Ah, '80s films. They had a lot to live up to, having come on the heels of the 1970s, which might very well have been the best decade in cinematic history. Nevertheless, there was John Hughes, who would go on to pretty much embody the era, at least as far as mainstream directors were concerned.
The sexist "lessons for boys" (so to speak) in John Hughes's films, however, have become controversial since they first hit movie screens. What about date rape jokes in Sixteen Candles? Or archetypes of feminine purity in The Breakfast Club (which was, paradoxically, all about breaking through stereotypes)? Do you see the fundamentally sexist assumptions in the work of John Hughes? Whether you think the cinematic legacy of the Brat Pack was honest cinema that simply reflected the norms of the time or consider it to be something a little more sinister than that, read on.
When one is "officially dating," rape privileges may be a given... but a gentleman never acts on them. At least, that's what a scene in Sixteen Candles, in which Jake Ryan (Michael Earl Schoeffling) converses with Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) about his passed-out girlfriend seems to be implying. The much-analyzed sequence goes a little something like this:
Jake Ryan: I can get a piece of ass anytime I want. Sh*t, I got Caroline in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to.
Farmer Ted (with an incredulous look/pause): What are you waiting for?
Jake Ryan (frustrated): I don't know. She's beautiful and she's built and all that... I'm just not interested any more.
Farmer Ted: Does that really matter?
Dreamy, "sensitive" pin-up boy Jake Ryan goes on to maintain that it does matter, and that what he's looking for is true love and a girl who wants "more than a party." But that doesn't change the assumption that Jake makes beforehand. Namely, that if you're into a girl, it's par for the course to violate her without her consent; it all comes down to whether or not you're interested.
There's no doubt about it: Steff (James Spader) in Pretty in Pink is the ultimate male teenage dbag. With his feathered hair, suave white Miami Vice flares, and exposed chest, he's desperate to get as much as* as he can, but the piece he wants the most belongs to Andie (Molly Ringwald), a beautiful, intelligent, and artsy girl who believes that he's a sleazy buffoon.
When Steff's best friend, Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) starts dating Andie, Steff's passive-aggressive attitude starts coming out in myriad insidious ways. "You know, I've been out with a lot of girls at this school ... I don't know what makes you so different," he says to her at one point, trying to pull the elitist card. When she tells him she has some taste, he calls her a "b*tch" and stalks away petulantly, cigarette a-dangling.
Fortunately for the '80s aficionado, Steff is something of a retro-poonhound treasure, so enjoy the above montage.
Goth Girls Taking Off Their Goth Makeup To Properly Appeal To Jocks in "The Breakfast Club"
Goth girls are really just cheerleaders/future yuppies hiding their despair behind black eyeliner and the kind of unruly raven manes that breed dandruff... or so John Hughes would presumably have us believe. In one scene in The Breakfast Club (which actress and non-yuppie artist Ally Sheedy said she hated in real life), school goth Allison finally sees the light after popular girl Claire gives her a makeover. Once her kohl-rimmed eyes are eschewed for virginally pink and pretty makeup, school jock Andrew (Emilio Estevez) finally sees Allison's true beauty, and she presumably gives up her life of imaginative freakishness for his life of BMWs and football games. A veritable lesson in the wisdom of masculine-directed conformity.
Trading One Girl's Undies For The Right To Violate Another Girl In "Sixteen Candles"
In one of several quintessentially date-rapey moments in Sixteen Candles, Jake Ryan offers to let Farmer Ted take his (blacked-out) inebriated girlfriend home in exchange for Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald's) panties. "Holy God ... have fun," Jake says ruefully as Farmer Ted speeds away with his prize, who might or might not end up putting out. As it turns out, she does (after a wild-careening-ride sequence that ends with Ted winking knowingly at the camera).
However, everything works out for the best: it's implied that the newly-sober Caroline ends up falling for Farmer Ted when she wakes up the next morning. This, despite the fact that he likely did "violate her in 10 different ways," just as Jake Ryan said.