Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stereotyping in Pretty in Pink

According to Stahl, "stereotypes flatten, homogenize, and generalize individuals within a group, emphasizing sameness and ignoring individual agency and variety." (Stahl, 16) In the classic 1984 film, "Sixteen Candles," racial stereotypes are explored and exploited. The most prominent stereotype in this film is the portrayal of the"average, white, middle-class American family." They live in a quaint suburb with 3 children, a mom and a dad and loving, yet eccentric, grandparents. Like many families, the eldest daughter gets much of the attention, not only because of her wedding that is about to take place, but also because she is their first-born and prized daughter. This is not to say that Molly Ringwald's character, Samantha, isn't loved, it is just that Ginny, her older sister, is the first of this generation in her family to experience all of life's 'rights of passage' such as getting married, so everyone can't help but to be excited. Molly is the awkward middle child. She is searching for an identity of her own- the typical teenage syndrome. The fact that her family forgot her birthday puts a damper on her already not-so-exciting day. She is the average girl who dreams for the popular guy in school. Samantha's little brother is portrayed as a typical younger, annoying, little brother who is somewhat babied due to his age. 
This portrayal of this family may be a "kernel of truth" of what the majority of American families may look like, although it is obvious that many come nowhere near to this stereotype. However, this family plays a greater role in the stereotypes that are apparent in this film; they also serve as a "difference" or a point to contrast against the incredibly stereotyped Asian character, Long Duk Dong. 
(for some reason this video's embedding was disabled so you have to click on the link, sorry....it's worth it i promise)

Long Duk Dong, who is nicknamed "The Donger" is an exchange student who has come to live with Samantha's grandparents. He is an eccentric character portrayed as if he has no social manners, speaks some English with a heavy accent, and throughout the film, whenever Long Duk Dong's name is said, a gong rings. In comparison to Samantha's family who areaccustomed to the American culture and live the typical suburbia lifestyles, Long Duk Dong was quite the opposite. The majority of his lines throughout the film ( "Wassa happening hot stuff?" "No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food." "Oh, sexy girlfriend." "Au-to-mo-beeeeeeeeeeeel?") carried little importance and only served to create a comic relief. This also served to further create an stereotype of Asians. Additionally, there is a great negative demeanor underlying Dong's character. He is portrayed as an unusual character, and at the end of the clip I posted above, the little brother says, "He's totally bizarre....I just hope you burn the sheets and mattresses after he leaves." I find that such an ignorant statement, and although a majority of stereotypes "may have a basis in fact," it is naive to immediately discriminate against others. 

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