Remembering John Hughes Films
Friday, August 7, 2009; 12:00 PM
Filmmaker John Hughes, known for such films as "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," died Thursday while in New York visiting his family.
Filmmaker John Hughes Dies (Post Mortem, Aug. 6)
Washington Post staff writer Hank Stuever and washingtonpost.com movies editor Jen Chaney were online Friday, Aug. 7, at Noon ET to discuss the many movies John Hughes wrote, produced and directed.
Real Men Can't Hold a Match to Jake Ryan of 'Sixteen Candles' (Post, Feb. 14, 2004)
Hank Stuever: Greetings geeks, dweebs, sportos, motorheads, wastoids ...
We all loved him -- John Hughes that is, and the movies he directed, wrote, produced, or contributed to. Or _some_ of his movies. (Not all his movies -- we can discuss that too.) I have found there is no limit to what people have to say about "Sixteen Candles," "Breakfast Club" "Weird Science," "Pretty in Pink" and "Some Kind of Wonderful." But doonaforget "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" and "She's Having a Baby" and "Home Alone."
Brilliant Jen and I are here to facilitate your reflections and add some of our own.
Vienna, Va.: Everyone has his or her favorites, and there's a place in my heart for each movie. But hands down, the best and most underrated is "Some Kind of Wonderful." Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, Mary Stuart Masterson. Plus, it had the best soundtrack of any Hughes movie (and that's really saying something). To this day, I am still in love with Eric Stoltz because of that movie.
Jen Chaney: Wait, is this Liz writing in?
Personally I rank "Wonderful" in the penultimate spot on the Hughes teen movie list, mainly because I think it was "Pretty in Pink" redux, but with the ending the way it was originally intended: Duckie (now Mary Stuart Masterson) wins his best friend's heart.
That said, I still liked at the time. And yes, if I hear "I Go Crazy" by Flesh for Lulu on the radio, I totally crank it.
Hank Stuever: Also, SKOW is not directed by Hughes, correct? He started farming out some of the oeuvre work.
Silver Spring, Md.: Best teen character from a John Hughes film? Discuss.
My personal favorite would be Ducky by a country mile. "His name is Blane? Oh! That's a major appliance, that's not a name!"
Jen Chaney: Wow, that's a tough question. I love Duckie, but I am not sure he is my favorite.
My favorite might be Ferris Bueller, but the one I wanted to be? Andie in "Pretty in Pink."
I also have to give a shout-out to Farmer Ted, because Anthony Michael Hall's portrayal of him is just so freakin' smooth. Watch the scene where he's talking to Jake in the kitchen, mixing drinks. He's genius.
Hank Stuever: Hank Stuever: Oops, I'm still learning how to co-chat. I wanted to add my favorite, before the dogpile gets too high. I loved Cameron from "Ferris Bueller." What a great performance from Alan Ruck. Especially when he's impersonating Sloan's father on the phone to Ed Rooney.
Fairmont St, Washington, D.C.: A comment: As a 41-year-old woman, I was appalled re-watching "Sixteen Candles" recently. (It had been 20 years since the last time I saw it.) The implied date rape of a catatonically drunk girl was horrifying. Some funny moments, but overall it was painful to watch.
IRL -- I did find Anthony Michael Hall's transformation from a skinny, small geek to a beefed up bruiser interesting.
Jen Chaney: That's definitely a good point. Plus all the Chinaman jokes about Long Duk Dong seem just insane to me now. So inappropriate. (But the "Married? Yeah, Mah-rried" interchange still makes me laugh, I cannot tell a lie.)
Hank Stuever: Yes, this is definitely a feeling I have re-watching his films too. Stereotypes abound, too (Long Duk Dong? -- Geddy Watanabe, the actor, actually has a very nuanced position on his contribution there. He thinks the pop culture love for the Donger transcends the stereotypical damage. Would love to hear from Asians on this during the chat.) Also, in Hughes's suburban world, everyone is different but everyone is white. (And straight? Ducky? Care to come out?)
Charlottesville, Va.: It's interesting that in the piece, a film critic compares "Ferris Bueller" to "Rushmore" and "Sixteen Candles" to "Juno," stating how each latter example is "better." Really? "Rushmore" was pretentious and rather unfunny and last time I checked, "Sixteen Candles" didn't involve a pregnant teenager who had over-written, catch-phrasey dialogue.
The thing about Hughes's movies is that they were smart without being "hipster" and he understood that he had a lot of appeal with mainstream audiences.
Jen Chaney: Charlottesville, that critic so angered me this morning.
