Everyone describes Sixteen Candles to be this great movie... Do they just happen to forget this guy? This depressingly shameful guy, riding on the coattails of every laughable Asian stereotype? A character so disgusting and offensive he cannot be listed as a son of Charlie Chan, categorized into a model minority section, or just filed away to be forgotten?
Dear me, he's frightening.
Oh Lordy make it stop!!!
Long Duk Dong is every single negative Asian stereotype rolled into one and baked to perfection. He's got an accent. Gong noises mysteriously accompany him wherever he goes. He has a strange attraction to white girls but is found unattractive by most of them - he is horny yet emasculated by his obviously foreign horniness. Not a pretty combo. He doesn't know what quiche is. He uses a knife and fork like chopsticks. He unsuccessfully tries to pick up Sam, and ends up with a horsy jock girl named Lumberjack. He speaks in pidgin English and laughs. All the time. "Wang the Farmer" anyone?
He gets raging drunk and passes out on his host family's lawn on his first night in America. Repulsive!
Something about Long Duk Dong is just not... very model minority. He's more of a model minority that has been corrupted by the American Teenage Dream. You know, the smoking, the binge drinking, the sex... You'd think it would be a good thing to see that sort of thing happening to an Asian person - look at the Asians, they can be freewheelin' and partying hard too! Only... This is painfully bad. This is bad for Asians.
Oh good grief. It just got so much worse.
Long Duk Dong (yes, yes, the name is a parody within itself) is a Chinese foreign exchange student who wears a kimono, screams "Banzai," and has a vaguely-sounding Vietnamese name. He's even got the funky hairdo that Asian Ken Doll was sporting. Pan-Asianism? Or is it just lumping those three types of Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese) all into one?
After Sixteen Candles, every Asian boy on the playground would be called "Donger" by the white kids, they would be asked to repeat the lines, "What's a-happening, hotstuff?" After Sixteen Candles, Asian men became the ultimate turn-off - quite a step away from whatever James Shigeta had previously shown in Crimson Kimono. The assumption became that Asian men were all looking for a large-breasted, horsy white woman and incapable of being a normal teen/human being. Long Duk Dong also perpetuates the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype. Gedde Watanabe was born here in the US, but for all you know, he could have been a dude John Hughes found in Asia and brought him over to do an awful slapstick role that would affect how Asian men would be seen forever... ever... ever...
I just wonder how John Hughes, the voice of the underdogs, could create such a stereotypical character, especially during a time when Asian Americans were finally taking a stand and emerging as a recognized racial group. Sixteen Candles was made a mere two years after the murder of Vincent Chin, whose case became a rallying point for Asian American activists and the beginning of the pan-Asian movement. It was also made in the middle of a trade war between the US and Japan - and many members of the Asian American community felt that this performance and character only kept the negative stereotypes going. Is this something that perhaps John Hughes saw and wanted to recognize? Sure, he pulls out what can be seen as the "token" Asian in an all-white cast, but he makes sure that token Asian is a caricature - was he poking fun at all Asians, knowing full well that there is a very slim chance that anyone fits that stereotype at all? Was this how he saw all Asians, possibly having met none before? And above all, what did Gedde Watanabe think?
Sixteen Candles would have been a fine and dandy movie if they had just cut these horrendous bits out.
Interview with Gedde Watanabe by AsianWeek.com