Sixteen Candles Is Way More Racist And Sexist Than You Remember

In 1984, John Hughes made his directorial debut with the coming of age comedy Sixteen Candles. Unfortunately, although the film was well-received and was once considered an '80s staple, there are several elements in Sixteen Candles that haven't aged well. Really, were these elements ever appropriate? Don't blame it all on Sixteen Candles, though: a lot of '80s and '90s “classics” have not aged well. There are a plethora of reasons why movies like The Goonies or Mrs. Doubtfire would never stand a chance to get released in the 21st century. 

Many of Hughes’s other iconic teen comedies are still considered relevant today. His sophomore effort, The Breakfast Club, has stood the test of time with its exploration of themes and teen issues that are still important to examine today. However, there are plenty of racist and sexist jokes in Sixteen Candles that in this day and age are considered much more offensive than funny. For the woke post-modernist, the movie becomes one long cringe fest.

Here are 9 ways Sixteen Candles upholds blatant sexism and racism, and why the comedy just can't hold up today.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

  • Ted Date Rapes Caroline

    After Jake's (Michael Schoeffling) party, he can't handle his drunk girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) and makes a deal with his geek-buddy, Ted. If Ted gives him Samantha's (Molly Ringwald) underwear (which he's procured earlier in the night to supposedly prove he had sex with her) Ted'll be rewarded with the rights to drive his buddy's drunk girlfriend home and have his way with her. Ted gives Jake Sam's underwear and Jake sends him on his way with the intoxicated Caroline, telling him to "have fun." 

    In 1984, when the geek gets to have sex with the hot popular girl because she's drunk, it's considered a win for the underdog. Today, if a teen takes advantage of a highly intoxicated girl, it's rightly considered date rape.

  • Ted May Be A Geek But He Is Also A Sexual Predator

    Remember when Ted used to be considered an adorable and lovable geek? Upon a modern day re-watching, it's easy to see that his harassing behavior towards Samantha at the high school dance troubles the sensitive teen to the point of tears. Ted will not take "no" for an answer and his pursuit of Samantha is not funny or sweet in any way; it's predatory.

  • Ted Talks Sam Into Giving Him Her Underwear

    Despite the fact that Ted is a total creep to Sam and she is depressed because her whole family forgot her birthday, the stalking geek is the one who gets to feel better. Ted plays on Sam's emotions and convinces her to let him have her undies so that he can be a hero in front of his friends. 

  • Jake Gets A Free Pass
    Photo: Universal Pictures

    Jake Gets A Free Pass

    Hunky Jake really seemed like the perfect guy in 1984. But after he pawns Caroline off to basically get date raped by Ted, the following day Jake tells his soon to be ex-girlfriend that he's sorry. Caroline should definitely be really upset that he let a unlicensed, intoxicated, teenage driver take her home with the implication that he could do anything he wanted sexually to her. But Caroline doesn't get mad at Jake, letting the dude get away with some really dangerous and vindictive behavior. 

  • Should A Totally Incapacitated Person Really Be Allowed To Get Married?

    There's nothing like a good menstrual joke. Ginny (Blanche Baker) is suffering from severe period cramps, and it's her wedding day. After she overdoses on muscle relaxers for the pain, the bride can barely walk down the aisle. In fact, her father more or less has to carry her. It's a pretty disturbing, but not funny way, to get married, and once again proves the power of the patriarchy in more ways than one.



  • The Foreign Exchange Student's Name Is Long Duk Dong

    Yes, for real: John Hughes named the Chinese exchange student staying with Sam's family Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). The character is basically a collection of racist stereotypes that are often slung about Asians in general. But it doesn't stop with his name. The character's trouble speaking English provide continual fodder at the expense of the character's existence. Not to mention, every time Long Duk Dong enters a scene, there is the sound of a gong that comes out of nowhere off screen. It's a parody of interculturalism and a playbook for racism.