Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book Review: Don't You Forget About Me
If you were born in the 70s, and became a teenager in the 80s, then you're a fan of John Hughes teen films. End of story. (Or, if you happen to be a big sister to a little sister born in the 80s, you perhaps introduced her to the John Hughes oeuvre, as my best friend S. did.) There's just something about these movies that instantly transports us back to the pain, ache, and joy of high school. It's like watching an early season of Buffy.

Now, I'm referring to the main trilogy here: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. We could also discuss Weird Science (briefly), Some Kind of Wonderful, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but it's the Molly Ringwald entries that truly count.

So when my pal F. suggested that I should read this collection of essays by writers writing about the passion these movies stir within them, I couldn't resist. She lent me her copy, and it's one of the best reads I had all year.

Interestingly, The Breakfast Club -- John Hughes' masterpiece -- isn't actually talked about all that much. There seems to be far more to say about Ferris Bueller and Sixteen Candles. However, considering I've seen both of those movies about a dozen times each, since TBS plays them constantly, I didn't mind. There's an essay about why Cameron in Ferris Bueller is the greatest supporting character ever ("When Cameron was in Egypt's Land.... Let my Cameron gooooooo") and another about why he's the whiniest, most annoying character in the Hughes canon. There is a ton of ink spilled in the name of Molly Ringwald -- whether we liked her as the rich girl, the poor girl, or the forgotten girl... whether we were in love with her... whether we WERE her -- and those essays range from the hilarious to the vaguely disturbing, but they're always entertaining. There's an essay about how Hughes portrays the outcast "best buddy" as a homosexual who somehow longs for the opposite sex. Mary Stuart Masterson is pretty butch in Some Kind of Wonderful, while Duckie is pretty obviously gay in Pretty in Pink. And Cameron's just kind of asexual.

As I read through these, I kept thinking that Pretty in Pink was a movie that never resonated with me much, and it turns out most of the writers think of it in a negative fashion as well (it probably has something to do with the fact that Hughes wrote it, but didn't direct it). At least four of the writers mention that the movie was supposed to end with Andie ending up with Duckie, and when they showed that ending to audiences, they hated it, wanting her to end up with Blaine instead. So... the ending was reshot, with her ending up with the richie, and some pretty girl making eyes at Duckie, which was supposed to make us think all was well with the world. I'm pretty sure that's why that movie disturbed me. (Or it could have been that James Spader's character is SO loathsome, yet so hot, causing some major confusion when I was watching it.)

If you're a fan of these films, definitely check out this book, edited by Jaime Clarke. And thanks, F., for lending it to me!


Chris in NF said...

Every year teaching new university students, the generation gap yawns wider ... and pop culture current a mere five years ago passes over students' heads, never mind older stuff.

But always current? John Hughes films. If I'm searching for a pre-2003 pop culture reference I can pretty much be guaranteed everyone will know? Either The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller. Weird.

The other reference they always get is The Princess Bride, but then I tend to think that familiarity with that film is, quite simply, a defining feature of being a human being (I bet Dick Cheney's never seen it).

Crissy Calhoun said...

The other reason why Pretty in Pink falls flat for me is the dress she makes is SO SO SO ugly and never was cool. Two big letdowns at the end of that film.

As far as 16 Candles goes, I'm still madly in love with Jake Ryan.

Nikki Stafford said...

Chris: That's awesome about teaching using those films. It's cool to hear the "kids" are still watching those films. (Man, did I just type that? I'm officially old.)

Crissy: You will love this book. Everyone who writes about Pretty in Pink mentions the godawful dress (and how we were somehow supposed to think it was beautiful), and Moon Unit Zappa writes a piece about how she was completely in love with Michael Schoeffling, who played Jake Ryan, and her quest to try to meet him.

Anonymous said...

I owe a thanks to my best friend for sending me this book at a time when I really needed an escape. I really enjoyed all of the essays contained in it. It's so great that you can bring up 16 Candles or BC and begin a 20 minute conversation with a virtual stranger by throwing your favourites quotes and moments from the scripts back and forth. John Hughes was able to capture the essence of what it was to be a teenager of the 80s (which still translates to teenagers in following decades as the core of the issues presented are timeless) in such a smart, hip way that ultimately validated our feelings and thoughts - thanks to John Hughes, we realized that we were worth listening to and caring about.

As for Jake Ryan - he will always forever remain my biggest teenage crush and Duckie will be the best male gay friend that I never had. Best song off a JH soundtrack for me - The Smiths - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (PIP) :)

poppedculture said...

Breakfast Club was and always will be my favourite, but there is always going to be a special place in my heart for opening scene of Molly Ringwald rolling up her stockings in Pretty in Pink. It is seared into my 16-year-old brain.

Paticus said...

Sixteen Candles is still my favorite.
But wasn't Cameron in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?
one of my favorite things about 16 Candles is how packed it is with stuff in the background.Like when jake and his friend are discussing Sam in the gym, and in the background there's this huge wrestler wrestling this little kid.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of books, this puts you in good company:


Yep, Nikki, Joss and Stephen Colbert.

Anonymous said...


Full url

Anonymous said...


I think this isn't cut off now.


Nikki Stafford said...

Suzie: I still remember one of the craziest things I'd heard a few years ago was that Michael Shoeffling (aka Jake Ryan) was now working as a carpenter in Philadelphia. And I remember thinking, "Wow, what happens when he shows up to some woman's house, who has had a crush on him since 1984? Does she stand there thinking, 'No, it can't be him... it can't possibly be him...' Or does she just pounce on him?"

Jeremy: Breakfast Club is John Hughes' masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned, though I remember even at the time thinking, "It's a lovely fantasy, but there's no way any of those people will act like they know the rest of them come Monday." But Hughes didn't skirt that, and even had one of the characters voice that concern in the film.

Paticus: Yep, Cameron was in Ferris... I was tired when I posted this. (I'll change it!) I always loved Cameron, even if he was a bit of a hypochondriac spaz.

redeem147: Thanks for the link! Someone else emailed it to me as well, and I was so happy to see it!

Anonymous said...

i'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

the sad thing is, it was given to me by a friend who was born in 1980 and just doesn't "get" john hughes. she's seen all the films but actually doesn't LIKE them. ANY of them. she doesn't see what all the fuss is about. it breaks my heart! kids these days ...

some kind of wonderful was always my favourite, with the breakfast club and ferris bueller's day off tied for second.

whilst i adore duckie, i actually agree with molly ringwald, who was interviewed on the special edition DVD of pretty in pink -- andie would never have chosen him over blaine. she just didn't think of him that way. he was her best girlfriend, but he was never, ever going to be the one who made her knees weak. so i didn't actually mind the ending, because i thought it was realistic.

the funny thing is, both james spader and jon cryer have gone on to be quite successful in boston legal and two and a half men, respectively, and yet for me, even now when i look at them, all i ever see is a slightly puffier steff and duckie. hahahaha!