August 6th, 2009
… Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
Today, Ethan called me on the phone to let me know that John Hughes had died. I was taken aback, for a moment. It’s always a bit of a blow, hearing things like that, unprompted. Not that I’m going to lose it over a man I hardly knew, who died of more-or-less natural causes, somewhat towards the latter part of his life. But I did feel a little pang that caught me unawares.
John Hughes, for those not aware, is a celebrated American filmmaker whose run of teenage angst films in the 1980s came to define the time for kids living back then. Among his bigger movies were The Breakfast Club, Ferris Buller’s Day Off, and Sixteen Candles. Later in life, he penned, under a pseudonym, the first two Home Alone films.
It’s just funny, because even though those movies came out almost 25 years ago, I feel like they have just as much impact today. They’re no less relevant just because their soundtracks are composed of a fantastically retro spread of 80s pop artists, and in fact I’d say that only serves to ramp up the nostalgia factor. The themes dealt with are pretty universal for growing up in middle America though: peer pressure, isolation, popularity, love, parents, friends. And the films managed to do it in a pretty earnest fashion.
The Breakfast Club, I feel, was Hughes’ best work. It has the best blend of humor, emotion, dancing, and “fuck-you-mom-and-dad-and-teachers-and-world” of any of the movies. Buller was funnier, and Sixteen Candles more quirky, but TBC pulled it off better than any of them. I remember watching that movie countless times in high school, feeling more and more spoken to with each successive iteration. Not to mention that opening the film with a Bowie quote was essentially one of the coolest things I could possibly imagine for such a film.
I noticed a while ago that I haven’t watched, nor felt the need to watch, TBC in quite a while. This startled me, because I used to watch it at least once a month the first two years of high school, and a few times a year Junior and Senior years. It occurs to me that perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I don’t need it like I used to. Those awkward years when everyone’s looking for reassurance of their own self-worth, and where everyone has a different way of finding it, have gone by, I suppose.
That’s sad to think about, that I don’t need Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson like I used to. The memories persist though; one time Lydia Schneider put an anonymous question in the “ask Mr. Hashman” hat which we passed around in scripture class. Hashman pulled it out and read it aloud to the class:
Does Barry Manillow know you raid his wardrobe?
I believe that, to this day, both men remain in ignorance of that undoubted truth. As for me?
“I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it baby.”
[ mp3 ♫ ]Featuring: Simple Minds