Long Duk Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?
by Alison MacAdam
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Gedde Watanabe's Long Duk Dong drew laughs — and fire from critics who decried the character as a racist caricature. Universal Pictures
“Every single Asian dude who went to high school or junior high during the era of John Hughes movies was called 'Donger.'”Eric Nakamura, 'Giant Robot' magazine
Tomine on The Donger
In 2001, graphic novelist Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings) published a pungent one-page comic describing his own history with the legacy of Long Duk Dong.
More from Gedde Watanabe
Japanese-American actor Gedde Watanabe, who does not speak Japanese, describes his audition for the role of Long Duk Dong — and the trick he used to win the part.
All Things Considered, March 24, 2008 · ''What's happenin', hot stuff?"
For a generation of Americans, the answer to that question is a name: Long Duk Dong. He is the foreign-exchange student, fresh from some unidentified Asian country, in the popular 1984 high-school comedy Sixteen Candles — comic relief in a movie with more than its share of slapstick.
When we launched In Character, we set out to explore fictional characters who had left a mark on American culture. The mark Long Duk Dong left was more of a stain: To some viewers, he represents one of the most offensive Asian stereotypes Hollywood ever gave America.
'Oh, Sexy Girlfriend'
Long Duk Dong makes his first entrance in the movie upside down, hanging from a top bunk, waggling his eyebrows at the female protagonist of Sixteen Candles and trying out his conversational English: "What's happenin', hot stuff?"
Then it's on to the average American dinner table, where the food seems completely foreign to him. He's mystified by quiche; confronted with a fork and spoon, he uses them like chopsticks.
Long Duk Dong wears his hair in what we called a "butt-cut" back in the '80s — parted straight down the middle. He is not one of the cool kids. But he proceeds to have the night of his life: At the high-school dance, he finds romance, gets seriously drunk and ends up in a tree, hollering, "Oh, sexy girlfriend!"
Then he jumps onto the person below — who turns out not to be his new American girlfriend.
By morning, Long Duk Dong — portrayed by actor Gedde Watanabe — lies splayed out in his host family's front yard. When they discover him, the inanity continues: "Oh, no more yanky my wanky," he moans. "The Donger needs food."
Those are the greatest hits of "The Donger": No more yanky my wanky ... Oh, sexy girlfriend ... What's happenin', hot stuff?
Oh, and along the way? His every entrance is accompanied, mysteriously, by the sound of a gong.
'Every Bad Stereotype,' Rolled Into One Character
In the '80s, teenagers quoted Long Duk Dong endlessly. He became one of the most enduring characters of the decade's teen comedies. It's his face — not that of Molly Ringwald's heroine — on the Sixteen Candles DVD in that red Netflix envelope.
Long Duk Dong is the creation of writer-director John Hughes, whose films