Jake Ryan -Michael Schoeffling
Caroline – Haviland Morris
A week or so ago I was cleaning out some old DVDs and VHS Tapes (yes VHS tapes) from a cabinet and packaging them to donate to the library, the VHS tapes were headed to the trash. I became nostalgic in going through the tapes remembering the movies of my youth. One of the tapes I came across was the John Hughes classic 16 Candles. The Central theme of the movie was that Molly Ringwald’s family forgot her 16th birthday in the chaos that was her sister’s wedding. But the really hilarious part of the movie was the side themes, including The Geek, played by Michael Anthony Hall, who attempts to sleep with one of the girls in his class and get proof for his equally dorky friends.
Of course, back when this movie came out in 1984 I was still in college and Title IX was not yet a “Thing” But I thought about the movie and its Title IX implications, while holding the box, in particular the final scenes of the movie were The Geek was at a party with the movie’s heartthrob Jake Ryan played by Michael Schoeffling. In the next to last scene Jake Ryan mentions that the High School girl Caroline played by Haviland Morris was passed out upstairs and he could have his way with her. Jake wisely declines to do so but essentially offers Caroline to The Geek and makes the Geek promise that he would get the exceptionally drunk Caroline safely home, also a wise move. But in the final scene, both The Geek and Caroline wake up in the back seat of Jake’s father’s convertible Rolls Royce. The camera pans to a shot of two beer cans tucked next to Caroline in the back seat, with them both awake, groggy, and hungover. The Geek asks Caroline if they did anything while making the hand gesture for sex. Caroline says “yea I think so” The Geek then asks Caroline if he liked it and then stumbles and awkwardly says I mean did you like it, and Caroline responds “Yeah I think I did,” and they then gaze into each other’s eyes.
I don’t think John Hughes could have created a more real-life scenario of a Title IX case some thirty years before College Title IX cases would blast onto the scene like a category 5 hurricane in the tropics. While most parties in a Title IX case don’t find themselves waking up in the back seat of a convertible Rolls Royce, it’s not unusual for parties not to remember exactly what the facts of their sexual activity are or even if there was any sexual activity. Unfortunately, that does that does not prevent one of the parties, usually the woman, from reporting the other, usually the man, to their school’s Title IX office, for Nonconsensual sex. But in the 16 Candles scenario, neither The Geek nor Caroline remembers exactly what if anything happened. In actuality, nothing may have happened but that does not mean that The Geek won’t be reported. Even though neither remembers the details of their supposed encounter it is likely that it would be the Geek that is investigated for a Tile IX violation. The Geek could certainly report Caroline but that just creates what Campus Discipline attorneys call a race to the Title IX office. In the fictitious Title IX case Caroline would likely report that she was too drunk to consent and that she blacked out. Not understanding that blacked out does not mean passed out and that people who are blacked out may act relatively normal but just can’t formulate memories due to drinking or drug use, the school will likely support Caroline’s version of the event. Under Title IX the respondent is given the responsibility of knowing if the other person is too drunk to be able to consent, but their own intoxication is not a defense.
So what should the Geek do when he receives notice that Caroline has accused him of a Title IX violation? First, he needs to inform his parents, second, he and his family need to retain, an attorney well-versed in Campus Discipline and Title IX matters, such as those at Mudrick & Zucker. The Geek is in for a difficult semester he needs experience on his side.