"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."-Ferris Bueller.
Is it possible that all of us—we children of the 80s—took John Hughes for granted? His films were always just kind of there—with characters we could relate to (or aspire to be), with music that became the soundtracks of our summers, with clothing that was like cooler versions of our own wardrobes, and with such incredible empathy and respect for the teenage experience, it seemed as if we had made the films ourselves.
I mean, I just sort of assumed that every generation would have its own John Hughes, you know? Every generation would have its seminal director, the guy (or gal) who perfectly captured the zeitgeist—okay, perhaps a sunnier, glossier, more sanitized version of the zeitgeist—of teen life in America.
Instead, here's what we’ve had since John Hughes: a bunch of John Hughes wannabes. It seems like every film geared toward a teen audience since Hughes has made a nod, consciously or unconsciously, to the 80s director. Some have been good (Adventureland, 10 Things I Hate About You), most have been bad (I Love You, Beth Cooper, Drive Me Crazy). And not a single director, with the exception perhaps of Cameron Crowe, has had Hughes’ consistency, or his genuine affection for the teen experience. (Crowe grew up and moved onto more mature themes; Hughes left the film industry and moved Wisconsin.)
One of the things I loved about Hughes’s films was there comforting sameness. Hughes was a commercial filmmaker in the truest sense, his films were all about fantasy wish fulfillment: Little boy foils the robbers (Home Alone), teenage truant saves the day (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), social outcast becomes the belle of the prom (Pretty in Pink), invisible girl gets noticed (Sixteen Candles), teen cliques unite as one (The Breakfast Club). Bad guys were always punished; good guys were always rewarded; the weird but secretly awesome girl always got the hot guy—and no one ever got hurt.
I, for one, ate it all up. I wanted to be Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. I wanted her DIY thrift wardrobe, her doting hipster best friend, her pink Karmen Ghia, even her sweet job at the record store. And whenever I see Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles, I am immediately transported back my teen years, on my bed, with my Duran Duran poster on the wall, my doodle-covered Chuck Taylors on my feet, and visions of my very own Jake Ryan dancing in my head.
John Hughes died today at the too-young age of 59. My teenage self mourns him like you wouldn’t believe.