I can forgive--fairly easily because I grew up in the 80s so I know how movies were with the casual racism and sexism and whatnot--that the Fratellis feels like Italian criminal stereotypes and Data is the quintessential Asian stereotype (minus some martial arts skills, but Ke Huy Quan had already done a bit of that in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) of the 1980s. Well, East Asian. If he'd been from farther west, he would have been a villain of some sort. But anyway, I can forgive that. Because, it's 1985, and America is very racist, very sexist, homophobic, and heteronormative. (Like today, only the most bigoted of us didn't have to claim so energetically how much we weren't. We just let it flow.) But, I cannot forgive Mrs. Walsh (Mary Ellen Trainor) for her racism. I mean, seriously, Mouth is a smartass little jerk, Chunk swears constantly--and Mrs. Walsh specifically dislikes swearing, mind you--but when they are both in her house, who does she notice? Whose presence does she call out? Data's. Mouth can bullshit his way to seeming charming. Chunk is just so damn lovable. But, Data? He's just so Asian.
I mean, clearly, he'd be good at math to build all those awesome things.
(Also, now that I finally pressed play on the movie for today, I would like to say that the 007 with smiley faces for the zeroes on Data's belt buckle/dart launcher is adorable.)
(Also, separate from all the racism, I must say, If not for Chunk's specificity I wouldn't be too sure about the product placement stuff with the Jeep Cherokee in the opening sequence. Mama Fratelli, sure enough, says, "Throw her into four-wheel drive and hold on to your hats," which sounds like product placement scripting. But, later, she will also, rather than saying turn on the blender, she will say "Hit purée" and when she sees a shoe print, she doesn't say follow those footprints, she says, "Follow them size fives." SPecificity is just part of her character.)
And, to be fair, Mrs. Walsh has just walked through the ripped screen door. But, she is clearly insane in some way because she tells Rosalita, "I would really like the house clean when they tear it down." That is madness. Folks force you out of your house, you leave that place as messy as you can. Plus, she thinks you can "come down" with asthma. She probably broke her arm doing something really stupid, or being racist... Although, to be fair, I'm not sure how being racist would get your arm broken.
(Sidenote: I don't believe for even a second that Mouth and Chunk and Data have not found their way into the Walsh attic many, many times while they have all been friends. There is no way they have not explored all of Mr. Walsh' sexual torture devices many, many times. Also, Mikey being so protective of that stuff does not gel with him immediately calling for Chunk to break the glass on that map when he could just open the back of the frame.)
Also, everyone who comments on Data's broken English forgets to mention that Data still has a better vocabulary than Mikey.
But, my real thought for today, is--and I think I know the answer, but the question is still worth asking from time to time--why do we have to take one character as some exemplar of every character like them? Why can't Data just be this one kid? Named Richard, by the way. Why does every single instance of some minority in whatever film from back in the day need to be some grand proof that we thought everyone like that was like that? I mean, aside from the obvious--that we populated every film with so many white folks that obviously when we put one Asian kid in-- No. Let us be specific. Ke Huy Quan is Vietnamese and Chinese. But, I think after he got attention in Temple of Doom, we all assumed he was just Chinese because we don't like nuance. So, put one Chinese kid in a movie like this, and that affects our impression of every Chinese kid around us, and our impression of every Chinese adult around us. We see Data's broken English and his obsession with invention and we find our every thought about Chinese people not conforming with our society--because our society is the end all, be all of history and reality and whatever, Murica forever!--and should be working in some IT department somewhere, or running a factory in China making computers because those things are awesome. My family had a Texas Instruments computer (the TI-99 (released in 1980), I think) sometime early in the 80s. I don't know exactly when. We later had a Commodre +4 (released in 1984). I remember programming in BASIC on both of those machines. I remember checking out Micro Adventure novels from the library in Hastings Ranch--they were basically Choose Your Own Adventure novels but with basic (BASIC) computer programs tied to the story. The only specific one I remember produced an animated gate opening on the screen when a gate opening was part of the story. Basic stuff. BASIC stuff. I'd have an IBM-style PC somewhere around 1990. For a computer class in high school I would write an animation thing in BASIC that involved a battle between the USS Enterprise and the Death Star, and you got to choose who won at the start of the battle, and it played the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Because I was into that then.
But, 1985. America. Racism. We could have a kid like Mikey, who could barely handle a vocab quiz but damn it, he could get sentimental about pirates because... reasons. Or because, in the crappie you cheesy dialogue of 1985, "It's our time. It's our time, down here." Because, that is what kids like me want to hear. The characters might be younger, but MArtha Plimpton was 15, Josh Brolin was 16, Kerri Green was 17. These were the oldest of the Goonies.*
(*Technically, Andy was not a Goonie at the start of the story. But, Brad declared her one, so I guess by the third act she was one.)
Adults are either absent through most of the film, or they are the villains. (John Matuszak is the exception, and there are those who say that The Goonies has us "laughing at the physically and mentally disabled" but the whole point to Sloth is that by the end of the film, we are with him. Like Chunk (and common complaints about size-shaming)--the character is so captivating that the initial distancing detail goes away and we are there with them. Data is a dorky Asian kid. Chunk is a fat kid who can smell ice cream. (And, who can't, really?) Sloth is deformed (and I would argue that he is not necessarily mentally disabled so much as he has been kept from any formal education, but then, he should at least speak as well as Madison in Splash.) but we get past that.
(Quick sidenote, and maybe it's connected: there is a guy with an eyepatch in the shower at the country club when the Goonies mess with all those pipes. It feels random, arbitrary.)
If we connect with the characters--including Data, including Chunk, including Sloth--then how offensive are they?
I mean, for white people. There's plenty of room for people of East Asian descent to complain about the characterization of Data, or for people of weight (TM Robert E G Black, 2018) to complain about the characterization of Chunk, or for physically (or mentally) deformed people to complain about the characterization of Sloth, but I do a google search and find folks that are not claiming any of those identities but, like us SJWs at our best, are denouncing the presentation in this film anyway, because fuck the 1980s, fuck casual racism, and sexism and ableism.
And, for that matter, fuck lazy scripting that has Chunk in desperate search for food but then magically has him have a Baby Ruth in his pocket when it will be useful to get Sloth going.
Oh, wait. That's an entirely different issue.