I really like "Rushmore" a lot, and am a big fan of Wes Anderson's. But I agree, neither of those comparisons struck me as particularly appropriate. They were all movies about teens, but other than that, not much common ground.
And re: "Juno," completely agree about the dialogue. "Juno" is a lovely film (Jason Reitman actually did a lovely job directing it and I did like Cody's script), but some of the dialogue is self-consciously witty and ironic. Hughes never, ever did that in his writing, and I think it's something he deserves credit for. For the most part, the things the characters said rang true and I think that's one reason why kids like me at the time so related to it.
He wasn't trying to be a "Filmmaker" with a capital "F" and he wasn't condescending to young people. He was true to his own voice.
Hank Stuever: I agree with you both.
His movies, for better or worse, have almost taken on documentary status, at least in cultural memory of most people who grew up in the 1980s. Most people besides Joe Heim.
McLean, Va.: What sad news. Maybe I'm biased because I'm in the 35-45 demo group, but has there ever been a director that affected an entire generation of people the way John Hughes affected kids growing up in the 80s?
Hank Stuever: Maybe not one director, but certainly there were actors and/or genres that were given the same generational import -- as noted in Adam Bernstein's fab (and fast) obit in The Post today -- Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies scintillated teendom in the '40s; James Dean in the '50s...
Jen Chaney: I agree with that, but in terms of directors, it's indeed hard to think of one that is so tied in with a specific generation. Part of that is, of course, because so many of his films focused on teens. So anyone in the window of teendom during that time probably associated with his movies on some level.
He's one of those filmmakers whose name itself is a genre.
Arlington, Va.: The supporting characters in Ferris Bueller are just so great -- from Ed Rooney to Grace to the snotty sister. Genius. (Never much cared for the girlfriend Slone, though)
Jen Chaney: Um, that's Jeannie. For the love of God, can't we finally give Jeannie her due?
As Hank mentioned earlier, I do love Cameron. A friend of mine and I used to randomly sing the "When Cameron was in Egyptland" refrain whenever the spirit moved us. It was cathartic.
Speaking of, here's another question to get folks going: what's your favorite quote from a John Hughes movie? Now that's an even tougher question.
Washington, D.C.: I'd be interested to hear what you think about masculinity and the male protagonists in John Hughes movies. Many of my friends seemed to think that Hughes challenged the macho paradigm of male characters by creating self-consciously sensitive male leads who weren't afraid to embrace emotion and vulnerability (i.e., Duckie in "Pretty in Pink"). To me, though, many of his male characters are simply 1980s retreads of the same spoiled, entitled men Hollywood has always loved. What do you think?
Hank Stuever: I think his real muse, aside from Molly Ringwald, was Anthony Michael Hall, who played geeks so well. I keep trying to make the case for "Weird Science," not as a good movie, but a wonderful fantasia or rumination on the teenage male id. And weirdly prescient about the triumph of computer geeks that would come with the Internet age.
Jen Chaney: Definitely prescient about the Internet age. (John Hughes was into Internet porn before we even knew it existed!)
And the "give me a greasy pork sandwich on a dirty ash tray line" has developed a surprisingly long life in the American lexicon. But I still find it the least interesting of his teen movies, probably because a. I am not a hetereosexual boy and b. Robert Downey, Jr.'s hair in that movie frightens me.
Washington, D.C.: Heartbreaking. This has hit me hard -- like losing a favorite uncle. He was such a huge part of my teens years. Having not seen the movie in at least five years and probably more, I could recite, word-for-word, more than 90 percent of Sixteen Candles. I was 13 when the movie came out.
I think the hardest part is the fact that I can directly tie something to John Hughes that is still a huge part of my life -- my love of "indie" music. He opened worlds for me, and I will be forever indebted. Thank goodness we have such a great body of work and terrific soundtracks to remember him by.
Jen Chaney: I had a feeling someone would mention the music in his movies, which was so important. You can't hear some of those songs -- "If You Were Here" by the Thompson Twins, "Oh Yeah" by Yello, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds -- and not immediately flash to scenes from their respective films.
Weirdly, though, most of the actual soundtracks -- and Hank can attest that I carry around a bag emblazoned with the album jackets from two of them -- are not all that great. The best one of the lot, and I would argue the best soundtrack of the entire '80s for which Prince was not responsible, is "Pretty in Pink."
Hank Stuever: Agreed, and see next post.
New Orleans, La.: Re: Best Character question
I recall reading an article a few years ago that attributed the rise in popularity of the name Jake for boys among the children of Gen-Xers to Sixteen Candles' Jake Ryan.
Hank Stuever: Why I wonder what article that would be ... hmmmm....
