Did John Hughes endorse date rape? The actress who rose to fame in the '80s takes another look at a problematic scene in the classic teen comedy.
Molly Ringwald's career was launched by iconic writer and director John Hughes, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have criticisms of his work.
The actress -- who took the lead in Hughes' films "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink" and "Sixteen Candles" -- analyzed Hughes' body of work in the context of the #MeToo movement in a new essay for The New Yorker. She shared a number of criticisms of his inappropriate sense of humor she read in his scripts or saw depicted in his movies, but one "Sixteen Candles" moment stood out.
Ringwald, who currently plays Archie's mom on The CW's "Riverdale," said she is no longer comfortable watching the scene in which dreamboat Jake (Michael Schoeffling) essentially trades his drunk girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) to the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) in exchange for underwear belonging to Samantha (Ringwald). The Geek is basically given the drunk girlfriend to satisfy his sexual urges. The Greek takes pictures with Caroline when she's intoxicated to have "proof of his conquest." When Caroline wakes up after her night with the Geek, he asks her if she enjoyed it.
"Caroline shakes her head in wonderment and says, 'You know, I have this weird feeling I did,'" Ringwald wrote about the scene. "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.'"
"If I sound overly critical, it’s only with hindsight," the actress continued in her essay. "Back then, I was only vaguely aware of how inappropriate much of John’s writing was, given my limited experience and what was considered normal at the time I was well into my thirties before I stopped considering verbally abusive men more interesting than the nice ones."
After thinking about the scene, Ringwald was curious to see what Haviland Morris, the actress that played Caroline, thought about the scene, so they met for coffee. Ringwald explained how Morris said always thought, "Caroline bears some responsibility for what happens, because of how drunk she gets at the party." However, later in an email, Morris changed her mind.
"You know," she wrote, "the more I think of it this evening, oddly, the less uncomfortable I am with Caroline. Jake was disgusted with her and said he could violate her 17 ways if he wanted to because she was so trashed, but he didn’t. And then, Ted was the one who had to ask if they had had sex, which certainly doesn’t demonstrate responsible behavior from either party, but also doesn’t really spell date rape. On the other hand, she was basically traded for a pair of underwear . . . Ah, John Hughes."
"It’s hard for me to understand how John was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot," Ringwald concluded.
Throughout the essay, actress talked about revisiting scenes in her other two Hughes' films, showing her past movies to her daughter, and reading Hughes' more vulgar National Lampoon work before he broke into Hollywood.
You can read more of Ringwald's essay, "What About 'The Breakfast Club'? Revisiting the movies of my youth in the age of #MeToo," in the latest issue of The New Yorker.