibson back now, please, if I could.

2. Like, I’m So Sure
I believe I’ve about nailed down when sarcasm became the standard form of communication in movies. In about the mid-‘70s, filmmakers realized that the youth market had the real disposable income, and thus, they began to have their characters speak like real, live American teens. Y’know, like morons. Take a gander at Bill Rebane’s 1975 opus, The Giant Spider Invasion, and I think you’ll see what I mean. Twenty-five years later, near about every movie in theaters has dialogue that sounds like the writer was watching a Friends marathon in a sports bar while hammering furiously at his laptop. A character says smoking is bad for your health, and the reply is “Ya think?” Another gem of a line: “Has the fact that you’re completely psycho managed to escape your attention?” I think the single worst line in the movie is when Julia Stiles is ranting about the prom and asks why anyone would want to see a band “that, by definition, blows.” And what definition is that, darling? Are we defining bands as industrial fans now? As hair dryers? You don’t have to be Dorothy Parker, but just because you throw a little snide into a line doesn’t make it witty.

3. Kill Whitey
There are exactly two black characters in this movie, which comes as little surprise, really. That’s still two more than were in most of John Hughes’s films. Gabrielle Union, that cute little thing that was in that black Honeymooners remake, has a minor supporting role in this flick. While she is easy on the eyes and all, her role here only serves to reinforce my thesis that a black woman cannot make it in Hollywood unless she looks like a really tan white woman. Not to take away from the talents of Halle Berry or Thandie Newton, but I’d wager if they looked like Marla Gibbs, they wouldn’t have such high profiles. I’m already uncomfortable enough with my upper middle-class white background as it is, I don’t need this movie rubbing it in my pasty face.

4. Rap Rap Rappity Rap
The other black actor in this flick is Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, whom I’ve always liked since The John Larroquette Show. While it is terrible that the guy’s been in a wheelchair since a bad motorcycle accident ten years ago, to watch him in this movie makes me way sadder, somehow. Actually, his performance is just fine, except for one scene. Mitchell as English teacher Mr. Morgan is teaching his little white students about Shakespeare, and thus reads Sonnet 141 in a distinctly rap-like style. It hurts really bad. For one thing, whenever rap is taken out of context, all I can think of is that episode of Perfect Strangers where Balki became “Fresh Young Balki B.” Please leave the rapping to the professionals, everybody. But more importantly, this furthers the nonsense rationalization that rap is just like poetry, except it’s from, y’know, the “street.” Rap is not poetry any more than graffiti is a city-sanctioned mural. It is its own separate art form, completely valid within itself. These constant attempts to make it relevant to boring old white people by associating it with something they love does the form a major disservice, and we already have the Insane Clown Posse to contend with as far as that goes. Step off, yo.

5. Speaking of Tragic Actors…
Poor Heath, man. Watching this now makes me remember what a douchebag I thought Ledger was at the time, a thought I immediately regretted after seeing Monster’s Ball. And then he had to go and die before I could apologize. At least Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is still around, so hopefully I’ll be able to one day tell him how I saw Brick twice in the theater and how I’m sorry I cheered when his character got a rollerblade in the face in Halloween: H2O. Also, I’ve learned recently that when I don’t cut my hair for over a year, it looks a lot like Ledger’s does in this movie. Now I just have to let my accent grow out and I’ll be all set.

6. My Uncle Larry
Actually, stand-up comic Larry Reeb is my Uncle Lar. But years ago, I got his act mixed up with Larry Miller’s, and I’ve never bothered to correct it. Anyways, Larry Miller is without a doubt the best thing this movie has to offer. As the Stratford sisters’ disciplinarian father, he gets to act the hardcase the whole time, which is always when he shines, I feel (see his roles in Best in Show and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang for this as well). So why, why, why haven’t I done more to make this man a household name? Why have I sat idly by and let this be what is probably his best known role? I blame myself, I truly do, although the fact that Miller seems to be shaving his head these days like a lotta middle-aged balding guys do doesn’t help matters.

7. The B-Double
Another new level of shame this movie brings to me concerns my old friend, Scott Thomas. Or as we used to call him, “Big Ben,” since at just the right angle and in just the right light, he looked like a chubby Ben Affleck. He and I went and saw this movie together, as we did many, many movies around this time. The guy moved up to the Bay Area for a while, but we still kept in touch, but since he moved back into town three years ago, I’ve hung out with him exactly once. Thanks for reminding me what a shitty friend I am, movie.

8. Is This the End of Zombie Shakespeare?
Around the time this movie was released, I’d made it a goal of mine to become a working writer (you’ll be relieved to hear I’ve since given up on that for the more steady career of warehouse packer/alcoholic). Like a lot of beginning writers, I was particularly interested in writing genre stuff: sci-fi, crime, horror. And also like a lot of beginning writers, I sucked. Hard. Swept up in the notion of creating gruesome, half-assed EC Comics-type stories, I would constantly butt heads with my fiction-writing professor, the lovely Stephanie Mood, who would plead with me and the rest of us dopes in her class to try to focus on the structure and art of story-telling first, to not just go in for surface theatrics like buckets of blood and rainclouds of bullets. And oh, would I ever get incensed. How dare she or anyone tell me what to write? I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel over here! Once, while in conversation with a friend, I actually uttered the following: “Sex and violence is all Shakespeare did, when you think about it.” Wow, huh? Yeah, never mind that I was just parroting something I’d recently read in a Stephen King novel, I actually fucking compared myself to William Shakespeare. As much as I love Shakespeare and adaptations of Shakespeare, I can’t even get through a viewing of West Side Story without that little playback looped in my head, and it’s at an even louder volume with a goofball flick like this. God, I hate myself.

9. I Was a Teenage Teenager
Speaking of being an idiot, I could really do without any reminders that I myself was once in high school and partook in high school shenanigans not unlike those played out in this motion picture. Granted, nobody’s life is like it is in the movies, especially not “fun” little comedies like this. That doesn’t mean the basic notions aren’t all pretty much the same, like how everybody groups themselves off into easily identifiable cliques or how little most of the adults seem to know about what’s really going on. And all that stuff I was saying about the dialogue earlier and that contrived brand of sarcasm that seems so common at that age, I mean, I’m just as guilty of all that as anybody. Ever notice how teenagers start trying to use vocabulary words to make themselves sound clever? I remember noticing it myself when I was a teenager and thinking how ridiculous we all sounded, (mis)using words like “alacrity” and “missive.” And I think I did that more than anybody at Granite Hills High (Go, Eagles). But the even more embarrassing aspect of my adolescence was/is…

10. I Love Romance
I am, without a doubt, the biggest sap I know. Oh, sure, I try and cover it up with a variety of tough-guy mannerisms, like rolling my cigarettes up in my sleeve and calling chicks “broads.” But when Julia Stiles starts tearing up reading her love poem to Heath Ledger towards the end of the movie, I’ll be damned if I don’t start tearing up right along with her. Even though I knew full well before even my first (of many) viewings of this flick that they’d end up together, I always want the sad part of the movie to hurry it up, it’s killing me over here. It’s not so much that I’m embarrassed to admit all this (though I am); what really makes me hate myself for being a romantic is how much hurt it’s cost me over the years. I can’t begin to tell you all the stupid, emotional gestures I’ve made to not just girls I’ve dated or wanted to date, but even to friends and family, only to get my nuts kicked in. All because of this stupid romantic notion that love conquers all.

The good news, gentle reader, is that it actually kinda does. For all the heartache and misery I’ve suffered and/or inflicted upon myself, I’ve survived it all and all in one piece. I am also happy—nay, delighted—to report that my girlfriend is by far the sweetest, cutest little thing to come down the pike, and we are so ridiculously retarded for each other, it makes us both sick. So I guess I don’t hate myself so much these days for clinging to the romantic notions ingrained in me by 10 Things I Hate about You and the plethora of teen romance comedies I’ve ingested over the years. I’m hard pressed to believe I would find myself in such a healthy, happy relationship now if I had ever let those go.

Even if she makes as much fun of me as everyone else for liking this movie.

Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA.  For more, please visit