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.