I got the news through Facebook, the modern day water cooler. ‘John Hughes is dead’ I said to my husband. His reaction was simply a distracted, ‘who?’
Who?! Good God I really am married to a foreigner. There seems to be a run on dying famous people of late but this was the one that I felt most deeply. I look back at all those amazing films and realize how integral a part of my adolescence they were. Those dark years were made a little lighter with those films. Sappy and sentimental – maybe -but true none the less.
For the most part I’m pretty acclimated over here. Even my accent is changing. It’s something I can’t help even though I think it’s possible I sound like a twat. But every once in a while I am reminded of how different my husband’s and my upbringings were. This was definitely one of those times. I’m sure the Hughes films were popular over here but did they hold as much meaning? Did the UK youth watch them and feel validated? Did they quote lines from The Breakfast Club?
I was with a couple of girlfriends not too long ago and they were asking me all about how jocks and cheerleaders, geeks, goodie goodies and partiers and outcasts were portrayed in American films. Was it really like that in high school? I looked at them blankly. Yes. It was. One of the women went on to say she would have been a cheerleader and the other said she’d have been a goth chick. It was a fantasy for them. It baffled me and intrigued me. What was it like at their schools? Did everyone sit together in a socialized ideal of equality and harmony? Somehow I doubt it but I guess I’ll learn more as my kids enter the school system.
John Hughes captured that separation in such a profound intuitive way. He understood us. And when you’re young being understood is all you really want.
My husband’s memory was jogged when I mentioned The Breakfast Club. ‘Oh yes’ he said, still unmoved. I asked what he related his youth too. He shrugged ‘music I suppose’ and I had guessed the same thing. Americans like music as well but the Brits aren’t snobs about it. They like the serious stuff by the countless well respected artists that have come out of the UK but they also like some of the worst bubblegum crap you have ever heard, with absolutely zero embarrassment about it. Grown men and woman alike sing and dance around to hideously bad music like it was the coolest song ever played. The older the song is the more nostalgic they become, singing even louder and dancing with even more conviction. I have found the best thing to do when caught in the middle of this is to join in. As a result I am no longer a music snob (not that I ever really was – I was always a closet pop fan) and enjoy it all much more.
Film however, is for the most part, American. This is changing, but for me and those in my peer group it wasn’t only a past time it was our culture. Like the British with music, Americans aren’t snobs about film (for the most part anyway). What is dismissed as ‘over sentimental American crap’ in the UK draws huge crowds stateside. We love to cry and feel through film. We are able to relate most of our life experiences to film. If not directly then indirectly in the way a smell reminds you of a summer vacation taken long ago. This fact irritates some over here as they think we are unable to separate fiction and reality and with the ‘poetic licence’ Hollywood tends to take on historical films maybe they are right. It makes me cringe a little when I hear someone relate a real life tragedy to being ‘just like a movie’ but I also understand it. Life will always imitate art and vice versa. This isn’t our doing we just have no qualms about admitting it.
Everyone has favourite films that impacted their lives the most. For me the Hughes teen flicks were some of the best… Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink and last but by no means least The Breakfast Club. Who was I? I was a combination of Claire and Allison. To say I was confused would probably be an understatement but John Hughes got it. He understood what our parents never could. RIP Mr. Hughes. You’ll be missed.