Remembering John Hughes


Gay Guy is on vacation this week, sorry if things are sounding a little one-sided.

Saddened by the news about John Hughes passing today. [Entertainment Weekly story here.] He'd been retired and lived in relative seclusion since the mid-90s. Good for him.

Over a year ago, I put up a post about his impact on me, and the importance of tolerance as a central theme of his work, at least in his incredible string mid-80s teen-angst comedies.

Here it is:
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 many 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).

Just wondering if these or any other mainstream films had a similar impact on you.

Gay Guy later admitted that he didn't think he'd seen, or at least remembered seeing, any of these. Blasphemy.

Look, I have such a soft place in my heart for these films that I forgive Hughes for the lazy recycling of "Some Kind of Wonderful" from the remnants of "Pretty in Pink." Swap the lead's genders and it's a whole new film. Kind of. But it still works. No one can top PIP's thirty-ish James Spader as the spoiled high-school heavy, though.

Readers, anyone else have any John Hughes memories? His films are undeniable, and easily quotable, touchstones for Gen Xers like me.

One of my favorites: "Can I borrow your underpants for, like, 10 minutes?"

--Straight Guy


Straight in Upstate said...

I was 23 when Sixteen Candles came out. While I could identify with the outsider theme, the teen angle wore thin after the first couple movies. By Ferris Bueller, I was really hoping for Matthew Broderick to get hit by a car at the end, and all the spoiled children in the film to suffer really horrible fates.

If nothing else, the Hughes movies are a great archive for today's teens to see what actors used to look like. "What was wrong with Jennifer Gray's nose in those movies? James Spader wasn't always fat?? Who let Jon Cryer out of the house with that hairstyle?"

But seriously, I was shocked by Hughes' death. he did make some iconic popular movies, IMHOs not withstanding.

Kathryn said...

Ferris Bueller is my fav on that list. My 17 yo son saw it recently and reminded me of many of the scenes that cracked him up...we had many a laugh, thanks to Hughes.
You wrote a lovely tribute, SG. As for GG, he doesn't know what he's missed. Maybe on a snowy, housebound day, with nothing else on teevee...

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