Oklahoma City, Okla.: Hands down for me was Samantha Baker. Not really pretty, certainly not very popular, and really one of those girls, who while not a total dweeb, just kind of faded into her own cloud of friends. I even had my own "Farmer Fred" friend in HS. Of course, I never got the guy with the Porsche.
Hank Stuever: She had great taste in music too. (And wall posters!) John Hughes is not given enough credit for those meticulously chosen soundtracks. It was like a mix tape from God.
Myersville, Md.: My two fave Hughes movies, Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Fave character? Ben Stein..."Bueller....Bueller....Bueller..."
Hank Stuever: Ben Stein was on tv this morning giving all praise to Hughes.
Alexandria, Va.: As a suburban Chicago teenager in the 1980s, John Hughes seemed to be the only director who actually "got" the high school experience. My friends and I all wanted to ditch school a la Ferris and drive down to Chicago for the day!
In contrast to today's more cynical and gross teen movies, JH's movies seem almost wistfully innocent.
In short JH defined the 80s for many of us Gen Xers.
Hank Stuever: One way he did this, at least in "Sixteen Candles," was to cast people who actually in high school. Like all those geeky boys in the bathroom paying a dollar to see Samantha's panties. They were all that age. (Maybe Cusack was a little old to be in there, but he played it right.)
Alexander Payne did this in "Election" (and is the only person, imo, to ever approach the same feel and tone of a John Hughes high school movie).
By "Breakfast Club," though, Hughes was doing some casting that was a little on the old side. How old were Judd Nelson or Ally Sheedy or Emilio Estevez then? Not high school. Check DOB's on IMDB, I could be wrong. (Hank: Check them yourself! I hear ya!)
Jen Chaney: Hank, that's such a great point about "Election." It was definitely darker and more pointedly satirical than a Hughes movie, but the tone was very similar.
There are elements, intentionally, in "Donnie Darko" that also feel a little Hughesian to me. And, in the TV realm, I also think "Freaks and Geeks" did a nice job of capturing that mix of humor and poignancy that Hughes perfected. (Judd Apatow and Paul Feig also were very smart about casting that show with age-appropriate people, too.)
NYC: I'm craving a John Hughes movie marathon. Do you know of any coming up anywhere on cable?
Hank Stuever: It seems like Sixteen Candles is on Encore all the time, and Breakfast Club has been on one of the lesser-HBO platter channels lately (I think). You can also get Sixteen, Weird, and B-Club in a new box set (shaped like a metal high school locker) that came out last year and features interviews with ... OMG, Hank Stuever (and others).
Long Island, N.Y.: Hank/Jen
Is there a story behind his "retirement" from making movies in 1991?
I read in one article that equated his reclusiveness to J.D. Salinger (that he became a farmer) but was there a backstory as to why he decided to stop?
Hank Stuever: I've never seen a full explanation, no. And very, very little press interviews, of any kind, since about 1994.
Jen Chaney: There isn't an official explanation that I have seen either. But speculation has always been that he wanted to relax and spend time with his family.
People always seem puzzled when successful folks drop out of a business like the movie industry. Certainly it would have been nice to see him make more films. But really, if you had made a ton of money, felt you had made the mark you wanted to make and knew you could live a peaceful existence with your spouse and kids, why wouldn't you consider it?
Born in 1971: That closing shot in Sixteen Candles where they're sitting on the table and they lean in and finally, FINally, we see them kiss. . . so gorgeous. A fantasy that stands up many years later.
Jen Chaney: It's gorgeous but EVERY time, I'm like, "Jake's going to fall in the cake. Or catch fire. It's really going to happen this time."
Never does. Looks like it must have been so awkward for them to shoot even though it makes a pretty picture.
Hank Stuever: Looking at it now makes my lower back hurt. And I always thought all that crinoline was going to ignite. But then that Thompson Twins ballad calms me down incredibly. If you were here, da-da-ceive you (or something like that)
Jen Chaney: "And if you were here, you would believe."
Actually, the words to that song are pretty depressing. Let's not think about them.
Seeing, US: Oh John. You saw us as we saw ourselves in that era. Not in simple terms or easy definitions -- but our complex, complicated, intense, introverted and sometimes silly selves. He didn't define my generation, we did that ourselves, but he certainly translated us beautifully.
Hank Stuever: Very nice, thanks for that. This is the right way to put it. No movie or pop culture really shapes people, but it can do a great job of holding up a mirror.
Arlington, Va.: It's worth mentioning how, while GenXers may consider his movies great, my entire family enjoyed them. Hughes's films successfully crossed generations and cultures.
Jen Chaney: Thanks for that.
