director John Hughes
Sixteen Candles may be the same movie that I saw in 1984 and which I long thought to be the funniest of John Hughes’s films, but it’s also a very different movie than it was when it came out. The upshot, I suppose, is that the movie itself is still the same, but the world has changed and I personally have changed, so that this teen comedy has shifted dramatically in my estimation.
I kind of knew this was coming. Though I fondly remembered the movie from the Eighties as the funnier and more fun sibling of Hughes’s The Breakfast Club (1985), I had read some modern responses to the film’s glaring racial stereotype of Long Duk Dong (played by Gedde Watanabe) and creepy “date rape” jokes. Watanabe’s portrayal is considered one of the most heinous Asian stereotypes ever imprinted on film, and his character has a good deal of screentime.
I warned my kids about this before we watched the movie. I’d actually thought it was one that they would like and have had it on the back burner for a number of years.
The fact is that the film has a lot of cringe-worthy elements. I found myself cringing far more than laughing.
On the positive side, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall in particular, are terrific. Hall is hilarious as the spastic prince of the nerds, Farmer Ted. He’s by far the best thing about the movie. And Ringwald, she really was an archetype of the times, a little prissy, but sympathetic and charming.
Hughes these days equates to a nostalgia of the 1980’s. His name is synonymous with the teen films of that time and stands out in that crowd for his particular brand of pop Americana. I guess it’s not too ironic that these films also belie themselves in their problematic representations, depicting a culture and attitudes that reveal some very unlikable truths.