If #MeToo has taught us anything, it’s that we could all benefit from some reflection. Hollywood’s recent reckoning has presented some hard-to-stomach realisations about the entertainment industry, both for the fans who consume it, as well as the actors who were a part of it. In an essay for The New Yorker, Molly Ringwald confesses that it’s caused her to examine her own body of work, in particular the iconic movies she’s made with director John Hughes. While films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club are lauded as groundbreakers for telling adolescent stories, there are a few scenes that, in light of #MeToo, teach some pretty problematic behaviour.
“As I can see now, Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film,” Ringwald wrote, referencing the scene in The Breakfast Club when it’s implied Bender (Judd Nelson) sexually assaults Claire (Ringwald) under the table. “When he’s not sexualising her, he takes out his rage on her with vicious contempt, calling her ‘pathetic,’ mocking her as ‘Queenie.’ It’s rejection that inspires his vitriol.”
There’s also the uncomfortable plotline in Sixteen Candles when the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) makes a bet that he can hook up with the popular girl, Caroline (Haviland Morris), and Jake (Michael Schoeffling) hands a drunk Caroline over to him like he’s delivering a package in exchange for Samantha’s underwear. Caroline and the Geek wake up the next day, and the two don’t remember what went down between them, but Caroline has “a weird feeling” she enjoyed it.
“She had to have a feeling about it, rather than a thought, because thoughts are things we have when we are conscious, and she wasn’t,” Ringwald writes.
The actress who played Caroline, Haviland Morris, spoke to Ringwald about that plotline recently, and doesn’t feel it was “black and white.” However, it certainly wouldn’t be accepted today. While women still suffer alleged abuse at the hands of people like Harvey Weinstein, it’s no longer acceptable to, at least outwardly, depict women as currency. It’s progress of the most depressing kind.
#MeToo is not about sucking out the enjoyment from the movies and TV we used to love. Rather, it’s about realisations like this, about no longer complicitly consuming content that belittles women and perpetuates rape culture. We can watch something from the past and distinguish what’s okay and what isn’t. We can’t change the past, but we can do better in the future. That’s kind of the point.
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