Sixteen Candles is a coming-of-age movie that many of us remember fondly as an iconic moment from the 1980s, but do you remember the scene between Jake Ryan and his girlfriend at the party he threw?
If not, here’s a quick synopsis: Jake hosts a party at his home, during which his girlfriend passed out. He considers what he could potentially do to her, stating, “I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to.”
Later on in the film, Caroline wakes up and is not sure whether or not she engaged in sexual activity with Jake.
When you viewed the film, you might not have thought much of this statement, because it is fictional after all. Or you might not have had a negative reaction, because conversations about consent and sexual assault were not all too common during the time of the film’s release.
However, many viewers are returning to that moment in the film to reflect upon the nature of that scene, including lead actress Molly Ringwald.
Molly Ringwald reflects on the filming process, recalling feeling uneasy about that moment among many others while filming Sixteen Candles, which she voiced to director, John Hughes.
“There were parts of that film that bothered me then. Although everybody likes to say that I had, you know, John Hughes’ ear, and he did listen to me in a lot of ways, I wasn’t the filmmaker,” Ringwald stated.
“Sometimes I would tell him, ‘Well, I think that this is kind of tacky’ or ‘I think that this is irrelevant,’ or ‘This doesn’t ring true,” and sometimes he would listen to me but in other cases he didn’t.”
Ringwald penned an essay examining the coming-of-age films she worked on in light of the recent #MeToo culture. Being a mother to a teenage daughter also led to the actress thinking more critically about the films she starred in decades ago.
“If I sound overly critical, it’s only with hindsight. Back then, I was only vaguely aware of how inappropriate much of John’s writing was, given my limited experience and what was considered normal at the time. I was well into my thirties before I stopped considering verbally abusive men more interesting than the nice ones,” Molly Ringwald reflects.
“I’m a little embarrassed to say that it took even longer for me to fully comprehend the scene late in Sixteen Candles, when the dreamboat, Jake, essentially trades his drunk girlfriend, Caroline, to the Geek, to satisfy the latter’s sexual urges, in return for Samantha’s underwear.”
Ringwald does not wish to see society erase these films altogether, as she does “believe there is still a lot of good in them.” Rather, she wishes that fans of the films take a step back to truly think about disappointing moments seen on screen.
Molly Ringwald’s decision to revisit some of her most iconic films is timely during this current #MeToo culture. And it poses the question: what other sexist and misogynistic scenes in our favorite classics have we been complicit to?
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