During last night’s Oscars, it was impossible not to tear up when the John Hughes tribute began. Molly Ringwald, forever the queen of 80’s teens, and Matthew Broderick, our dear Ferris, came out, dressed to the nines and paid tribute to the late Hughes, whose films include Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, the Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Though many were critical of the prolonged tribute (because typically there’s just a quick flash of their face on camera), I argue that John Hughes deserved it. His work, his films, struck a chord with the American teenager and have managed to redefine the way that teens are represented in film and television.
Is there anyone who hasn’t seen a Hughes’s film? Who doesn’t remember the theme song in Weird Science? Or Ferris Bueller rocking out to the Beatles in a parade? What teen has never liked someone who didn’t like them (hello, Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful)? Who doesn’t remember Duckie lip syncing in the record store in Pretty in Pink? Who could forget Judd Nelson and the gang baring their souls in the library?
These films are classic (and I am demanding a John Hughes Collection to be made in time for Christmas!). But aside from great shots, delightful 80’s fashion and fantastic Nu Wave and classic rock, what made his films great is that John Hughes took teens seriously.
Teens have a rough life. They’re awkward, longing to fit in and figure out who they are. There’s so much happening: sex, drugs, popularity, family, school, etc. And John Hughes found a way to fit all of these things into his movies, not just skim the surface. John Hughes balanced the funny, silly moments of high school life and the poignant, sad, serious moments of growing up.
We can thank him for Superbad and Youth in Revolt, actually every Michael Cera movie ever. And I wonder, would there have been that sudden spike in teen drama in the 1990’s if not for John Hughes?
90210, Melrose Place, Party of Five, Clarissa Explains It All, My So-Called Life, Alex Mack, Blossom all stem from somewhere in those John Hughes films. And so do shows like Gossip Girl.
He proved that teens aren’t just comic relief – there are real stories there. There’s a lot going on under the zits, converse sneakers, and high school hierarchy. Movies and shows about teens can be funny, witty, and potent. He showed us that.
Thank you John Hughes for giving teens respect.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”