Monday, March 8, 2010

Suburbs of Our Discontent

When John Hughes Matters Most

I don’t know how many Oscar ceremonies I’ve seen, but this year’s was the first that made me feel something other than fat and unfashionable.

I’m talking about that lengthy, complex tribute to director John Hughes, the mastermind behind Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club and the guru of my adolescence. The climactic moment of the tribute was the onstage gathering of Hughes’ leading ladies and men including Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael-Hall and Ally Sheedy. After sharing anecdotes and their favorite movie lines, they gave an emotional shout-out to Hughes’ family members, seated in a VIP spot in the audience.

There’s the obvious reason why Hughes matters, and will continue to matter to generations of teens. Critics and fans have always appreciated Hughes’ gift at capturing adolescent angst. Susannah Gora’s new book on Hughes, You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation (Crown) makes this point eloquently.

But Hughes is significant to me because he has nothing do with adolescence. Not anymore, that is.

In their tribute speeches, each actor worked in their best Hughesian lines.
From Ally Sheedy (as “Allison Reynolds” in The Breakfast Club): “When you get older, your heart dies.”

From Matthew Broderick (as “Ferris Bueller”): "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

It was a shock to hear lines like these. Not just because they reminded me of how long it’s been since I was 16 and watching a John Hughes film, but because they are so freaking profound. It was like I opened a time capsule labeled 2010 that said “Michelle, when you are 40 years old and have three children, you must never, ever become so sucked into parental, professional, and social crap that you forget how to be interesting and unpredictable. Stop talking about bullshit with the other Mommies at Starbucks and start living from the heart (but not in a way that looks like a goofy midlife crisis).”

Look, I’m a Shakespeare professor, and I’m all about the Great Books, but I’m telling you that the Hughes stuff last night rivaled some of the deepest stuff I’ve ever seen or read.

P.S. “What about prom, Blane? What about PROM?!!” I love that.

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