As was the case with many people who grew up in the ’80s, John Hughes’s films were an integral part of my childhood and coming-of-age. And on August 6, when I read the news that he’d died suddenly of a heart attack, I was deeply saddened, not only because he was the first writer and director who really inspired me, but because the chance of one last really great John Hughes film being made was gone, too.
Since I first saw Sixteen Candles(1984) at the age of seven, I’ve been a loyal consumer of Hughes’s films. Though I’ve seen almost all of the movies he wrote, directed, and/or produced, good or bad, the ones I love the most are The Breakfast Club(1985), Pretty in Pink(1986), Weird Science (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), She’s Having a Baby (1988), and, of course, Sixteen Candles. They’re the ones I connected with the most. They’re the ones that had female characters I wanted to emulate and male characters I hoped actually existed in the real world (well, except for Weird Science‘sChet, played by Bill Paxton). They’re the ones that featured the best music I’d never heard until I saw them.
Looking at the above list, I can’t help but think, “One of these things is not like the other.” To this day I can’t fully explain why I like She’s Having a Baby so much, since the desire for marriage and children is something I can’t identify with at all. I think it’s that it was the first Hughes movie I’d seen whose tone was noticeably more mature than the previous movies’, and I liked that I understood it, even though I was only 11. Also, I think it has one of the best, and most overlooked, soundtracks of any of his films. I don’t want to talk about She’s Having a Baby too much here since I plan to do a full post on it in the future, but I felt I needed to explain why it shows up alongside Hughes’s most beloved teen films as one of my favorites.
Now, I’m sure you’ve already read plenty of tributes since August 6, some focusing on the incredible, memorable music in Hughes’s films, and you may be reading this thinking, “Another one?” But I couldn’t not do a special Soundtrack Saturday post in his honor, since this column wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for John Hughes and his movies.
It was during a viewing of Pretty in Pink a few years ago, when I was still writing my old blog, Looking at Them, that I decided I wanted to write about out-of-print, incomplete, or forgotten soundtracks from my favorite movies — mostly because I’d always lamented that some of the best songs in Pretty in Pink never made it to the official soundtrack album. Thus, Soundtrack Saturday was born.
When The Breakfast Club begins, we’re presented with the five characters as easily defined stereotypes – “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” In the film’s closing moments, against the backdrop of the Simple Minds classic “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Anthony Michael Hall iterates the fundamental message of the film – that although it is much simpler to perceive the characters as members of discrete categories, it’s just plain wrong, and it’s an insult to each of them to do so. The members of the Breakfast Club don’t believe that Principal Vernon’s assessment of any of them is going to change in the slightest beyond the stereotypes he has already assigned them to, and therefore feel there is no point in attempting to explain themselves to him. It would all go in one ear and out the other.
Ever since this endless presidential race began – and let’s be honest, the Democratic primary has effectively been underway since Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 convention and the Republican primary hasn’t been much shorter – the traditional media has been struggling to characterize the candidates in terms of their high school equivalents. Anyone who has actually been to their high school reunion has a pretty good idea that people change a great deal in college and thereafter. Relying on a perception of a candidate’s stereotypical high school persona to make judgments about their current character and competence is an activity you might expect from someone who needs a bib to eat, has mittens pinned to their jackets, and isn’t allowed to play with matches, but certainly not from a professional journalist.