Mimi Thi Nguyen and
Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu
We love The Goonies (1985). This Hollywood studio adventure (pro-
duced by the movie mogul Steven Spielberg) features a ragtag
band of teenage outsiders who go in search of a pirate treasure to
save their ‘‘Goondocks’’ from foreclosure by country club developers. Set in a
small town in the Pacific Northwest, The Goonies is populated by recognizable
types: the sometimes cowardly fat kid (wearing both plaid pants and a Ha-
waiian shirt), the wise-cracker (appropriately nicknamed ‘‘Mouth’’), the rich
and arrogant jock (with the equally rich and arrogant father), the ditzy cheer-
leader and her bespectacled best friend, and the shy, stuttering boy whose
unwavering belief in the impossible guides their unlikely quest. We rooted for
them all, but Data, the Asian immigrant kid exhibiting tendencies toward both
the mad inventor and the secret agent, was our childhood favorite. Endear-
ingly portrayed by Jonathan Ke Quan, Data made us believe that injustice
could be overcome with a Schwinn and some smarts.∞
The Goonies joined dozens of other 1980s teen films—from The Breakfast
Club to The Outsiders—that seemed to champion the misfit and misunder-
stood. To be sure, not all of them featured the likes of Data. A product of their
times, many betrayed the anti-Asian sentiments of their Reagan era origins. In
the absurdist film Better O√ Dead (1985), a pair of Japanese exchange stu-
dents, whose pitch-perfect mimicry of television sportscaster Howard Cosell
seemed to suggest a robotic inability to innovate, are put in their place by John
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