Friday, August 7, 2009
Death Takes a Trip to Shermer, IL
John Hughes (1950-2009)
Granted as a child of divorce growing up in the lower spectrum of a suburban middle class milieu, I was an easy mark, but save for Asian males who had to bare the brunt of ridicule caused by his most, let’s say “racially insensitive” character, Sixteen Candles' Long Duk Dong, I can’t imagine too many members of my generation and social status who didn’t have some sort of positive relationship with the films of writer-producer-director John Hughes, who passed away yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 59.
Among the cliques at my high school (be they of the Goth, smart or popular strata) one point of common ground was a love of The Breakfast Club. The combination of being at his peak during the rise in popularity and proliferation of VHS and cable, being one of the only filmmakers who consistently spoke to teens in a non-condensing and familiar manner while granting said teen viewers a bit of wish fulfillment--Molly Ringwald gets the hunk, the suspended misfits tell off the principal, Ferris Bueller has his day off free of any consequences--led him to become one of the most consistent hit-makers in film between the years 1983-1989. By the end of the decade, probably due to a desire to break out of the teen “ghetto” he shifted focus and made a handful of adult aimed comedies (Planes, Trains and Automobiles being the most accomplished) until the smashing success of Home Alone, which he wrote and produced but gave directing duties to Chris Columbus shifted his career once again, this time pandering to even less discerning viewers than teenagers: young kids (Beethoven, the Home Alone sequels and Baby Day’s Out amongst others being the result). After the failure of 1991’s Curly Sue, he never directed again and though he wrote a lot of screenplays in the following years (some under a pseudonym) his sudden departure from the spotlight led him to being labeled a recluse in the vain of a OMD listening J.D. Salinger.
Recently I caught a few minutes of The Breakfast Club for the first in about ten years on cable, where it and the rest of Hughes’ 80’s oeuvre will live on for eternity, and it struck me that a lot of what I saw as profound in my teens seemed a little silly in my 30’s. But that’s okay, it’s not important what their value to me is now, but rather what they provided me (the aforementioned familiarity with my concerns as an adolescent, wish fulfillment, et cetera) at an impressionable age. I don’t know if I will seek out one of Hughes films for nostalgia sake this week, in many ways it’s unnecessary, they are that ingrained in my memory. So thank you Mr. Hughes for speaking to a 80’s child of divorce who grew up in the lower spectrum of middle class suburbia for a couple of years, even if Ducky should have totally ended up with Andie.
Here are the posters for some of his most notable work.
Writer-Producer (okay, not one of his career highlights, and pretty much a 90 minute commercial for Target, but I liked it when I was 15 and always thought Jennifer Connelly looked amazing in this poster)