Friday, August 14, 2009

Meghan Daum on John Hughes: He Made Weird Normal

Meghan Daum eulogized John Hughes, the director who made several seminal 1980's movies about teenagers, including "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles." She thinks a big part of his appeal was that he made it safe and somehow cool to be a little different, a little weird, a tad eccentric. And, of course, he talked about sex. But his movies were also about romance:
So what was Hughes' secret? Is it merely that his films offer an appealing timeout from the "Porky's"- and "American Pie"-style raciness that has since become the norm? In part, but I would venture yet another theory about their staying power and their innocence. Not only do Hughes' movies imply that teens can care as much about romance as about sex, they remind us of a time when you could be odd and be mostly left alone to deal with it. No extreme interventions or psychiatric diagnoses.

If the brooding, solitary Andie played by Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink" were in high school in 2009, it's hard to imagine she wouldn't be a candidate for anti-depression therapy. Likewise, if "The Breakfast Club," which is about five teens serving time in Saturday detention, took place in a post-Prozac, post-Columbine America, Ally Sheedy's mostly mute, kleptomaniac misfit would have undoubtedly been medicated, and Anthony Michael Hall's character would have received a lot more than detention for bringing a flare gun to school. As for Ferris Bueller, the kid obviously needed Ritalin.
Finding yourself, coming of age, figuring out who you are - eternal themes of art. But here's the thing about eternal and universal themes of the human experience: they need to be rediscovered and reworked for every generation, which thinks that it is discovering these ideas on their own. And then they go to college and realize that, no, other people have done this before. But they - and we - then have our versions of these journeys. And there ain't nothing that can take those away from us. Thanks, Mr. Hughes, and I hope your eternal day off is a good one.

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