Thoughts on John Hughes

Written by on August 7, 2009

Upon learning of the death of a relatively young John Hughes, thoughts of his work immediately filled my head. Through his work, Hughes touched the lives of millions of teens in the 1980s as movies like “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” represented a generation.

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While the bulk of Hughes’ movies were comical in nature, he may have been the first writer to consistently portray teenagers as complex and thoughtful rather than the more typical cardboard two-dimensional characters whose personalities were either of the two polarized extremes of the “wacky/dizzy” kid or the “angst-ridden teen,” the latter on its way to becoming its most annoying level in the late 80s/early 90s. Hughes, as a writer, director and producer had a rare empathy toward the teenage mind and was able to create memorable characters with whom virtually every high school or college student could identify with: the young philosopher “Ferris Bueller” said the things most of us wanted to say to authority at the time while we all hoped we could get away with as much as he was able to; his sidekick, “Cameron”, was a nod to all the kids afraid of his demanding parents; Pretty In Pink featured the hapless-but-lovable “Ducky,” forever an homage to all of the good guys who couldn’t get the girl despite his persistence; “Samantha Baker,” who represented all of the teenage girls who felt ignored by family and classmates; and let us not forget the Breakfast Club characters Andrew, Claire, Bender, Allison and Brian. The Breakfast Club offered movie watchers insight into the thoughts of their classmates as each character represented a generic school “clique” — a rare move from anywhere in Hollywood.

In addition, John Hughes’ movies made big stars out of Molly Ringwald (who was almost lost after the first season of TV’s Facts of Life), Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer and Gedde Wantanabe (I had to include “The Donger” on this list) among others. Members of the “Brat Pack” frequently starred in his movies and Hughes also made some cameos in his own films.

While Hughes will forever be known as a master of the “Coming-of-age” film, his genius also brought forth great pure comedy works such as Uncle Buck, Plains, Trains and Automobiles, the Vacation movies and The Great Outdoors. After the 80s, he found a home writing family friendly cinema, most notably the Beethoven movies, Dennis the Menace and Flubber

John Hughes’ unique ability to combine memorable characters with an understanding of life as a young person and compose successful movies with that talent will be missed. His genius, however, will always be remembered by those of us who not only enjoyed his movies, but appreciated the opportunity to look at ourselves at the same time.

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