As societal norms change, watching old movies we used to love can become a cringe-inducing experience when the contain blatant racism and homophobia that would now inspire protests but, at the time, was considered no big deal.
That’s what Molly Ringwald experienced when she rewatched her iconic John Hughes-directed movies “Sixteen Candles”, “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club” in the woke world of #MeToo and Time’s Up, and the 50-year-old actress wrote about it in an essay for The New Yorker.
While she remains proud of the films, she admits they “could also be considered racist, misogynistic, and, at times, homophobic. The words ‘f*g’ and “f***ot” are tossed around with abandon; the character of Long Duk Dong, in ‘Sixteen Candles’, is a grotesque stereotype.”
Of “The Breakfast Club”, Ringwald looks back and now realizes that her character’s exchanges with Bender (played by Judd Nelson) now take on a darker tone.
“Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film,” she writes. “When he’s not sexualizing her, he takes out his rage on her with vicious contempt, calling her ‘pathetic,’ mocking her as ‘Queenie.'”
Despite it all, Ringwald says the films’ overarching message ultimately cuts through everything else.
“John wanted people to take teens seriously, and people did,” she says of Hughes, who died in 2009. “The films are still taught in schools because good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important; that if they talk, adults and peers will listen. I think that it’s ultimately the greatest value of the films, and why I hope they will endure.”
She adds: “The conversations about them will change, and they should. It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own — to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art — and trust that we care.”