R.I.P. John Hughes, R.I.P. the '80s
Out of all the celebrity deaths that have ensued over the past year, I can't think of any more deserving of the saying: "You don't know what you've got til it's gone."
The number of films since John Hughes ended his screenwriting career that have been directly influenced by, and/or blatantly ripped off from him is staggering. But to say that no one has matched Hughes' ability to capture a generation of teen angst on film is a fact; not an opinion. With many of the movies that he has spawned, sexual exploits and gross-out humor seem to overwhelm (American Pie, Cruel Intentions, Superbad, etc). To me it just appears that everyone's trying to out-do the Farrelly Brothers or Judd Apatow, year after year. It's exhausting. And what we're left with is a decades-long legacy of teensploitation in lieu of any truly insightful narrative of the (teenage) human condition.
I saw The Breakfast Club last summer, in the park on a massive, inflatable drive-in theater-sized screen. I hadn't seen it in nearly 15 years, and it brought back so many memories. It was the first time that I realized, as an adult, just how brilliant and insightful John Hughes actually was as a storyteller. Hundreds of people were cheering and shouting lines along with the actors, whose voices carried across 10-ft speakers placed all over Dolores Park. It was as if we'd all shown up for a rock show, and these characters were the main attraction. It made me realize that Hughes' "brain children" must have truly resonated in the minds of so many people of my generation, and over a substantial period of time.
I was trying to think of reasons why his movies were so influential, and will remain classics for my generation, when I found this article in the NYT. Writer A.O. Scott just nailed it:
"...it’s a little eerie that Mr. Hughes died so soon after Michael Jackson, another fixture of ’80s popular culture locked in perpetual youth.
Their deaths make me feel old, but more than that, they make me aware of belonging to a generation that has yet to figure out adulthood, for whom life can feel like a long John Hughes movie. You know the one. That Spandau Ballet song is playing at the big dance. You remember the lyrics, even if it’s been years since you heard them last. This is the sound of my soul. I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line?"
The documentary (trailer below), Don't You Forget About Me, about Hughes and his impact on the industry, hasn't been released yet. But I'm sure there are growing legions of fans now anticipating it. Hughes, you will surely be missed.