Molly Ringwald talks about teen culture in ‘Sixteen Candles’

Published October 2 2018

The congressional hearings of Brett Kavanaugh – and accompanying public accusations – have cast an unexpected look back on the teen culture of the 1980s, during which Kavanaugh's behavior is in the spotlight. An article about how Hollywood viewed gang rape during the decade has caught the attention of '80s teen queen Molly Ringwald, who has condemned the not-so-hidden message of one of her signature films.

Vox's Constance Grady wrote an article for its website entitled "The rape culture of the 1980s, explained by Sixteen Candles." In it, the author details how rape was used as a comic device in movies such as Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. But she takes particular aim at Sixteen Candles, long considered one of director John Hughes' classics.

"Sixteen Candles isn't a college sex romp like Revenge of the Nerds or Animal House. It's a high school love story," Grady writes. "It's been celebrated for 34 years for its sweet, romantic heart. Yet it is entirely willing to feature a lengthy, supposedly hilarious subplot in which a drunk and unconscious girl is passed from one boy to another and then raped."

Ringwald, speaking to NPR on Sunday, reacted to the renewed focus on the movie.

"You know, when I made those movies with John Hughes, his intention was to not make Porky's or Animal House," she said. "But I think, you know, as everyone says and I do believe is true, that times were different and what was acceptable then is definitely acceptable now and nor should it have been then, but that's sort of the way that it was… I feel very differently about the movies now and it's a difficult position for me to be in because there's a lot that I like about them."

Hughes passed away in 2009 at age 59. Among his best-known films are The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Still, few of his works had as much sexual-related content as Sixteen Candles. So iconic, though, is the film that even TV's The Goldbergs had an homage to it earlier this month.

"I do see it differently. I mean, there were parts of that film that bothered me then," Ringwald said. "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."

"I believe that there is still a lot of good in the films and there's a lot that I'm proud of," Ringwald said. "And I feel like in a lot of ways they've touched teenagers and sparked a conversation that is important."

Read Grady's full story on Vox here. And the full transcript of Ringwald's NPR interview is also online.

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