Recently, I realized that as much as I love movies and TV, I haven’t watched a lot of the classics. So, I decided I wanted to start watching all the classic rom-coms first. To do this, I started watching them by streaming them over discord with some online friends. Thanks to everyone over on the ARIA 51 discord server that made my first-time watching experience better, by the way. To start off this little movie marathon, I watched Sixteen Candles, a movie from 1984.
A Quick Synopsis
The movie follows Sam on her 16th birthday, which should’ve been a big and special event. Instead, her family’s too distracted with her sister’s upcoming wedding to notice or remember. So, she sulks around for the whole day, hoping that her family’s going to magically remember that it’s her birthday. Instead, her grandparents come to stay in her room and she goes to a school dance. She’s even forced to bring an exchange student who’s also staying with them.
At the dance, Ted, who people call “Geek”, tries to get with Sam but she’s into someone else: senior, Jake Ryan. Luckily for her, he likes her too. The only problem is he already has a girlfriend, Caroline. But she gets completely hammered at his party and in classic rom-com spirit, they get together in the end.
An Outdated Movie
While this movie is a classic romantic comedy, it’s not without its problems. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. For starters, the kids all take a weird sex-education test. It’s insane that tests like that actually happened, but seeing it with modern eyes was strange. Sixteen Candles in its entirety definitely made it seem like sex was everything to high schoolers. And maybe for some teenagers, it is. But it was too much. And I can only imagine it pressured kids who watched it at the time to engage sexually at that age. It also doesn’t help that there are sexually-charged lines that casually joke about rape.
And don’t even get me started on the racism in this movie. It is appalling. The name of the one Asian character in this movie alone is already racist. And Long Duk Dong also perpetuates the overly sexual theme that runs throughout the entire film. Moreover, Sixteen Candles regularly crossed the line when it came to consent. First, there’s Ted (AKA “Geek”), who climbs over Sam in the car multiple times even after she said no. But the worst was near the end when Ted and Caroline apparently have sex but neither of them remembers it. Which means neither could consent at the time. They’re just lucky that they’re completely fine with it.
Sixteen Candles was one of the first movies to really explore the sexual revolution in film at the time. Granted, 80s movies were full of horny teenagers. But this felt excessive, even by that standard. Especially because they really crossed the line when it came to creating comedy in problematic ways. What I will say is this: it is the quintessential 80s romcom. The outfits, the language, and the way films portrayed teenagers is a great representation of its time. However, I am glad that modern romantic comedies have evolved since then.