My poor father had to take me to see "The Breakfast Club," which I begged and pleaded to see for weeks -- felt like eons, was probably only a couple of months. It was rated R -- why? they dared to say some bad words -- so I needed my mom or dad to get me in and they did a ton of hand wringing about whether I should be allowed to see it.
They eventually relented and my dad came along. And I honestly think he really enjoyed it.
My entire family definitely loved "Ferris Bueller." I think that's the funniest Hughes movie, and the one that holds up best for people who didn't live through the '80s. Sure, the Casio comedy is a little dated -- although who doesn't love Casio humor, really? -- but on the whole, it still works amazingly well.
Hank Stuever: My mother was a junior-high school science teacher for 23 years and I took her to see "Ferris Bueller" because I was so in love it and wanted to share it with her and she was AGHAST that a movie would so celebrate truancy. She really thought it was criminal to celebrate brathood to such a degree. Total bomb.
Rockville, Md.: So many of the comments posted so far ring true. His movies were such a part of my teen-hood -- I turned 16 a couple months after Sixteen Candles came out, and I remember seeing The Breakfast Club when I was a junior in HS and feeling like I was a combination of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall's character, if that's possible. Even though I still love these movies, it's true that you view them so differently as an adult -- when I was around 30 or so, I watched the Breakfast Club for the first time in a long while, and I thought, good god, these kids are whiny!
Hank Stuever: I'm with you, Rockville, and it sounds like we're both Class of '86, which by the way, STILL KICKS.
Jen Chaney: After seeing "The Breakfast Club," my dad -- who was desperately trying to engage his sullen 12-year-old daughter -- asked which character I most related to. And I definitely said Anthony Michael Hall's, mainly because of the pressure I felt to earn good grades.
For the record, though, I was not in the math club or the physics club. And I am an extremely competent creator of elephant-shaped lamps.
Favorite quote: Or at least most-repeated. There is hardly a time my husband and I are in the car when there isn't some cause to utter "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"
Jen Chaney: Ah, some love for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." That and "Those aren't pillows." Someone busts out one of those at least a few times a year in my circle of family/friends.
It's not my favorite quote per se, but I have a soft spot for Judd Nelson's "impression of a life at big Bri's house" from "Breakfast Club," mainly because I had it memorized. In fact, let me do it for you now:
"Hey, son. How was yuor day, pal?"
"Great, Dad. How was yours?"
"Super. Say, how would you like to go (swings pretend fishing line) fishing this weekend?"
"Great, Dad. Aw, but I have homework to do."
Okay, I'll stop.
Hank Stuever: My favorite scene, still, is when Jenny (the bridezilla in "Sixteen Candles") is tranked out on muscle relaxers. When she leaves the church? And they're throwing rice and she's catching it in her mouth? I still roar with laughter at that.
I think all Gen X brides should do that, as homage.
Re: why he dropped out: I read a blog this morning that said he felt that the "business" had killed John Candy and he wanted out.
Hank Stuever: I would file that under THEORY.
Jen Chaney: But if it was on a blog, it must be true!
Philadelphia, Pa.: Princess Di...Michael Jackson...John Hughes.
Are the 80s really over now? Or just ready to begin again?
Hey, you boomers, our pop culture icons can die before their time too. So there!
Signed, At the doorstep of 40
Jen Chaney: I know that doorstep. Sigh.
A Celebritology commenter said yesterday that this is the summer the '80s died. Man, it sure feels that way, doesn't it?
Who's next? Pac-Man? Papa Smurf? Q*Bert?
No one is safe, I tell you.
Hank Stuever: When that Madonna stage collapsed in France a few weeks ago and killed/injured those construction workers, my mind reeled with the possibility. Don't even THINK it!
John Candy: Just wanted to send some love John Candy's way in this discussion. I still tear up at Del Griffith's loneliness and ultimate acceptance into Hughesland. Also, wasn't Uncle Buck one of the teens in kind of a state of arrested development?
Hank Stuever: Posting this. I'm no expert in Uncle Buck. Jen?
Jen Chaney: I am not an "Uncle Buck" expert -- I believe one needs a Master's Degree in John Candy in order to claim such a thing -- but it's fair to say his character was an arrested adolescent, sure.
Candy makes folks cry in that one and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." He was able to convey a sense of isolation that could be really heartbreaking, all the moreso because he was normally so chipper and funny.
Across Generations: I was working with a youth group a couple of years ago, and we asked the kids out of all the movies they'd seen, which one best portrayed what it's like to be a teenager. Hands down, they all said "The Breakfast Club." So John Hughes may have defined the 1980s, but his work crosses the generations. It seems noone has a lock on teen angst.
