R.I.P. John Hughes, the director of my childhood

johnhughes

Every generation has voices who spoke to them. Older voices who were the soundtracks and the video reels of our childhood.

Sure. we romanticize them sometimes. But they’re as much a part of our growing up as Little League and Girl Scouts, camping trips and hallway lockers.

This summer, my generation lost its soundtrack in Michael Jackson. And now we’ve lost our filmmaker in the legendary John Hughes.

Generation X has suffered two body blows in the matter of months. I swear to God, if Madonna gets hit by a bus next week, I think I may lose it.

To say I loved John Hughes movies is like saying I kind of like chocolate chip cookies.

I’m certain I can quote three of his eight directed films, line for line, by heart. Just get me started on any scene from “The Breakfast Club” (“This is what you get in my house, when you spill paint in the garage!”), “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (Didn’t you notice on the plane, when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag!”) or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (“You’re Abe Froman? The sausage king of Chicago?”), and I’m gone for 20 minutes.

It’s incredible to me that in eight films, he left such a mark. He also wrote “Mr. Mom,” “Weird Science,” and “She’s Having a Baby,” three more that will always live in the 1980s canon.

Hughes’ brilliance was shown in so many ways. For one thing, he didn’t condescend to the viewers. He actually created real characters who talked like real high schoolers, and he painted a portrait of kids who we all could identify with.

Who didn’t know a Stef from “Pretty in Pink,” or “The Geek” in “Sixteen Candles”? This was the first time I felt like a movie was really about people who could’ve existed in my life.

Then there was the writing. Hughes’ scripts were always filled with laughter and fantastic one-liners, but they also contained so much heart.

That scene in “The Breakfast Club” where they’re all sitting around the library and Emilio Estevez is talking about taping Larry Lester’s buns together is so surprisingly moving. The ending of “Pretty in Pink” is so sweet, too, with Ducky finally blowing out his torch for Andie and encouraging her to go find Blane.

Hughes had the ability to infuse a scene with warmth and make you melt inside, but not go too far into mushy territory.

Thinking about him tonight, as I’m sure millions of people my age are, I’m blown away at how often I’ve quoted a Hughes movie, or watched one of them on cable (OK, so they’re on every 10 minutes somewhere, I still can’t skip past them), or referenced it in everyday life.

Say the name “Jake Ryan” and my wife’s eyes light up and a huge smile comes to her face. Was any 80s movie character more beloved by girls than he was? Mention Steve Martin and John Candy in the same sentence, and so many people think of “Those aren’t pillows!”

Literally every time my best childhood friends Andrew, Marc, Tracie and I are together, one of us will quote a line from “The Breakfast Club.” Every. Single. Time.

The Brat Pack shot to fame thanks to Hughes (if you have to ask who the Brat Pack are, I will feel really old), and he used the same actors over and over because they perfectly embodied what he wanted.

John Hughes didn’t win Oscars like Francis Ford Coppola, and he won’t go down as a cinematic genius like Oliver Stone or Steven Spielberg.

But if the true mark of a person is what kind of legacy you’ve left, and how many lives you affected, John Hughes was a giant.

So many of us laughed and cried because of what he created.

Cameron Frye will live in our hearts forever, as will John Bender and Del Griffith and all the rest.

R.I.P. John Hughes, and thanks for directing my childhood.

And now, two classic scenes from John Hughes movies:

7 responses to “R.I.P. John Hughes, the director of my childhood

  1. Michael, that’s a beautiful piece, and I feel the same way. In my mind I’m saying, “Damn it! I wanted to see what he would make next!” I feel cheated. There should be an ultimate Blue Ray collection of John Hughes movies. Hey, if they can make the special edition of Blade Runner come with a man purse and action figure, then I want a Pretty In Pink that comes with Andy’s prom dress in my size. I’m linking you on my blog! Good stuff, Sweet.

  2. “Ferris” and “Planes, Trains” and “Christmas Vacation” are movies I watch about every year. Hughes was a genius, right up there with Frank Capra, who I consider the best overall director of all time.

  3. Pingback: An Olympic curling heartbreaker, the wonderful Vonn, and a kick-ass John Hughes tribute « Wide World of Stuff

  4. Pingback: The Oscars break a glass ceiling, a tribute to a great music teacher, and love for Mr. Mom « Wide World of Stuff

  5. Pingback: Happy Bloggiversary to me. And R.I.P., Bob Sheppard. « Wide World of Stuff

  6. Pingback: friday5 ■ favorite posts of the week (august 7) - Are You There God? It's Me, Generation X.

  7. Pingback: “Choose Your Own Adventure” books awakened my imagination. An incredible musical collaboration on a “God Only Knows’ remake. And a really bad day for the Manning family | Wide World of Stuff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s