Friday, June 13, 2014

Blogfest Then and Now: Sixteen Candles

The greatest films stand the test of time, speaking to us in different ways at various life stages. Is there a movie that was a part of your life when you were younger that you see differently now? Like fine wine, has it improved with age or did it die in the bottle? Has maturity brought you new insights you missed in your youth? 
Join us for "Then and Now," a bloghop hosted by The Armchair Squid, SuzeNicki Elson and Nancy Mock.  
I happened to see this on Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog. I immediately thought of the John Hughes 1980s teen classic Sixteen Candles since I just saw it on cable a few weeks ago. 

I came to this movie a decade after it first became popular, but even in the '90s it was kind of a teen requirement to watch a few John Hughes movies (my favorite still being Ferris Beuhler).

But Sixteen Candles ... ehhh, there's a lot that doesn't hold up. And I don't just mean this:

Specimen A: 80s fashion
I'm talking the one edge of diversity: Long Duk Dong. 

Specimen B: the "Chinaman" *cringe*
He is such an outlandish caricature, there is literally no scene involving him that is not at least mildly offensive. The foreign exchange student trope is a well-worn one, and can still work for laughs if crafted well (Cry Baby comes to mind, with an exchange student who only answers "Yah!" to every question. Though, the whole movie is satire so there isn't a single stereotype skipping out on the send-up treatment).

The grandparents who host Long Duk Dong are at least played as hapless and clueless. That for me works because they are the idiots who don't get modern teens--American or not. But each time Long Duk Dong appears and a gong sounds ... CRINGE.  

Beyond that issue, there's the nerd-wins-girl trope with Anthony Michael Hall's geeky Farmer Ted character. While it's amusing when Ted holds up Sam's (Molly Ringwald) underwear in the boy's room as a sort of victory--I can laugh at that because it's so pathetic--it's another for him to "win" Jake's cast-off girlfriend Caroline. Jake sends off his beyond-wasted drunk ex with Ted presumably to do what he wishes. Which is a real jerk move for the hero of the movie. She wakes up with Ted having no idea what happened. She ends up the booby (pun intended) prize for the nerd to earn his street cred as a man, by either having slept with her or talking up as if he has.

Specimen C: classy move, dude

But that's teen boys for you! Lighten up! 

Is it? Should I? Check out this thoughtful piece on exactly this same nerd-wins-girl trope posted just a few weeks ago after that tragic murder spree in California: Your Princess Is In Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds. Pop culture reflects more than just a few low-blow jokes. What are we really saying when hot drunk girls are the prize? Or a conquest?

Specimen D: teen awkward IS funny
Okay, so this post went to a deeper place than some of you might have expected. While I can still laugh at Joan Cusak's character wiping her face with a skirted applique on her sweatshirt, and the whole idea of a "beau-hunk" makes me laugh, there's much to this movie that should probably be left to collect dust back in the '80s. 

Buehler? Buehler?

Are there any classic movies you see differently now that you're older? Please comment!

And also take a visit to the other blogs in the hop:

1.The Armchair Squid2.Jay Noel
3.Nicki Elson's Not-So-Deep Thoughts4.Stephanie Faris, Author
5.Romance Under Fire6.Subliminal Coffee
7.Alex J. Cavanaugh8.Michael @ In Time ...
9.Nan @ Hungry Enough To Eat Six10.Servitor Ludi
11.Susan Says12.angryparsnip
13.Lynda R Young14.Mammy & Scarlet O'Hara
15.Jennifer Lane Books16.The Geek Twins
17.Kim Karras18.Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out
19.The Writing Sisterhood20.ET Smith
21.Carrie-Anne's Magick Theatre22.Empire's 5-star 500
23.DG Hudson-Rainforest Blog24.Stephanie Scott


  1. Bohunk - actually a derogatory reference to Bohemian immigrants.

    Yeah, the movie is all kinds of offensive. Hughes managed to clean up his act a bit with later films.

    1. No! I did not know that about the bohunk! Which is why I spelled it beau-hunk because I thought it was beau/boyfriend... my innocence is showing. Wow, this movie is a piece of work!

      Thankfully The Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuhler, and Some Kind of Wonderful don't go this route.

    2. I definitely prefer the three movies you mentioned but I can't deny a soft spot for Sixteen Candles. Sam's growth is genuine and honestly portrayed. By the end, the whole birthday thing is a lot less important to her - but the cake's a nice touch. Now here's a question: how do they not burn themselves kissing above the candles like that?

