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Sixteen Candles (1984)

There’s so much to love about Sixteen Candles, and the love John Hughes had for the characters and the movie overflows onto the screen. Hughes revolutionized the idea of the American teenager in the ‘80s, presenting sensitive stories about the inner lives of kids learning about friendship, love, and how to navigate between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. Molly Ringwald plays her role with such compassion and empathy that it’s still relatable more than 30 years later. But it’s also problematic. Gedde Watanabe (as Long Duk Dong) comes across as a collection of hurtful Asian stereotypes that’s extremely grating in a movie that’s otherwise big-hearted and honest. The closest comparison is probably to the Mickey Rooney character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To be fair, teenagers in the ‘80s were problematic too; opinions about racial, religious, sexual and gender differences (and the attitudes presented in the media) could be backwards and insulting, and hopefully there’s value in that truth being presented unvarnished – as part of the historical record, if nothing else.
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