It’s happened to us all. You put on a movie for your kids — something from your childhood that you loved — for a night of good ol’ family fun. All’s well … until there’s a looooong lingering sex scene or kids boozing it up and cussing or just way more raunchiness than you remembered.
So it was when I sat down to watch “Sixteen Candles” with my daughters. My main memory of it was that it was funny and Jake, Molly Ringwald’s boyfriend, was dreamy.
What I did not remember was the character Long Duk Dong. He is Asian. Every time he appears, a gong sounds. One could argue (and people have) that everyone’s a stereotype in the movie, but still. A friggin’ gong. Later, there’s a shot of a high school girl naked and soaping herself up in the shower. Yes, cleanliness is a virtue, but the scene is not particularly related to the plot — at best, it’s plot-adjacent.
It was cringy and embarrassing to bear witness to all this together, but we had a good discussion about it.
However, it would have nice to have a little heads-up that, instead of rating Jake’s dreaminess, we were going to be talking about the changing societal views of ethnic stereotypes in film (see also: Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) as well as the prevalence of gratuitous boob shots in films of the ’80s/’90s. Honestly, it seems like every movie back then had exactly one topless scene. No more, no less. It was like Ron Burgundy was running the MPAA.
Even the most seemingly innocent films can surprise you. A couple of years ago, I sat down with my daughters and my mother for the light holiday confection that is “Love Actually.” Do you remember that there’s a subplot with two porn actors practicing their scenes? I did not.
To prevent you from similar multi-generational discomfort, I asked around for other films that aren’t as innocent as you might remember.
These were the top candidates:
“The Bad News Bears” – Drunken authority figure? Kids smoking and drinking? All kinds of cussing? Check, check and check. (For the record, I’m not saying that these movies aren’t good. They are. I’m just saying that they’re from a different time. Stuff that was A-OK for a kids’ film in 1976 lands a little differently in 2018.)
“Grease” – Not only the moral (tarting yourself up for a man is the way to go) but possible unwanted questions including “What is virginity?” “What do they mean, ‘Did she put up a fight?’” or in our…