I remember seeing The Breakfast Club when it came out -- I was a sophomore in high school and my friend and I just sat there after the movie ended saying, "Wow. He really gets it." It was like watching ourselves up on the screen. Plus, the AWESOME theme song of "Don't You Forget About Me."
What strikes me the most about his movies are the absent parents...they're like another character in the movie, not present, but defined by what the characters are saying about them. Their non-presence looms large.
Hank Stuever: The parents are pretty present in "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller" and the father in "Pretty in Pink" -- it's not they're Charlie Brown grownups going "wha-werp-wah-werp" but in some way, they might as well have been. When they are absent, the characters (i.e. "we") become our true selves. (Ferris sits up in bed: "They bought it" and proceeds on his real day.)
Shermer, Iill.: Favorite character of mine has to be Cameron. His meltdown and eventual confrontation of his father over the car, has to be one of the best scenes ever.
Favorite lines, oh there are so many, but of course "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in awhile" has been coming to me all day. But my runner-up has to be the closing essay written by my second favorite character Brian Johnson in Breakfast Club. I also can't forget that my family Christmas Eve tradition is watching Home Alone on odd years, and Home alone 2 on even years. I could recite that entire movie at the age of 6.
But for John Hughes fans, I'd recommend watching the show Psych on USA. The fourth season starts back up tonight (so excited!) at 10 and they have always made constant references to John Hughes, as well as a guest spot for Ally Sheedy and Alan Ruck in past seasons.
Hank Stuever: Cool, thanks.
Alexandria, Va.: Don't forget he wrote the first (and best) "Vacation" movie. My favorite part was Clark's rant about everyone better wear a (bleep) smile on their face! Reminds me of my family's road trips.
Was surprised to learn that he was married to his high school sweetheart for 39 years. Pretty rare for Hollywood.
Hank Stuever: He's pretty rare for Hollywood in a lot of ways, it seems. The ability to turn away from work ... although that may not be for integrity's sake. Somehow he gets a (pseudonymous) credit for the story to "Drillbit Taylor."
New Orleans, La.: One of the great values of his films was that they taught teens that, in the long run, nobody turns out to be the person that they were in high school.
In today's teen genre the outcast overcomes by becoming like the popular crowd.
Hank Stuever: Exactly.
Olney, Md.: I was a parent of teenagers in the 80s. They loved the Hughes movies, and I did too. They weren't just for the kids. They gave an interesting window for the parents into the lives of the teens of that day. (Plus we could all remember our own teen years, which weren't all that different.) Then there was Ferris Bueller -- an immortal comic character plus Ben Stein creating the character that he ended up playing for the next 20 years. Home Alone? Pure entertainment -- but not much content.
Hank Stuever: Thanks for posting. My dad and I saw "Sixteen Candles" in 1984. We went to a movie every Wednesday night after my parents split up. It it came between 1982 and about 1985, we probably saw it. I think he slept through "Sixteen Candles." Boy, he was awake for "Flashdance," though. We saw that three times, for entirely different reasons of enjoyment.
Lost w/o Hughes-ville: Fav quotes: Demented and sad, but social!
He's a yuppy, but he's soooo nice! (Annie Pots in PiP, loved her)
I can't believe my grandmother just felt me up.
Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?
Too many. Too many
Jen Chaney: All goodies.
One I was throwing around yesterday from "Pretty in Pink," which kills primarily because of James Spader's delivery: "The girl is, was and will always be nada."
Who SAYS that?
Bethesda, Md.: When I first saw Pretty in Pink I was devestated that Duckie didn't win Ringwald's heart (of course, I saw myself in Duckie.) When I watched it again recently, it was clear to me that Ringwald and Duckie made no sense as a couple. She never looked at Duckie as a potential love interest. I also like how no single character in the movie was a saint (unlike many movies.) All the characters were gratuitiously mean to one another at some time. That struck me as more believable.
Hank Stuever: Duckie eventually found a boyfriend. Reader, I married him.
Jen Chaney: Awww...
Seriously, can he sing "Try a Little Tenderness" to me? Because that would be sweet.
True story: Back in 1990, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I were in Marseilles in December. There is NOTHING to do in Marseilles in December because everything is closed. Plus, it was raining and I was sick. So we went to a movie. The only thing showing was "Home Alone." Dubbed in French. So we sat through that, with me translating for my boyfriend (although it really didn't need much translation -- pretty broad comedy). The whole thing was rather surreal.
Hank Stuever: Because Home Alone really is the epitome of the French new wave.
Or: It's really just an update on the idea of dauphin. Even little Macaulay had that royal-looking slightly Hapsburg lip.
