A few weeks ago, I wrote about the recent rash of celebrity deaths. This article lead to a renewed sense of the fragility of life, an appreciation for a life well-lived and a number of people sending me every single borderline notable death that has come along since. But I don’t think a single celebrity death has affected me quite like the death of John Hughes.
John Hughes, for lack of a description that hasn’t already been given, created everything good in this world. He is peerless. He gave us the movies that spoke to us and have been bastardized ever since, and even the ripoffs and copies can’t recreate a single bit of joy his movies brought, or a character so relatable.
We can digress over his later flops, but I refuse. Not in life, and not in death. His earlier movies were too good. In the words of Barry from High Fidelity, “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins; is it better to burn out or fade away?” John Hughes did neither. We live in a generation where not every kid grows up watching Billy Wilder movies, which is sad. But every one of us was raised on our very own classics. And we have John Hughes to thank for that.
We have had our lives shaped by his words. So now, a list of the words that meant the most.
The Seven Most Important Lessons from John Hughes
“So when you’re feeling real low and dirty, and your heart is splattered all over hell, don’t look to me to pump you back up ’cause maybe for the first time in your life I won’t be there.”
The story goes that Hughes wanted Duckie and Andie to end up together, but test audiences preferred Andie with Blaine. Now I don’t know if I believe that necessarily, but if it is, score one for the audience, because that’s reality. Sometimes your best friend is this wonderful amazing person that loves you and treats you like a princess, but all you want is the popular kid that hurts you. It’s not cynical. It’s just true.
In reality, we don’t see the good right in front of us. We see the good that we have to really dig for. We’ve all been Andie, and we’ve all been Duckie, and we’ve all postulated and lied and bluffed as a last ditch effort to finally win the heart of the person we want. That’s real, and in today’s High School Musical world, Andie and Duckie would have ended up together with Blaine getting punch dumped down his pants, because we’ve lost reality.
“Would you stop feeling sorry for yourself? It’s bad for your complexion.”
When I feel sorry for myself and get mopey, I get hives. So this is just factual.
“Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease.”
God bless Molly Ringwald. Pretty, but not beautiful. Sweet, but with a mouth on her. She is a hero to everyone from the ages of 20 to 40. How many non-Hughes movies can you think of with a genuinely normal looking girl? Think of today’s teen ingenues. They all weighed about 72 pounds, they have bulimia jaws, they’re vapid and they’re in fake studio-forced romances with closeted man-starlets. Molly was better than that. Molly was us. And none of us had boys knocking down our doors to get to us, and we didn’t want the ones that were. We need more Molly in our lives.
“I really love Rudy. He is totally enamored of me. I mean, I’ve had other men love me before, but not for six months in a row.”
Though the normal people were most relatable, the pretty people were wonderfully fleshed out too (save for Steff’s friends in Pretty in Pink, but they sucked). Ginny and Caroline in Sixteen Candles provided some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Ginny was the pretty sister who got all the guys, but none of them really wanted her, and her oily-bohunk was now her husband and she’s probably going to get fat. Just, and telling. And Caroline was not stupid. She liked parties and attention, but don’t we all? We just didn’t get them as easily because we weren’t the prom queens. I guess there’s a reason we never found it so weird that she chose Farmer Ted.
But the single greatest depiction of a popular girl? Claire. Yay Molly! She branched! Maybe none of us were the princess, but we felt every emotion she described. Having to be someone you’re not so your “friends” will like you, trying to get attention from your parents, wearing a mask and feeling it slip. Maybe we weren’t rich and popular, but Hughes and Molly made sure we were all Claire.
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
Of course, we weren’t just Claire. We were the whole Breakfast Club. That’s the whole point of the movie, and no movie made that point so well before or has even really attempted it since. We’re all the same. We all have different clothes and circumstances, but we all have the same feelings and emotions. And we all dance our rage away. Seriously, that’s not just an 80s thing; someone needs to bring that back.
“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”
This line from Ferris Bueller is pretty much my life’s motto, and it sums up what makes the characters of John Hughes so rich and perfect. They had feelings, but most importantly, they had principals. They had things they would fight for against the Vernons and Rooneys of the world. They were fighters, all of them. They stood up to bullies, social rules and themselves.
Everyone stick in a John Hughes DVD (or video, because it just feels right) right now and think about all he did for us. And remember the most important lesson of all.
“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.