80s Fridays Comes Early: Farewell John Hughes

Can’t breathe . . .

John Hughes died. And while his “Long Dick Dong” was probably only topped by Blake Edwards “Mr. Yunioshi”, I still mourn his loss. His films defined a generation while ensuring a prominent voice to working class, eccentric, and “nerdy” youth as much as the pretty people that often dominate the genre. He had one of the keenest insights into teen culture in a way that both celebrated and critiqued youth. Shying away from the modern teen exploitation who simply finds pretty plastic people to say unusually cruel things to supposedly less pretty people dying to be just like them, Hughes gave us complex characters who saw themselves as both popular and alone simultaneously, who understood the social order of youth culture while daring to define themselves and defy boundaries when they could. His dialogue has become part of the lexicon, combining sharp quips and heartfelt pathos with youth centered introspection about abuse, neglect, rejection, and desire. And while his world was populated with rich kids as much as poor ones, they were never the two-dimensional walking advertisements for Disney or Blackberries/Iphones but instead often people just as desperate to be loved, understood, and cared for as anyone else. (Steff possibly being the exception.)

While Hughes often failed to depict people of color in his world, and when he did, with sometimes offensive results, he created characters with whom we could all identify and to whom we can still refer in discussing identity and meaning. Queer characters were also largely missing, tho there was more than enough window dressing to go around. Every single one of Hughes’ teen culture films had some discussion of same sex desire or the ways in which gender and sexuality blur. While the music sung about “Miss Amanda Jones”, Some Kind of Wonderful dared us to fall in love with two characters challenging gender norms and promising us in the moment below a chance to imagine something incredibly queer and beautiful, even all wrapped up in heteronormativity:

While Ferris’ day off ended with his bestfriend and his girlfriend turning to one another, I think Sloane was just as clear as the rest of us why Cameron really followed Ferris around. In many ways that moment was a precursor to a much more explicit one on My So Called Life when Rayanne tells Angela she and Jordan slept together b/c they both missed being the light in her eyes. At least some one on youtube thinks they know why Steff was really so upset about Andy and Blaine:

I’m going to risk putting up songs from his movies w/clips from the movies he is best known for, but part of the reason we stopped doing weekly 80s Fridays was b/c of all the copyright issues with music videos from the 80s on youtube. I had the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club and both, like the scripts of those films, play in my head more often than I can say. While his movies largely diverged from my interests both intellectually and entertainment wise as we both got older, I teach much of his early work in my classes, reference it on the blog far too often, and have given professional papers on them. I was just sitting down this morning to consider combining the clip from Ferris Bueller where he outlines how to get out of going to school with the attendance policy on a power point for the first day of my Youth Culture and Media (1970s-2010) course this upcoming semester.

Finding this clip made me think of another use for Bueller in the present, when he says that he doesn’t care what governing system other countries have b/c “it still won’t change the fact that he does not own a car.” How great would it be to use that clip in an advertisement for the cash for clunkers program and to counter the idea that Obama, the moderate, is trying to have a revolution.

I’ve even got a day on the syllabus of my upcoming overload class just devoted to John Hughes films, their meaning and how things move from “subversive” to “mainstream” with clips of JC Penny commercials and lines from the film lined up with current shows/films that reference them.

Wherever you are Mr. Hughes, I doubt anyone will ever “forget about you.”

(odd trivia – I found out about Hughes’ passing from Rob Thomas.)

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