Jen Chaney: I have to say it: I hated "Home Alone."
The comedy was way too broad -- oh, and French! -- for me.
Richmond, Va.: Why did John Hughes do virtually nothing after 1991, given that he was only about 41 at the time? Did he completely lose his creative impulse? Was he burned out? This sort of thing does happen to other artists, such as music composers and novelists (e.g., Truman Capote). Seems like such a young age to end a successful movie career (as well as dying too young). So I am wondering what we don't yet know about his personal life.
Hank Stuever: Again, we don't know why, and he never talked about it that I can find. But surely we can all relate. He could've done a whole lotta bad teen movies.
RE: You're going the wrong way!!!: Oh, he's drunk! How would he know where we're going?
Hank Stuever: There is so much teenage drinking and house parties in the Hughes movies. I think it's one reason why parents started going nuts and planning our graduation parties for us, etc.
Jen Chaney: There is so much of that in '80s movies in general. And again, as an 11-year-old watching "Sixteen Candles," I thought nothing of it at all.
Flew over my head. Was too fixated on Jake Ryan's flipped-up bangs.
Speaking of Jake Ryan, he was kind of a jerk when you think about it. I mean, Carolyn was hardly considerate of his feelings, but does that justify sending her home drunk with some freshman who can't even drive a car? And then running over to the church to track down Samantha? Stalker!
That said, good lord, that guy could rock a sweater vest.
Hank Stuever: Jake is COMPLICATED. I still get e-mail about a story I wrote five years ago.
Yes about his callous attitude toward women (he knows he can have his pick) and yes about the SWEATER VEST. Hummunhuh-hummunanuh.
Sweater vest or no, we must be fair (isle).
Washington, D.C.: Is John Hughes perhaps one of the last filmmakers to define the zeitgeist of a generation the way he did? Certainly there were films before him in the 1960s (Easy Rider, The Graduate) and 1970s that captured the essence of their time. But today, is pop culture too fragmented for a filmmaker like Hughes to make one defining movie about contemporary youth culture, when there are now dozens of movie genres that appeal to different youth cultures? Are we mourning John Hughes as the end of a dying age of filmmaking?
Hank Stuever: Let's open this up to theories. I think every generation latches on to something, though I have noticed a trend (an encouraging one, maybe) that the millennials are resistant to ascribing deeper meaning and significance to their pop faves? Maybe Gen X did so much of that (PhD dissertations on Scooby-Doo, etc.) that the next generation is sort of repulsed by hack semiotics, etc?
Or ... kids are so lazy now.
Jen Chaney: Are kids really less likely to ascribe deeper meaning to pop culture? Hmmm. I don't know about that.
I think they are certainly more sophisticated in the way they process and analyze information. But if you look at, say, a pop culture phenomenon like "Twilight," those girls -- and they are mostly female -- absolutely live and breathe those books/movies. And I think they attach major significance to the whole Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate, for example.
In 20 years, I suspect they'll have the same sort of nostalgic reverence for "Twilight" that we Xers have for John Hughes. I'm not saying Bella = Samantha Baker, mind you, I am just saying that some kids still get pretty passionate about certain elements of pop culture, although those kids may skew a little younger now than they did in the '80s.
Hank Stuever: Twilight, of course! This is why Jen Chaney is essential to this whole operation.
Arlington, Va. : Chicago and its suburbs need to have a John Hughes Day. Tell me that "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" isn't the best long-form advertisement for a city that you've ever seen.
Jen Chaney: It certainly is, although I would never patronize that restaurant unless I could convince the waiter I was related to Abe Froman.
By the way, there is another stellar Bueller quote: "It's understanding that makes it possible for people like us to tolerate a person such as yourself."
Hank Stuever: My bf and I were in Chicago and took the boat tour. (Hey, it was fun. Don't tease.) It was one FB reference after another -- not just from the guide but from all the passengers. Later, I jumped on a float and sang Danke Schoen. And by that I mean, I ate most of a pizza.
Asian chiming in: Not east Asian, but Asian. And while I do wince at Long Duk Dong, he's still a character for whom I root. Clearly misunderstood by the grandparents, clearly doing his best to fit into a "foreign" culture and likable. He's a far cry from Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's which is truly disgusting. Very few people in Sixteen Candles come off as less than a caricature, the parents who forget their daughter's birthday, the daughter who loans out her panties to Farmer Ted, Jake Ryan who has lousy taste in women (till the end) and friends. If Hughes hadn't been an equal opportunity lampooner, and if he hadn't made the Donger such a likable character, spoiling some of the stereotypes of asian characters in the process, I might be offended. As it is, I'd point out that the Donger's inter-racial relationship is one of the first in that genre.
