Hearts for Hughes

Today, I’m offering gratitude for storytellers who grapple with the mysterious nature of human interactions. Filmmaker John Hughes is one such candidate–his “teen movies” shed light on the navigation of complex cultures or situations and challenge us to think about our own contributions to them.

Hughes was brilliant at portraying, with pointed humor, instances of frustrated communication. Again and again, his characters engage our empathy with their mostly unsuccessful efforts to be understood. He portrays not only tensions among teens but also between adults and teens, as in this exchange from Ferriss Bueller’s Day Off.

Grace: Hello, Jeannie. Who’s bothering you now?
Jeannie: Is Mr. Rooney in?
Grace: No, I’m sorry. He’s not. May I help you?
Jeannie: I seriously doubt it. When’s he back?
Grace: Well, I don’t know. He’s left the school grounds on personal business.
Jeannie: What’s that supposed to mean?
Grace: Well, I believe that it’s personal and it’s none of your business, young lady.
Jeannie: Nice attitude.

Hughes was also a master of destabilizing authority figures: the parents tend to be dispensers of dubious advice (“wrap a hot towel around your head”), and the power-hungry school principals don’t fare well (consider the principal crawling through the dog door at the Bueller’s house, or the moment in The Breakfast Club when Vernon yells at the teens in detention while sporting a paper toilet-seat cover).

Most importantly, though, beneath the sassy dialogue and comedic turns, Hughes keeps his protagonists focused on acts with heart: finding a voice, following a dream, connecting with others, and taking a chance. At its core, The Breakfast Club is really about opening one’s heart–letting go of misconceptions that divide us. Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles, and even Weird Science suggest the supreme value of holding out hope (even if in the end what you hope for turns out to be something other than what you thought you were hoping for). In short, he certainly encourages us to ponder meaningful things. ❤

ps: check out this blog post about Mr. Hughes and pen pal, Alison. If you didn’t think he was amazing before, you just might afterwards.

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8 thoughts on “Hearts for Hughes”

  1. I loved so many of those movies. When my daughter discovered The Breakfast Club, she went on a mini-binge. When a movie from the 80s strikes a chord with a kid in 2014, you know there’s real heart there and the themes are still very relevant.

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  2. Excellent post. I’m middle age for these movies, too old to have watched them myself and too young to have kids who would have watched them, but even for me, these stories and themes formed a backdrop to the era. Thank you for an interesting perspective.

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  3. These are some of my daughter’s favorite movies, and I can see why, especially with this: “Hughes keeps his protagonists focused on acts with heart: finding a voice, following a dream, connecting with others, and taking a chance.” Thanks!

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  4. I have always loved John Hughes. He wrote the script of my high school years. I LOVE that you chose to highlight him here, because his movies really were game changers. He cast teens to play teens, and he wrote stories from their POV instead of from the parents. Thank you, Cynthia!

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  5. Thanks so much for the comments, all!
    Mary, a mini-binge sounds delightful…hmmm.
    Pamela, I feel the same way. Can’t wait to watch with my kids.
    Kait, isn’t that blog amazing? What a guy. He walked the talk.
    Sue, it’s great that she is enjoying them!
    Diane, you’re so right about the POV.
    Theresa, ha ha!

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