As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a little out of the target demographic for the teen dramas written and directed by John Hughes, who died Thursday. That didn't keep me from having an opinion about his work, of course. But I also asked Lynne Sherwin, one of my editors and true child of Hughes movies (she's 41), for her thoughts. You can find them after the jump.
Most of John Hughes’ best movies succeeded because they touched on our everyday fantasies. Kids got the “Home Alone” movies, with young heroes resourcefully surviving without adults and outwitting the bad guys. Teen boys lived vicariously through “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Weird Science.” And middle-aged family men had “Vacation” -- Christie Brinkley lusting after schlubby Chevy Chase in his station wagon? Sure, why not?
But for women like me who were teenagers in the 1980s, there was the Molly Ringwald Trilogy: “Pretty in Pink,” “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.” Somehow, Hughes saw inside our heads and hearts, and then he picked the perfect actress to represent us.
Ringwald was our age, not a 25-year-old playing a high schooler. She wasn’t conventionally attractive. And the characters Hughes created for her were quirky, realistic and full of raging teenage-girl emotions -- anger, doubt, embarrassment, fear, longing.
“Breakfast Club” seemed to have more appeal to both genders, maybe because the fantasy here was being able to look inside the heads of our peers, especially those we’d never be caught dead speaking to in real life. And we all saw aspects of ourselves in the initial stereotypes of the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal.
The other two movies, though, were pure chick flicks, in the best way possible.
It’s a sad fact that practically from birth, girls hear whispers that whatever you are, it isn’t good enough if you want to land The Guy. Wear makeup. Dress sexier. Fix your hair. Don’t beat the boys on the basketball court. Sand down your rough edges. And for God’s sake don’t let them know you have a brain.
Yet in “Pink” and “Candles,” we saw someone just like us, with honest emotions and a believable personality, who still managed to get The Guy.
Looking at the movies as an adult, I think Hughes did go wrong with a few of his plot choices. In “Breakfast Club,” Emilio Estevez’s jock isn’t attracted to Ally Sheedy when she’s in full freak mode, only after she’s been “prettied up.” It’s the same thing that now sets my teeth on edge at the end of “Grease.” And as Rich has already pointed out, Blane is all wrong for Andie in “Pretty in Pink.” He’s done nothing to deserve her. Duckie’s her real soul mate, and I’d like to think maybe after she got bored with Blane, she figured that out.
This is probably why my favorite of the Molly Trilogy is still “Sixteen Candles.” What a wonderful metaphor Hughes came up with - a milestone birthday representing all the huge life changes and outsize emotions we were going through at the time, and the adults around us seemingly oblivious to the turmoil. And he nailed our fantasy perfectly. Handsome guy ditches Barbie doll for a real, ordinary girl (yes, I’ll admit, for no apparent reason). He’s the one who really understands her. He’s the one who finally ends up helping her celebrate her birthday. And it doesn’t hurt that he drives a Porsche.