Hank Stuever: Right, he's triumphant! Hughes is telling us in a very sideways sort of way that EVERYONE IS COOL.
"Mess with the Bull, you get the Horns": RE: Madonna. She won't die from a collapsing stage. She'll die from whatever steroids she's using to build those Popeye-the-Sailor-Man Arms of hers!
She Really needs to eat with Edie McClurg, the Principal's Secretary with many pens in her hair in "Bueller"!
Jen Chaney: When McClurg keeps pulling out the pens -- it's such a small scene, but it's so freaking funny.
And look, let's not talk about more '80s celebs dying, okay? All this speculation could inadvertently take down a member of Duran Duran and then I'll have to call in sick for a week while I deal with my grief. And none of us wants that, okay?
D.C.: Oooh Jen -- I almost completely forgot about James Spader in PIP. What an awesome slimy character! Every time I watched Boston Legal, I couldn't stop thinking of the teen-era Spader.
Jen Chaney: I can't look at James Spader without thinking of Steff. I just can't.
He was definitely way too old -- and well-dressed -- to be in high school. But he was such a delicious a-hole, wasn't he? (I don't know if I am allowed to use that word in a Post chat, but there really is no better one to describe Steff.)
Albany, N.Y.: I can't think of a single great quote because there are so many quotes that are spot-on appropriate for so many occasions. Any time I'm involved in taking a picture or group photo, I always want to say, "You know, black and white would totally capture this moment."
I agree that Hughes's signatures are his honest observations and his romantic heart. Even when parents are clueless or flawed, they are still undeniably loving.
I used to keep a running tally of friends' and acquaintances' favorite Hughes movies. Among males, "Ferris Bueller" was the most popular, with "Breakfast Club" in second place; among females, it was "Sixteen Candles," with "Pretty in Pink" a strong second. But people who preferred something else were always very passionate about defending it. And boys liked "Candles" and girls liked "Ferris" too. Good cross-gender appeal, as well as cross-generational.
Jen Chaney: "Bueller" most definitely skews male. But you're right, a lot of the movies are pretty universal.
It's also amazing to me that Hughes could write the Molly movies -- my name for "Sixteen Candles" and "Pretty in Pink" -- and create characters that felt like real, relatable girls. Not easy for an adult male to do that.
Hank Stuever: In a way, he's just a really good reporter. He was obviously paying attention to EVERYTHING.
Ferris memory: My youngest sister is almost 11 years younger than I am, so she was a toddler growing up with teenage and tweenage sisters. There was a period when we watched "Ferris" over and over on the VCR. Youngest sis was about 3, and she could recite large chunks of dialogue, much to our delight. My favorite was when she would say, "Did you see me naked by the pool? I thought you were Panasonic."
Hank Stuever: Hahaha!
Half the chat goes, "What's Panasonic?"
Jen Chaney: And the other half goes: what's a VCR?
Washington, D.C.: Earlier this year I went to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Loved it, and even more, loved hearing the comments from the teens who had been sitting in front of me as we left the theater. I felt like I was listening to me and my friends as we left Sixteen Candles.
Hank Stuever: Oooh, that sounds nice.
Jen Chaney: Oh, that's sweet. I liked "Nick and Norah," but didn't love it. But I do see the Hughes connection there.
Thanks for sharing that.
The Gun: I love, love the Breakfast Club. I'm too old to be a Gen X, and my daughter who was born in '82 also loves that movie -- why? Because some things about adolescence and high school are timeless. However, I wonder how that scene when Hall's character confesses he brought a gun to school would play now.
Hank Stuever: He'd be doing more than a day in detention, that's for sure.
washingtonpost.com: Real Men Can't Hold a Match to Jake Ryan of 'Sixteen Candles' (Post, Feb. 14, 2004)
Hank Stuever: We had to go revive this out of the morgue. Enjoy!
Seattle, Wash.: Looking at his Obit, I was surprised to see that he had only Directed 8 Films, but had writing credits for over 21 more. Did he write for National Lampoon too?
The quote I remember most today: "And in the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, I was trusted more than I trusted, and I was loved more than I loved. And what I was looking for was not to be found but to be made. " -- She's Having a Baby
Hank Stuever: Deeep.
Reston, Va.: Can we have a shout-out to Planes, Trains and Automobiles? This movie is Thanksgiving for me. My family and I watch this every year and I get teary at the end with John Candy sitting alone in the subway station.
Besides, you can't help but think of this movie every time you walk in to rent a car, absolutely priceless.
Hank Stuever: This is true. Thanks.
