A Tribute to John Hughes

I originally published this to Facebook after the untimely death of one of my Hollywood heroes.

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The quotes from John Hughes movies just flow from me:

“He’s an asshole. Anyone with a haircut like that, you know he’s an asshole.”

“You’re stewed butt wad. I’m telling Mom and Dad everything. I’m even considering making up some shit.”

“I didn’t think it was a whale’s dick, honey.”

“I’m kind of the king of the dipshits.”

“My grandparents actually forgot my birthday. They live for that shit.”

“No more yanky my wanky. The Donger needs food.”

And so they go on and on.

John Hughes, for me, was the first writer/director who portrayed teenagers as real people with real teenage problems that we all endured. To paraphrases Hughes from an interview, most of us think about the important stuff in our teens quite a bit. He’s right. Later on in life when families and jobs and responsibilities enter the picture, we probably don’t spend as much time thinking about life and death, love, etc. But as teenagers, let’s face it: we all had time to dwell to the point of obsession over some of those things. His characters did this better than teenagers in most movies.

And, here’s the catch and where Hughes separated himself: they also thought about and participated in typical teenage stuff, the stuff that less skilled writers made as the focus of their movies. Not Hughes. His teenagers did think and talk about their virginity and their sports careers and their beauty pageants and their shared hatred for the gym teacher (unless she was Kelly LeBrock).

But those things weren’t the whole focus of the movies. Those hijinks led his characters on entertaining trips of self discovery, for sure, but his stories and characters are so much more than drunken teenage pursuits for the perfect Friday night.

His teenagers were like us; they wanted to be grown up but couldn’t quite figure out which outfit to wear to the big dance on Saturday. They wanted to date the cute guy with the sports car and yet totally understood why he liked that one girl in the class with the body like a supermodel. They wanted to be tough but knew their strengths were with calculators, not shoulder pads. They wanted to be rebels, but knew their moral compass just wouldn’t allow them. They wanted to behave, but knew they just couldn’t keep their mouths shut. And so he portrayed every character from the high school caste system: jocks, homecoming queens, nerds, troublemakers, misunderstood artists, preppy assholes and so forth.

All of us found ourselves in there somewhere when we watched his movies. Hughes seemed to know who we were before we found out for ourselves, and yet he also let us know that whatever group we found ourselves in, that it was okay. We had something to offer to the world.

Besides learning about ourselves, maybe in a little way, we understood those around us a little bit bitter as well.

Now that’s a gifted writer and director for you.

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