Cameron James, a new student at Padua High School in the Seattle area, becomes instantly smitten with popular sophomore Bianca Stratford. Geeky Michael Eckman warns him that Bianca is vapid and conceited, and that her overprotective father does not allow Bianca or her older sister, the shrew (stock character)ish Kat, to date. Kat, a senior (education), is accepted to Sarah Lawrence College in New York (state), but her father, Walter, wants her to stay close to home. Bianca wishes to date affluent senior Joey Donner, but Walter, an obstetrics worried about teenage pregnancy, will not allow his daughters to date until they graduate. Frustrated by Bianca's insistence and Kat's rebelliousness, Walter declares that Bianca may date only when Kat does, knowing that Kat's antisocial attitude makes this unlikely.