It’s been five years since John Hughes died. Having been a teenager in the 80s, I couldn’t not have an opinion.
So, you know John Hughes just died. Everybody knows that John Hughes just died. Almost everyone my age is talking about how sad it was and talking about the movies it’s made them remember.
I haven’t been doing that. Not because Hughes’ death didn’t bring back memories for me, but because it did. I was a suburban teenager who didn’t fit the mold. I should have been his target audience. I just didn’t like his movies much.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s still too soon to talk about them, but I’m going to do it anyway.
John Hughes put together great soundtracks. Pretty in Pink has one of the two best soundtracks from the Eighties and the best title song. “This Woman’s Work,” from She’s Having a Baby is just a great song. And as far as I can tell, all the music was commissioned for the films.
He didn’t flinch from geekdom. It wasn’t prettied up, Hollywood geekdom in his movies, or at least, not all of it. Hughes’s geekdom was awkward and painful. It was played for laughs, but they were always at least half-sympathetic laughs, which was rare at the time.
He didn’t do issue films or bright, fluffy teen romances. He captured the pain of trivialities and the lack of perspective of teenagers. His parents weren’t monsters, just caught up in their own lives. Still and all, I never watched a John Hughes film that didn’t make me uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons.
What reasons? There are the stereotypes, of course. Kids don’t fit neatly into Breakfast Club types, and no, they never broke out of their types in the movie, either. They just talked to each other. And then there is that inexplicable blues bar scene in Weird Science. Huh?
The rewards were all screwed up, too, particularly in the romances. Hughes made some good points in his movies about popularity and wealth, but he almost never followed through (Some Kind of Wonderful being an exception, but by the time that came out, I was so distrustful of Hughes that I didn’t watch it). If you’re a poor or awkward or abused kid, what’s your happy ending? Romance with a rich or popular kid. Whee.
I knew better. I knew it wasn’t going to happen to me, and more than that, I knew I didn’t want it to. The rich, popular kids around me were dull, and frankly, they weren’t very nice even when their friends weren’t around egging them on. Oh, there were popular kids who were nice and funny, but they never ran with the popular crowd. They were popular because everybody liked them, not because they went to the right parties and hung with the right people.
Characters were rewarded for being popular, too. In what kind of screwed-up world does Ferris Bueller create problems for all the decent people around him and still get them to not just cover for him at their own expense but stay friendly toward him too? In what ugly universe is it good for Cameron to have his spinelessness taken advantage of? But hey, Bueller’s everybody’s hero, so whatever it takes for him to have fun must be right. Right? After all, he’s a rebel.
Of course, everybody was a rebel. Not for any particular reason beyond “The adults don’t understand,” but a rebel nonetheless. Better than that, a rebel without consequences.
Now, I was all for rebellion. Rebellion pretty much saved my life, because conformity was impossible. But my rebellion found reasons and issues to shape itself around, and it cost me. None of the kids in John Hughes movies ever stood up for something instead of merely against it, and they barely stood up at all. For all their strikes against the authoritarian adults around them, they didn’t confront them, only avoided them.
And that is why, for all that I own a couple of John Hughes movies, for all that Jon Cryer will always be Duckie to me, I’m always going to be disappointed by his work as a whole.