Growing Up on Teen Comedies

Gay Guy,

Saw this recent article on John Hughes. My teenage angst came flooding back as I read it. I think demographically I was the perfect target for the genre he created. When "Sixteen Candles" came out, I was (1) sixteen, and (2) an emotional outsider seeking some validation.

As the article points out, Hughes switched the game and told all of his stories from the outsider's perspective. In fact, Hughes' best known film (though not my favorite) is "The Breakfast Club" where Hughes implies that we are ALL outsiders, no matter how we classify ourselves. My public school was similarly governed by cliques... divided into athletes, stage performers, brainiacs, and those who inhabited the smoking lounge (how was this ever an approved and authorized option for 14 year olds?). There were many options for self-segregation...

I didn't know anyone who was gay and "out" (though some of my suspicions have since been confirmed -- more surprising are the ones that weren't). But my high school would not have been the most accommodating environment for the first one to try. We certainly used homophobic insults with little discretion.

In not a small way, I'm sure that these films made me a more accepting and tolerant person. You've met some of my high school friends, GG, and must know that if I am open-minded, it's not due to engaging in enlightening discourse with them.

I don't deserve any extra credit for being your friend, Gay Guy. Well, I do... for so many reasons, but not because you're gay, I should say. But if it took some growing up on my part to see value in people that I don't totally understand, I have to give some credit to Hughes and his films.

He made 6 "outsider" films from 84 to 87, some better than others, but all arriving between my 16th and 19th birthdays. And I'm sure I didn't miss a single one.
  • Sixteen Candles (1984)
  • Weird Science (1985)
  • The Breakfast Club (1985)
  • Pretty in Pink (1986)
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
  • Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Anyway, many of today's filmmakers cite Hughes as a crucial influence, and have sought him out to no avail. He hasn't worked in many years (though I hear that the idea for the recent Owen Wilson flop "Drillbit Taylor" is an old one of his).

You mentioned that you identified with the outcast Rudolph from the holiday special, just wondering if these or any other mainstream films has a similar impact on you.

--Straight Guy

What films changed your perspective? Join the discussion here.


Anonymous said...

Classics for sure. I'd be hard pressed to turn any of these off even on a busy Saturday afternoon. My favorite is Breakfast Club. It tells us that all teenagers feel like outsiders. Of course, on a more base note, it's hard to compete with Long Duck Dong's "No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food." That balance of awkwardness commentary and humor are unparalleled. You could enjoy this movie all over again just by reading the classic quotes -- which is, by the way, basically the entire movie:

Straight Guy said...

Thanks, anonymous,

I'll admit to laughing at Long Dong, and his hunt for "sexy girlfriend," too. But I'll also mention that I recently read that he continues to get negative vibes from many Asian groups for the stereotypes in the film.

Here it is... Love that there's an 80s cover band called Long Duk Dong...

--Straight Guy

Anonymous said...

It wasn't mainstream, but I have to vote for "The Brother From Another Planet" by John Sayles, circa 1984. A black alien escapes slavery on his home planet, lands on Earth at Ellis Island, and winds up in Harlem - while being chased by white alien bounty hunters. Like Breakfast Club, everyone's an outsider. The Brother is mute but everyone has a "conversation" with him, assigning him an identity. A lot of great quotes and one of Sayles' early "hits".