As a writer and as someone who felt like an outsider growing up in the 1980s, it should be easy for me to talk about what writer/director John Hughes meant to me. Hughes died yesterday at 59, a year or two younger than my parents, and yet despite being one of Them, he spoke so truthfully to my generation, who came of age to his coming-of-age movies.
Whether you're now in your 20s, 30s or even 40s, there was something about his comedies that felt as though they were tapping into your own life experience. The Breakfast Club. Sixteen Candles. Weird Science. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Hughes wrote, produced and directed all of those films in a few short years in the mid-1980s. He also wrote National Lampoon's Vacation (based on his first short story for the Lampoon) as well as its sequels, Mr. Mom, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Uncle Buck, and made a ton of money on the Home Alone series. We all have our own entry point into the Hughes oeuvre, and a character or two who we reference and identify with more closely than the others. If Michael Jackson provided a soundtrack for our collective experience, then John Hughes provided our pre-Web version of blogging, documenting our adolescent angst and giving it life on the big screen. Whether we were a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal, we worried about making it out of high school, or even just surviving in the world, and Hughes made us feel as though we were not alone. I still remember watching Ferris Bueller in the cinema and thinking he was me, even though I was never popular in high school. Sure, I did get away with a few outrageous pranks in both high school and college, but because of that, there were other events that people tried to link me to — my biology teacher remained convinced for years that I somehow placed worms all over campus (really? I can't even see me doing that?), and my parents for a while played the role of Ferris' sister (Jennifer Grey) wondering how other parents in town could think I was an angel. Maybe it was my cherubic look? Anyhow. This isn't about me.
It's about how John Hughes knew how we all felt as teenagers (and in his later efforts, he tried to convey how we felt as even younger kids, or as adults). It comforted me to read that, in fact, Hughes had a singular connection to one of my own generation through a series of pen pal letters. Read this post by Alison Byrne Fields about how she reached out to Hughes, and made such a connection.
How did you connect with John Hughes? Was there a specific character that spoke to your life experience?
Here is a montage of Hughes movie clips that someone edited earlier this year to "Baba O'Riley" (known by its strains of "teenage wasteland") by The Who: