John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles is an amazing film, the movie that launched the careers of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, and introduced the world to John Cusack and his sister, Joan. Sixteen Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High before it also essentially popularized the coming-of-age high-school comedy that dominated much of the 1980s.
Sixteen Candles was not only groundbreaking, but a terrific movie, to boot. It had a great sly sense of humor, it was sweet and relatable, and Hughes managed to tap into a lot of genuine truths about post-adolescence.
It just had one horrible, racist problem: Long Duk Dong.
Long Duk Dong is the Washington Redskins of Sixteen Candles: A gross stereotype that stared at us in the face for 30 years until we realized how offensive it was. Make no mistake, however: It didn’t just suddenly become offensive. It’s always been offensive; we just suddenly began to recognize it.
Fresh Off the Boat, the only sitcom in the history of American television fronted by an Asian cast to ever land a second season, reflected on the Long Duk Dong issue in last night’s episode, brilliantly pinpointing exactly why it was so problematic. You see, racist stereotypes are bad enough, but when it’s an underrepresented race that is being stereotyped? That shit can define a race for decades.
To wit: On last night’s episode of Fresh off the Boat, Louis appeared on a morning talk show to promote his steak house. Recall, too, that this is the 1990s, when you probably didn’t see a lot of Asian people on morning talk shows in Florida.
What did Louis do? He was himself: A charming, goofy cornball.
What’s wrong with that?
Let’s let his wife, Jessica (played by the always perfect Constance Wu) explain: