Podcast: Racism, rape culture & Jake Ryan: How SIXTEEN CANDLES influenced a generation

A woman holding up a bra in the air.
A pink and black button with a picture of a car

Humorously showing the emotional pain of teenagers aching for true love amid the social expectations of high school, Sixteen Candles turned a teen sex comedy into an pop cultural phenomenon that was watched by every ’80s kid. Mentored by National Lampoon, known for its intentionally offensive humor, John Hughes imbued relatable and aspirational three-dimensional characters with racist and misogynistic attitudes. The depiction of a Chinese foreign exchange student nodded to audiences’ prejudices that Eastern cultures were a joke, worthy of our disrespect. And, Sixteen Candles bolstered rape culture by depicting an aspirational man who demonstrated that even longtime girlfriends were disposable sex objects. Further, it taught teen girls that their value was in a “hot bod,” and that if someone had sex with them when they were passed out, it wasn’t rape. In our podcast ’80s Movies: A Guide to What’s Wrong with Your Parents, film authorities Tara McNamara, Gen X, and Riley Roberts, Gen Z, look back at how Hughes’ landmark teen film greatly impacted a generation in ways we are still trying to correct.

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