back when john hughes made teen movies

" Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed."

John Hughes
Photo from here.

One of the things that spurred me on to set up this "reminiscence blog" is the sixth of August, 2009. That was the day John Hughes passed away. I never thought of myself as a fan of his; in fact I heavily dissed his movies when I was young (while secretly enjoying them). But after a friend of mine recently suggested a John Hughes movie marathon to commemorate the late Great, I pondered a bit on The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller, et al.  It was then that I realized -- aw, shucks, I'm indeed a John Hughes fan.

Guilty. I am one of the numerous thirty-somethings all over the globe who revisited John Hughes High School after hearing news of his passing.

Anyone who paid attention in the eighties would recognize that his work - particularly the teen flicks - are identifying marks of the decade.  If you've ever had a VCR, it's likely you've seen at least one of them.

Hughes, when you think about it, was actually a brilliant writer.  Cheesy, and corny, but brilliant. I mean, there's something about his messy, down-to-earth antiheroes and their witty quips that latch onto our hearts. Despite all the shameless cliches, I mean. The characters could seem shallow but the way they're so deeply involved in their hormonal conflicts is entertaining.  They're ordinary but memorable, because their sentiments and emotions can be related to by anyone who's ever been a teen.

I suppose we still love those flicks so much because we enjoy seeing pieces of our young selves in the characters --  A hopelessly romantic Molly Ringwald.  A class-cutting Ferris. A geek with braces and/ or pariah status. A rebel wannabe.  At some point in our lives, we had the same concerns and notions.  And we wouldn't want to admit it, but maybe even the same fashion.

In the words of Breakfast Clubber Brian Johnson (played by Anthony Michael Hall),

" What we found out is that each of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club. "

My Favorite John Hughes Movie Moments:
  • The tense, uncomfortable bonding scene in The Breakfast Club, in which they sit in a circle and take turns opening up and melting down.

    The clique system was inspected from a different angle in 'The Breakfast Club'

  • The final scene that explodes with Simple Minds' Dont You ... Forget About Me..
  • A doobie-spun, jazz-dancing, blue-sleeveless-shirted Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club. I always found that hard to watch because it's just too ... silly.
  • The kiss that Keith (Eric Stoltz) stole from Watts (Mary Stewart Masterson) in Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as the emotional (*cough* corny) end scene where she walks away crying and he runs after her. Both cliches, but those devices still work in romance flicks today.
I would have found it a perfect romantic moment ...
It's just that I kept imagining that Watts smelled like sweat and old leather.

  • Matthew Broderick's Danke Schon / Twist and Shout number in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Makes me want to take an impromptu day off too.

In my mind, Matthew Broderick will always be Ferris Bueller.
I'm still surprised whenever I see an older, heavier Mr. Sarah Jessica Parker.

  • The spawning of the SAVE FERRIS merchandise, and Jeannie (Jennifer Gray)'s internal monologue that ends with a venomous, slit-eyed "Screw him!"
Jennifer Grey before the auspicious nose job.

  • The whole opening sequence in Ferris: the sick act - the synthesized coughs - the shower concert - Cameron (Alan Ruck) - the phony phone calls - Sloane (Mia Sara)'s exit from the school in her ridiculous fringed jacket with oversized shoulder pads - the "close family" kiss by the wicked car.

I know this used to be uber cool,
but I kinda feel sorry for Mia Sara seeing her in that getup now.

  • Molly Ringwald's hideous home-made prom dress in Pretty In Pink . Was this really supposed to be "pretty"? (I seriously wondered - was she perhaps trying to make herself more unattractive? She should've just worn the vintage dress). Well I suppose that's what we get from a story based on a song.
Seriously - what was she thinking?

  • Ducky (John Cryer)'s bicycle stunt while wearing an oh-so-period loud vest, hat and all. I know it was probably a stunt double, still it made an impression.  It's soooo 1980's.
  • Bryce, Cliff and Farmer Ted, the adorable geeks in Sixteen Candles -- gadgets, geek-speak and all. The underpants conundrum with Farmer Ted is a big, hilarious win.
  • Toward the end of Sixteen Candles, Molly comes out of the church in her pink bridesmaid dress and the Thompson Twins' If You Were Here starts dramatically playing for her meeting with Jake Ryan - then it all fades into the memorable birthday cake scene. I thought it was just chick-flick perfect.

Shallow, yes. But I'm sure girls fantasized about something like that.Dim-lit quasi-date with their own versions of Jake Ryan.

The portrayals aren't always credible (given the exaggerated stereotyping for cinematic purposes, and the ahem limited talent some of his actors had), but they were fun to watch.

For all the cheese, corn and shoulder pads associated with John Hughes movies, you've got to admit that he tickled our funny bones. Teenagers aren't always so shallow, but it's nice to take things lightly about a time when crushes, perfect jeans and acne felt so life-and-death.  Hughes was obviously a guy who remembered what it was like to be an angsty teen.  He took the time to share his lighthearted thoughts with the world and he made his mark in pop culture.

Today's forty-somethings and thirty-somethings were young and awkward once, and we have an emotional connection with John Hughes because we find slivers of ouselves in his motley casts of characters.  Back then, like them, we were highly concerned about individuality, establishing identity, balancing grades and having fun.  We wished so hard that our first kiss would be fantastic, and that we could have a hot car, and that we wouldn't turn out like our parents. We now return to those classic teen movies with so much fondness even if they're so, er, fluffy, simply because they're just that - fluffy (like Molly's hair).  There's some satisfaction in reminiscing that we used to be so naive and idealistic, when things used to be much simpler. We like to turn away from our bills, political stands and busy grown-up lives for a while and remember a simpler time when our biggest problems were bad skin, peer pressure and prom.

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