One of my favorite pieces from cartoonist Adrian Tomine is a panel he did for magazine Giant Robot in 2001 accompanying his interview with Gedde Watanabe. “The Donger and Me” details the grief Tomine (and countless other Asian-American males) took in high school thanks to Watanabe’s turn as Chinese exchange student Long Duk Dong in “Sixteen Candles” a role at least as offensive as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”‘s Mr. Yunioshi, with the additional betrayal factor of Watanabe’s actually being Asian, and not just Mickey Rooney with his eyes taped.
In 1984, when Sixteen Candles came out, some Asian-American groups decried Long Duk Dong as stereotypical, racist and part of a long history of Hollywood’s offensive depictions of Asian men.
“It took me a while to understand that,” Watanabe says. “In fact, I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was accosted a couple of times by a couple of women who were just really irate and angry. They asked, ‘How could you do a role like that?’ But it’s funny, too, because at the same time I laugh at the character. It’s an odd animal.” [Hat tip to Big Screen Little Screen for the link]
Over at Defamer, Stu Van Airsdale has been online stalking “Sixteen Candles”‘s reclusive director John Hughes in hopes of an interview. He’s “convinced that A) John Hughes knows about our quest for answers, and B) he has absolutely no intention of or interest in playing ball,” but does point to an unflattering 1993 Spy magazine profile of the man unearthed at Hollywood Elsewhere.
[Photo: “The Donger and Me,” Giant Robot/Adrian Tomine, 2001]