Teenage Wasteland

Ruh-roh. I totally forgot today was Friday, and therefore my time to speak here.

But with the sad passing of director John Hughes, I gotta talk about iconic pop culture, and what shaped people of a certain generation. Like a lot of people, I identified with many of Hughes’ characters, perhaps most tellingly with weirdo Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. I liked her transformation, but also appreciated her pre-makeover look.

The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink–all three of those films define what it meant to be a teenager in the ’80s. But beyond the particular era-based specifics, they define what it means not to belong, which a lot of romance books touch on, also. How many of us (I am raising my hand!) love books about the not-as-pretty-as-her-sister heroine who somehow captures the attention of the handsomest guy around? Or sympathize with the too-smart-for-his-own-good hero who can’t believe she’s talking to him?

Those movies capture the poignancy of youth and teenage angst perfectly. I think that poignancy is what makes so many romantic books compelling, too.

Which Hughes character is most like you? Which of his movies are your favorite? What teenage angst pop culture item (book, movie, song, whatever) best describes your teen experience?

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Jane Austen
13 years ago

Well I know it’s not pop culture, but I think the person in teen literature that I most connect to is Susanna English in the book A Break With Charity, which is about the Salem Witch Trials. Susanna is on the outside and wants to be in with the “in crowd” or the girls who are being tormented by witches. She’s not in with the in crowd because she’s a little wealthier than the other girls. She also does some things in the story that are impulsive and that she regrets, but her suitor/good friend helps her through them. I really relate to Susanna and being on the outside looking in at the in crowd. I’ve also acted impulsively and my good friend, who was a male, but not my suitor, helped me through the consequences. I read this book every March and have since I was twelve. (That’s 17 years). I love this book and even though it was written about a time long ago I think it still has some parallels to things modern day teens have to deal with.

Jane Austen
13 years ago

PS I totally relate to Sam in Sixteen Candles.

13 years ago

This was sad news. I would say my Top 3 Hughes movies are Pretty In Pink (although after Duckie lip-syncs to Otis Redding how could Andy choose “the major appliance?” Seriously. Love me some Duckie), The Breakfast Club (ooooh Judd Nelson) and Ferris Bueller (back when Matthew Broderick was yummy and cute!).

I also get a kick out of Uncle Buck. You’ve got John Candy (awesome) and the cuteness factor of a Culkin.

Not sure I identified with a specific character from the Hughes universe…although I’m kinda partial to Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) in Some Kind Of Wonderful. Probably because unlike Pretty In Pink the movie ends “correctly.” Heh.

13 years ago

You picked my three favorite John Hughs movies to mention- Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club and the always delightful Sixteen Candles.

They are wonderful because they remind us of the squirmy times we had, the “I can’t believe I said/did that”. They also, as our lives have proven, show that things do usually work out in the long run. Most important, they remind us to be ourselves.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

I read the name “John Hughes” and thought for some reason he was either a drag queen or a porno star, don’t ask why… because the 80s were mostly young child and sleep deprived for me!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

I loved Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I never saw Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink. I wasn’t like any of those characters in Breakfast Club – I was a shy, brainy, reasonably well-liked student. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a girl in one of my classes who was on the other side of popularity. The teacher had gotten her talking about the popular kids vs herself. She had lots to say about the really popular kids basically snubbing those who were not. But she said I was okay.

59 is way too young to die. I’m just saying…..

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Janet, John Hughes–just not this one–was a porn star.

And Diane, 59 is way too young to die. It’s morbid, but my standard is now my dad’s age when he died: 65. Anything younger is sad, anything older doesn’t bother me because Dad only got 65 years.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

This was very sad news! Like so many other people, I grew up on these movies and they “spoke to” so many things in my adolescent experience. I loved “Some Kind of Wonderful”, and especially “Sixteen Candles”–totally related to Sam, feeling so awkward and strange, longing for–something that just seemed to out of reach. There was no Jake at my school, though. 🙂

JA, I remember reading “A Break With Charity” when I was a kid! It was wonderful. I hadn’t thought of it in years.

Jane Austen
13 years ago

Amanda, I have never met anyone else who has read A Break With Charity. I’ve already had to have my copy rebound twice. It is a great book.

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