I was researching cultural stereotypes for one of the ESL classes I teach when I came across a video clip from the 80’s film Sixteen Candles. The clip shows a Chinese exchange student, Long Duck Dong, drunk and making a fool of himself in heavily-accented, incoherent English.
Ironically enough, the actor who played Dong isn’t from China or even Asia. He’s a Japanese-American who was born and raised in Utah. In an NPR interview for a piece entitled “Long Duck Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?”, the actor, Gedde Watanabe, who is now in his mid-50’s, says that he may have been ‘a bit naive’ when he accepted the role. He angered quite a few people with his portrayal of what one person NPR interviewed described as, “every bad stereotype possible, loaded into one character.”
What do you think? Are stereotyped depictions of foreigners funny? Or are they offensive?