It’s my birthday today so I decided that my throwback Thursday film this week should be birthday themed. I was so close to watching the awful Jennifer Garner film 13 Going on 30 but I couldn’t face it. Instead, I went with this John Hughes classic. Although now I’m in my 30s, I think I should stop watching these films. They’re so dodgy. You know that thing where the older you get the more you side with the parents in children’s films? That doesn’t happen with John Hughes. You just realise that everyone is kind of awful. I mean the most positive character in Sixteen Candles is Joan Cusack’s character and she doesn’t say anything. But I’m always up for spending the night with Molly Ringwald. She’s such an icon. Her hair, her dress sense, the fact that she never closes her damn lips. Perfection.
Everyone has their favourite John Hughes film and I reckon it probably says quite a bit about you. If anyone out there says Sixteen Candles is their favourite then I’d probably not stick around to talk to them for too long. It’s not that I don’t like this film because I do. In the same way that I love all of his 80s teen movies. There can be no denying that John Hughes wrote teenagers in a more realistic light than Hollywood ever had up until that point. Probably even after that point too. He had an understanding of how teenagers spoke to each other and how they acted. His films gave teenagers the right level of maturity. They weren’t mindless and disgusting but genuinely complex characters.
Although, at the same time, it is a film that kind of promotes date rape and perpetuates racist stereotypes. It is also a film that is full of awful people. As a younger person, you can happily watch this film and see Samantha as the blameless victim to her horrible family. I mean, what kind of sister organises her wedding the day after her sister’s 16th birthday? And what kind of parents forget their daughter’s birthday? And her fucking grandparents? There are no positive adult figures in this film. It’s ridiculous. You completely understand why Samantha acts the way she does. As a 16-year-old, I would have sulked, moaned to my friends, and just been silently resentful as well.
But, now I’m a bit older, I can see that she’s just as awful a person as the rest of them. Yes, there’s no forgiving her parent for missing her 16th birthday but Samantha is such a brat. She can’t even bring herself to admit that maybe things are a bit stressful because of the wedding. That maybe she could have cut her parents some slack and told them why she was so pissed off. But she didn’t. She just treated everyone like shit and made goo-goo eyes at Jake. She’s so frustrating.
And just in case you’re about to stick up for this film for the central romance, let me tell you how dodgy that is. Samantha obviously has a thing for Jake. He’s older, handsome, and popular. He’s every 16-year-old 80s girl’s fantasy man, right? But what’s in for him? In the space of 1 day, he goes from not even knowing who she is to leaving his girlfriend for her. They don’t even speak to each other until the end of the fucking film. He doesn’t fall in love with her. He picks up a note where she says that she’d quite happily have sex with him. That’s what does it. The promise of sex with a younger girl is the thing that suddenly puts Samantha on Jake’s radar. He has no other reason to think they’d be right for each other. The only thing she finds out about her is from Farmer Ted but most of that is just about how much she likes him. Jake may be dishy and handsome but this feels off.
However, despite all of this, I won’t stop liking this film. It might not be my favourite in Hughes’ film catalogue but it’s also not my least favourite. And let’s be honest, the minute I decide to stop watching a John Hughes films because it is a bit sexist, racist, or generally unsettling then I’d never be able to watch a John Hughes again. It was the 80s. I think we can all agree these films would never be made now. We just have to stop pretending that they’re romantic or contain the kind of love that young people should be aiming for.