I won’t say that John Hughes defined the generation as Christy Lemire does in her AP article, but I will say he defined a genre. I agree with Christy that “Every teen movie that’s come out since the mid-1980s owes a debt to John Hughes. He was that influential.”
From the street cleaner’s route down splintered streets (the trumpet’s blare on the Psychedelic Fur’s title song playing) to Judd Nelson’s defiant fist and Anthony Michael Hall’s ode to teenage anxiety over the punching guitars of the Simple Minds, John Hughes’ well conducted orchestra of coming-of-age fears and aspirations and New Wave pop songs created a fairy tale for teenagers of “high school as we wished it could have been — funnier, weirder, sweeter, full of kids who have just the right zinger or poignant thing to say.”
Abortion, alcoholism, gambling, homophobia, racism, and like social issues did not affect the White suburbs where John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink take place. Those were our problems. The problems us, lower-middle income non-Whites, had to contend with. However, his films played just the right siren song of shared teen social dilemmas like bullying, first crushes, peer acceptance, and emergent identity to lure us into their embrace.
I was Ducky to an Andy and Blaine. Of course in Hollis, my Andy and Blaine, were both Hispanic. And I was Brian Johnson, to Hispanic and Black Andrews, Allisons, Claires, and Benders. Yes, there were larger more pressing issues I had to contend with in high school. But to spend an hour in a world where at least a part of your story was being told and watching everything work out…
I am not saying that my teenage years or even my years shortly after were filled with huge heavy social issues. I ‘m just saying John Hughes was a masterful storyteller who seasoned his stories with just enough teenage anxiety and poppy New Wave music to engage me. He said what he had to say in just the right words to get me and my friends to keep listening regardless of the truth of our situations.
And there was a moral. A moral of self acceptance and social tolerance. Nothing new or revealing. We had heard it before but Hughes had us so mesmerized that we sat through it again and again.
[I openly admit that I am ignoring Long Duk Dong. But that’s a different post. For right now, I just want to remember the fairy tales.]