Washington, D.C.: I love all those classic movies, though I was a bit too young to see them/appreciate them when they came out (born in '76).
Another movie that has been one of my favorites, and I think is an heir to the John Hughes legacy, is Dazed and Confused. Though the subject wasn't contemporary to the time it was made, I think it captures the qualities of being a teen and growing up that are the same regardless of the decade.
And by the way, my mom loves Ferris Beuller.
Hank Stuever: "Dazed and Confused" is one of my alltime favorite movies. It's a perfect valentine to my older sisters, who went to high school in the '70s. Linklater definitely watched his Hughes.
Favorite Quote: From Sixteen Candles: "That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else." It's hard to feel too sorry for Samantha when she's got such an awesome dad!
Hank Stuever: Paul Dooley! He's great!
washingtonpost.com: '80s Filmmaker Captured Soul Of Teen Torment and Mundanity (Post, Aug. 7)
Annapolis, Md.: Re zeitgeist: I think that what made Hughes zeitgesty was the combination of quality and quantity. I think most people would say that "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was more honest than Hughes's oeuvre, and/or that you don't have Hughes if he doesn't follow Cameron Crowe. But Hughes made so many movies (and Crowe moved on to grownup love) that he claimed the throne.
We haven't seen a filmmaker as prolific as Hughes in a while. But I don't think it's impossible.
Jen Chaney: Yeah, I was thinking about that last time. "Fast Times" was really the first mainstream '80s teen movie to be honest about what growing up really entails. And it went to places -- specifically, the abortion plotline -- that Hughes movies never dared to visit.
But even though Crowe wrote "Fast Times," he didn't really start directing until he made "Say Anything...," which followed on the heels of Hughes. So I think Hughes may owe a debt to "Fast Times," for sure, I would also say Crowe probably owes one to Hughes, too.
Bethesda, Md.: Are we to assume that Hughes meant Duckie to be gay? Was that some hidden message that flew right over young midwesterner's heads?
Hank Stuever: Oh, I'm just joshin'. Read Duckie however you like. But do know that a common thread in a lot of gay men's lives is pining away for your best girlfriend, hoping to get past the whole gay thing. The good news is she winds up being your BFF for life, long, long, long after Blaine is gone.
Fairfax, Va.: Can you run down the list of main characters in the Brat Pack and say what they're doing now?
Hank Stuever: Let me show you something. Are you ready?
It will blow your mind.
Hank Stuever: I have to go. I have to write some sort of essay about John Hughes for tomorrow's paper that will say everything I was too undercaffeinated to say here. Thanks everyone. I love doing this kind of thing with you. Danke Schoen.
Boston, Mass.: As someone who was a teenager in the 80s, I think what stands out the most to me about John Hughes's films was that he poignantly portrayed the painful insecurities of all the high school stereotypes, not just the so-called basket-cases. I think of Jake in Sixteen Candles, Andrew in the Breakfast Club, and even Steff (James Spader) in Pretty in Pink. John Hughes didn't "expose" their insecurities as ironic -- as we often see in movies today -- but rather showed that all teenagers shared angst and personal pain. John Hughes's movies didn't perpetuate stereotypes, they showed that we all have our outward persona while fundementally share many of the same insecurities.
Hank Stuever: POsting at the last minute. Thanks again, all
Annapolis, MD: PS on zeitgeist: "Twilight"'s audience skews pretty girl-ish. Hughes had cross-gender appeal. "Harry Potter" fits the all-genders/all-ages profile better.
Jen Chaney: Yeah, I thought of Harry Potter right as I pressed the submit button on my response. That's a better analogy.
The Twilighters are so passionate, though. I find fandom at that level so fascinating.
Fave moment: Hands down, my favorite scene in any JH film is the wedding in Sixteen Candles. That moment when the shot is on the congregation and everyone hears mom's voice announcing Ginny has her period never fails to slay me.
I'm 45, so back in the day, I was prepared to hate JH's films, because Hollywood seemed to have skipped right over those of us who weren't Boomers or Xers. (Cuspers is my term.) But my boyfriend convinced me to go see Sixteen Candles, and I wound up liking it in spite of myself.
Jen Chaney: Anything that can win you over in spite of yourself has to have some merit, right?
All right, Hank's signed off, and I should, too.
Thanks so much for all of your questions and memories. (For those of you who wrote in about the pen pal blogger, I am planning to get in touch with her. So don't think we were ignoring you...)
On a closing note, I just want to say that it really is a pleasure and an honor to talk about John Hughes with all of you. His movies meant a lot to me growing up; one of the best things about this job is getting the opportunity to share that with a community like this. So thanks.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.