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Creator of Long Duk Dong Dies

August 8, 2009

This blog doesn’t really talk about pop culture, for the most part. But it must be mentioned that director John Hughes recently died of a heart attack. For much of America, Hughes was best known for his movies about the White Teenage Angst experience during the Reagan Era, such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

But for not a few Asian Americans, he was also known for something more notorious….

The character of “Long Duk Dong” from Hughes’ movie Sixteen Candles.

Played by Gedde Watanabe in what has become the defining role of his career, Long Duk Dong personified every Asian male racial stereotype that America (still) holds dear.

NPR even did a retrospective article on Long Duk Dong, detailing some of his (in)famous moments from the film as well as the reaction from Asian Americans.

As one blogger on 8Asians puts it, “Without John Hughes, there is no Long Duk Dong. And without Long Duk Dong, there is no longer a free pass to laugh at racist jokes for 90 minutes.”

As for his career in general, Hughes’ best work captures with some sensitivity the traumas of American adolescence and quintessential rites of passage like negotiating/surviving the high school caste system.

Perhaps, Hughes’ focus on the high school experience was appropriate, as this institution in a funny way captures the values of US society at large–including Hollywood itself.

Indeed, as one novel aptly suggests, Hollywood Is like High School with Money.

Anyway, here is the signature song from The Breakfast Club, “Don’t You Forget about Me.”

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney permalink
    August 12, 2009 2:11 pm

    I never got past the grossed out look on Molly Ringwald’s face at the thought of dating a black guy– which, of course, happened in the first few minutes of 16 Candles.

    What an annoying movie!

  2. August 14, 2009 2:58 pm

    I don’t remember that scene from 16 Candles since it’s (fortunately) been so long since I last saw the film.

    But in general, John Hughes’ work is more entertaining if you watch it as a kind of unintended anthropological study of White middle class teenagers.

    Think of it as National Geographic does the ‘burbs.

  3. Linda permalink
    August 21, 2009 8:45 pm

    Maybe I see things differently than most because I saw the Donger as someone who had a strong self-image, self-respect, and courage. He spoke without fear and with indifference. The most important point is that his self worth wasn’t based on the approval of others. Although I agree that he could have been sharper dressed or better coifed or even linguistically refined, the attributes that mattered most to his character were honorable, if not admirable.

  4. August 22, 2009 12:16 am

    Linda: You are being facetious, right?

    Somehow, I doubt that a character who is popularly known as “the Donger” is the embodiment of a strong self-image, self-respect, and courage.

  5. Linda permalink
    August 22, 2009 3:00 pm

    No. I meant every word I said. He didn’t care what others thought of him. That’s the point. He did things his way, and that took courage. He didn’t tie himself down to rules of dos and don’ts, especially those of a different culture or group. He had fun. He got the girl he wanted. While everyone was obsessed with “fitting in” and loosing themselves in the mass, he lived his teenage life and enjoyed it as himself. People choose to adopt the Korean’s meaning for “dong” but in my Hoipangese family it means sticky rice.

  6. August 24, 2009 9:17 pm

    Well, Linda, you have a unique take on Long Duk Dong.

    But in terms of the filmmakers or the general audience for this film, Long Duk Dong is seen as a buffoon. He was/is the embodiment of every racist caricature about Asians that White America holds dear. Even his name is just a mishmash of what they think an “Oriental” name would sound like, replete with an adolescent sexual jibe.

    I mean, honestly, would you date someone like Long Duk Dong?

  7. Linda permalink
    August 26, 2009 1:59 am

    He’d certainly be a more interesting date than any of the goofballs at that high school. To me the whole movie was a caricature, a farce on the whole American culture. I don’t go by what the general public thinks, as it’s more based on a crowd mentality than on true opinion. (ie: To Kill A Mockingbird) Also, aren’t all Americans, hyphenated or not, buffoons in their own way?

  8. August 27, 2009 9:01 pm

    Americans are buffoons (among other things). I’ll definitely agree with you on that point. 🙂

    But in this movie, Long Duk Dong is specifically clowned upon because of his race. Hence, his stereotypical “Oriental” name.

    The other (White) buffoons in that film are not.

    Basically, this is just another pathetic example of that time-honored American tradition called racial Minstrelsy.

  9. SPark permalink
    March 21, 2010 1:24 pm

    I watched 16 Candles in college, and gasped in horror and Long Duk Dong popped onto the screen.

    I just couldn’t believe this character!!! I was at Stanford, which was 25% Asian, and with no one resembling this character.

    I was never a fan of Hughes, as he stereotyped everyone… but Asians did get it the worst.

  10. March 27, 2010 12:27 am

    @ SPark

    Long Duk Dong is one of THE most infamous characters that Hollywood has ever churned out about Asians.

    John Hughes and Gedde Watanabe should be proud of themselves for peddling that kind of racist trash.

  11. boba fett permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:24 pm

    go back to okanawa you slant eye piece of garbage

  12. James permalink
    November 12, 2010 1:02 am


    Oh man, are you going to say Will Hung is a good role-model next?

  13. November 24, 2010 7:20 am

    @ boba fett

    Go back to Europe, you inbred pasty White bitch.

    And while you’re at it, check this out. The White “master race” in all their glory.

  14. Long Duk Dong Fan permalink
    April 8, 2012 11:48 pm

    I think that you are all taking this to seriously. His part in the movie wasnt to be racist but his part was made for comedy. It was all for laughs- I don’t care what anybody says to me about that, because I know that you’re almost all very touchy about racism, but there really isn’t much true racist problems since the late 60s- how they portray Asians in movies isn’t to discriminate them- it’s just to make people laugh because of their extreme nature.

  15. July 4, 2012 4:50 am

    Good post. I certainly love this site. Thanks!


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