  2. Another thing about the movie is that the target audience was definitely girls, a chick flick as my boys would say.

  3. I've had this experience with several classic movies, and it's made me paranoid about re-watching old favorites. I don't want to ruin the memories. Glad to hear The Breakfast Club still holds up.

  4. Wow, Stephsco, you went deep with your analysis! I almost chose this movie too. For me it's the family dynamics that speak more to me now than then. I thought the family dysfunction was portrayed so realistically that it made it identifiable and hilarious. The whole family forgetting her birthday in the pre-wedding rush? Her sister taking muscle relaxants for cramps and then oozing down the aisle? Trying to get along with the in-laws and clueless grandparents? That's some great humor there.

    1. The family stuff is pretty funny; I used to really like this movie, even though the Long Duk Dong stuff always made me cringe.

  5. This movie still cracks me up with many classic moments, but...yeah...I get you. Until I rewatched a couple of years ago with my kids, I hadn't even remembered what a jerk Jake was to send his drunk girlfriend off to be whatevered by Ted.

  6. When I was young, I thought that Molly Ringwald was just the bomb. She was easy pretty, as opposed to two pounds of make up and sequins pretty. Even the Anthony Michael Hall character appealed to me (love is suave and debonair moves). Sort of wanted to spread geek icing on the whole cast.

    Love it!

  7. This movie was so unrealistic and bad that I couldn't sit through it.

    cheers, parsnip

  8. Never saw this one. Teen angst movies are all good, and hopefully clean out the desire for adult angst.

  9. Are you referring to Ferris Bueller? He was a smug little twerp, but I still enjoyed the film because of his headmaster, Mr Rooney. The telephone call where Rooney says "if you don't like my policies you can come on down here and smooch my big ole' white butt" was hilarious.

  10. I have to say I still love this movie for it's off-the-wall and bizarre moments which I think are just hilarious. But you make a good point - I can only really enjoy it when I don't look too deep or think too hard about what's actually going on in the movie. Because the truth is in addition to the stereotypes, Sam is spoiled and petulant and Jake Ryan is a whole lotta jerk.

    Thanks for joining our Bloghop!

    Nancy at Hungry Enough To Eat Six

  11. i've never really been a fan of that movie. it's certainly got a scene or two i enjoy, but as a whole, it is probably my least favorite john hughes flick. too unrealistic. too stupid at times. and way too annoying.

  12. I love John Hughes films but this one was certainly a KLUNK... I agree with you. That exchange student was THE WORST....

    I only like two cast members and that MOLLY and Joan and Their talents could not carry this whole movie.....

  13. Yeah, Long Duk Dong is a bit cringe-worthy. Even as a teen, that part bothered me--he seemed to over-the-top. It seemed unnecessary. I loved that movie, though. The concept of capturing one day/night in a person's life was huge in the 80s.

  14. "Jake sends off his beyond-wasted drunk ex with Ted presumably to do what he wishes. Which is a real jerk move for the hero of the movie."

    Not sure Jake had this in mind. I recall him telling Ted to "make sure she gets home safe" and Ted does his best to keep his eyes on the road, but she's totally out of control. It's not meant to be realistic: she gives him birth control pills, he wakes up with braces (where did they come from? Would he really wear them?) Of course not, it's meant to be outrageous. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be funny.

    I understand that people find different things funny. Obviously, this was not the movie for you, but I think there is a big leap between not finding the humor in a movie to linking it to a tragedy that happened thirty years later. I can see how to a modern-PC audience, this movie would not hold up (although to be honest, I never noticed these things that have bothered you. I'm a foreigner with a Chinese great-grandfather and this sort of thing never bothered me. In fact, I see it all the time in Latin American soaps/films). Comedy is supposed to be absurd, it's ok for characters to be caricaturesque, it's the same thing stand-up comedians do when they mock husbands, wives, mother-in-laws, whatever.

    1. This is exactly why this blog hop interested me--to revisit a movie I used to love when I was younger and to see if it holds up by modern standards. I really liked Sixteen Candles as a teen in the '90s. I didn't get the creepier vibe of Jake--who right before he sends Ted off with his ex, makes a leering comment how there are so many things he could do to her, but he restrains, I suppose because he's so valiant. I laughed at Ted's dental headgear, sure, but his conquest seems a bit archaic now.

      Agree, comedy is absurd, but how the comedy is handled is key to whether it holds up. A lot of this film doesn't. Ferris Beuhler and The Breakfast Club were stand-outs because they approached the teen movie with a new angle. Sixteen Candles is essentially more "raunchy" teen fare typical of a lot of similar films of the '80s, maybe with a little more heart because it's John Hughes. Sharper minds have waxed poetic about John Hughes' filmography better than I can here.


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