Appreciation: John Hughes

The lines started coming to mind:

“The question is not, ‘what are we going to do,’ it’s, ‘what aren’t we going to do?’”

John Hughes in 1984, as he was preparing to launch a series of iconic and genre-defining teen movies. AP.

John Hughes in 1984, as he was preparing to launch a series of iconic and genre-defining teen movies. AP.

“What’s happening, hot stuff?”

” . . . demented and sad, but social . . . ”

“It’s called a sense of humor – you should get one – they’re nice.”

“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It seems like life has gone pretty fast for those of us whose high school years coincided with John Hughes’ teen movies. When news of his death of a heart attack broke this afternoon, it almost felt like someone I graduated with died, even though Hughes was 18 years older than me and most of my friends in the Class of ’86.

But somehow, despite being a full-generation older, he got us.

Now, you have to understand the context of the time. In the 1980s, film was not catering to us. We mostly saw movies about adults, and if there were kids in them, they were children of the adults. Same goes for TV. And while it was the dawn of MTV, the music channel was still showing videos, not series. There was no outlet giving us a steady diet of our peers.

Then, along came this guy, this voice, who in a quick burst of movies put our very familiar world on the big screen. OK, like anything from Hollywood, it was a somewhat glorified version of our world. I had goofy-cool friends. I never had anyone quite as fabulous as John Cryer’s Duckie in Pretty in Pink. We never got away with quite as much as the Saturday detention dwellers in The Breakfast Club, and definitely, none of us got away with anything on the scale of Ferris Bueller. Matthew Broderick’s quintessential role was as much a fantasy as James Bond.

That was one of the things that made Huges’ teen auteur era — he did write, direct and/or produce many other films, including the Home Alones and Vacations — so strong: it was a variety of films. He didn’t make the same movie five, seven times. There were fairly serious films like Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. There were the crazy adventures like Weird Science and Sixteen Candles, and those total fantasies like Ferris Bueller.

Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller. AP.

Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller. AP.

But there were also common traits, like the central characters were always the average-to-outcast kids, ones who still had big dreams before graduation. There was a mass identity there because, hey, every class only has one homecoming queen, and she probably didn’t feel as secure as she looked. In Hughes’ films, the popular and shunned peeled away their social layers to find common ground. Even ultra-cool Ferris wasn’t the captain of the football team and ended up on the same level with goofy Cameron by the end of the movie.

It’s probably because of the precedent Hughes set that queen-of-the-prom shoo-ins like Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan were cast as outcasts in their teen movies.

Despite cinematic glorification, these were kids we knew, feelings we shared, and in many cases we thought they were all our own until we saw them in John Hughes movies.

Hughes’ parents actually live here in Lexington. If I could tell them anything, it would sound a lot more like a high school friend than a filmmaker appreciation.

John said things that needed to be said, that we needed to hear. He made us take a fresh look at ourselves and others, and he made us feel like we were not alone.

How appropriate The Breakfast Club, arguably his masterpiece, featured a Simple Minds song called Don’t You Forget About Me. Me and my fellow children of the ’80s — and future generations — will never forget John.

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