We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of John Hughes today. As teenagers of the 80’s, the images, words and characters of John Hughes are ingrained in our minds. We’ve watched (and re-watched and re-watched) Sixteen Candles anytime we needed a pick me up and we are physically unable to change the channel whenever Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club is on television. Twenty-five years later, these movies can still make us laugh and fill us with a happy melancholy for our teenage years. He brought a voice to teens in the 80’s, long before corporations discovered how much money was in it for them (the teen industry explosion in movies, music and tv was still years away) and kick started the careers of actors like Jennifer Grey, James Spader and Matthew Broderick.
It amazes me to think of how many quotes penned by Mr. Hughes are a part of my daily vocabulary. And we’re not just talking the big iconic phrases. Sure “No more yankee my wankee – the donga needs food.” still makes me laugh, but it’s some of the subtler moments that my equally obsessed friends and I throw around. For instance, whenever someone asks if you can remember to do something, we put on our best sarcastic Samantha voice and reply “I can remember lots of things.” Has someone spilled a drink or dropped something? Make sure to sneer “Smooth move, Cliff” as you walk away (to get towels – not leave them all alone at a party menaced by jocks!) If a friend is getting too excited over a video game or something nerdy, aim your imaginary space gun at him or her, make futuristic gun noises and say, “Score, a direct hit.” The list goes on and on…
The greatness of a Hughes movie lied not only in the fantastic writing and well-chosen cast, it was also there in the music layered behind every scene. The soundtrack of a Hughes film accentuated the story and introduced a plethora of cult bands into the mainstream (The Smiths, OMD, The Psychedelic Furs, Kate Bush and many more). The soundtracks to Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club could be found in the boom box (ha!) of every clique in my high school. And yes, this new waver was, at the time, annoyed to hear the cheerleaders singing to Echo & the Bunnymen, (Hey! these are my bands!) but I’ve matured since then. And perhaps coolest of all? Stef’s husband Derwood even has a song on the classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles soundtrack.
While I’ve grown up, the silly sweetness and angst of these movies is always there. John Hughes understood Emo before the term was coined. As he told Premiere Magazine (via Entertainment Weekly) in 1999, “…the one really key element of teendom…is that it feels as good to feel bad as it does to feel good. At that age, I remember, many times, staring out the window and feeling sorry for myself. ‘The whole world is against me. Nobody understands me.’ It’s a lot of fun. One of the great wonders of that age is that your emotions are open and fresh and raw. That’s why I stuck around that genre for so long.”
So, now, whenever I want to feel some of that bittersweet (in hindsight) teen-age anguish and revel in the joy of high school dances and Friday night keggers being the center of my universe, I have the films of John Hughes to keep me company.
(Click here for a 16 Candles montage backed by “If You Were Here.”)