Monday, August 10, 2009

Some Kind of Wonderful

John Hughes died of a heart attack at age 59 while visiting family in Manhattan this past Thursday, and while the writer-director’s been out of Hollywood since the mid-90s, his legacy is as vital as a pair of underpants. Girls’ underpants.

I’m a little more than a generation shy of the Shermer High kids Hughes wrote about in several of his best movies, but I reveled in all of it, watching them so many times that each line’s tattooed to my brain.

Only a couple grown-ups have been able to spot-on show high school for all it is: pimply, unrequited and cripplingly, painfully, I-would-shit-twice-and-die awkward, but something you cannot wait to experience (until of course, you do). Even when some of his fodder devolved into boyhood fantasy like creating a Kelly LeBrock by putting bras on your head and Penthouse clippings into the floppy drive, the trials and tribulations that Weird Science’s young protagonists Gary and Wyatt overcome in their struggle to get cute girlfriends and vanquish the tyranny of Wyatt’s total shithead brother, Chet, are still totally relatable.

Growing up, Hughes’ muse Molly Ringwald was the freckle-faced queen of my universe. I imitated the way she bit her lip when I was feeling pensive (what a seven year-old has to feel pensive about, I can’t really say). I begged Mom for a pair of slouchy suede boots like the ones Claire wore in The Breakfast Club, and when she shot me down, I just wore hers, even though they were way too big. Oh, and the dance. The dance! Still my go-to move.

And then there were the boys. Sure, Sixteen Candles’ dreamboat Jake Ryan is perfect. Every time “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins bubbles up and Jake’s there waiting for Samantha in his little striped sweater vest and little red Corvette, I squeal like a little ninny. But my heart belongs to Phil “Duckie” Dale, Molly Ringwald’s heartsick best bud in the Hughes-penned tribute to poor girls with poorer sewing skills, Pretty in Pink. All I’ve ever wanted was a nerdy boy with scuffed white creepers and an Otis Redding fetish to be totally enamored of me while I constructed boxy, unflattering prom get-ups in New Order-tracked montages. I would never ever dream of ditching him for drippy, dish-water Blaine (“Blaine?!?! Blaine?!?!? That’s not a name! That’s a major appliance!”). In Hughes' original screenplay, Andie’s supposed to choose the Duckman, but studio heads pressured him to change the ending, prompting Hughes to retaliate with his next screenplay, Some Kind of Wonderful. And so Duckie ended up with Kristy Swanson instead. I cry foul.

Along with creating characters you wanted to be or be with, Hughes is also responsible with many of the zingers that pepper the American lexicon. Well, mine at least. Living in New York, not a week goes by that I don’t find an appropriate time to shout “Nice manners, babe!” In our current Apatow-dominated comedy scope, most jokes involve dicks, balls or a combination of the two. Now, I worship at the church of Apatow, and he’s definitely one of the other guys responsible for accurately portraying high school with Freaks and Geeks, but Hughes showed you could be just PG-13 filthy and still be funny as shit. Sure, there’s been criticism for Hughes’ films being whiter than a Chicago Christmas, and his one non-white character, Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong, is borderline offensive, but you know what? Fuck it. I want to thank Hughes for introducing me to the Donger. He’s really bitchin’.

–Megan Metzger


Anonymous said...

This is bitchin! and hughes definitely had an eye for hotness

Anonymous said...

AMH in that bar scene is me

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