My Tribute to John Hughes and 80s teen movies
I’ve always had an impression that ordinary folks don’t have to be artists to tell what’s wrong with society. What sets artists from other people is that they are always moving. They move in and out of their zone. They move people to tears, to laughter, to inner actualization and revolutionized a form of medium. As said from the words of the immortal John Hughes, even if they reached they point in their lives where they are most comfortable, they are always moving.
And John Hughes later proved this in his own screenplays and films through the most unlikely form of medium you can think of: Teen movies. Just hearing that two simple words would make us think of average teen drama of hormones, highschool proms and first love, fitting in, etc, but just as promised, John Hughes moved beyond.
His movie, the cult classic and commercial success The Breakfast Club stands as an enduring gift of Hughes’ storytelling. No person who had gone through the 80s would forget this teen classic. Even if my own highschool experience is no way similar with that of the five protagonists, it still left a striking impression in the way how I handle my own problems and dramas in life.
For those who haven’t seen this movie yet (and I strongly suggest you should regardless what era you were born in), the movie is about a five highschool students who have to spend the whole Saturday on detention on the instruction of assistant principal, Mr. Vernon. They see each other in school but they belong to different cliques, each representing the social strata of that crazy kingdom called highschool: A brain, a princess, a basket case, an athlete and a criminal. Set in just one day, with just the school as the only location, it paved the way on how films can provide a harsh, poignant observation of the society (may it be in highschool or real life) through a simple scenario of five kids sitting in for detention.
The fact that the film ended with no certainty of the Breakfast Club having been able to break the status quo and the expectations around them made it all more endearing to say the least. People are free to conclude what they want, but we can all agree that John Bender’s legendary fist pump before the credits is one of the coolest endings ever in movie history.
One of the Hughes’ classic teen coming-of-age movie is his Pretty in Pink that spawned a throng of Molly Ringwald followers. Also, the movie comes with a hit 80s music OMD’s If You Leave which I still shamelessly sing aloud to.
Pretty in Pink is the story of a working-class girl who falls in love with one of the preppy, rich kids in school. Their affection is resisted by their respective social cliques and the pressure they have to live through. Also, the girl Andie has this childhood friend, the eccentric Duckie, who is willing to go great lengths for her, if only she knew (gah!)
Pretty in Pink highlighted the friendzone angle long before it was cool with Duckie’s memorable confession:
Well, that’s very nice. I’m glad. Well here’s… here’s the point, Andie. I’m not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you and… and I can’t like you anymore.
In Hughes’ style of storytelling, Pretty in Pink is not just a girl making a big deal of her highschool prom; it’s a story of sweet friendship, of breaking away from pressure, and fighting for a tiny piece of happiness.
I guess watching from John Hughes’ films, the teens back then are no different from the teens now, both generation struggled with insecurities and self-doubt. The only difference is that today, we have more tools to put up with all the drama (We have the blessed internet to vent our rant with, online games to roleplay, etc) and find that across the world, other people are struggling with the same problems.
There are other John Hughes films that are worth mentioning on this post (Sixteen Candles) and I can still rant all day long how a great artist this man is. Using all the drama and problems that comes with adolescence, John Hughes taught us to see the beauty in ourselves, moving us not to just survive highschool, but life in general; To achieve our own kind of happiness and not giving a damn of what the whole world thinks.