Thursday, August 6, 2009
There have been many significant artistic influences on me, as a writer, as a person, even as a songwriter in my younger days. At least two of them, if I think about it for just a moment, were called John. One was Updike, the other was John Hughes.
Hughes has died of a heart attack. Movies of the 1980s and 1990s -- hell, teen existence, pop culture, and America itself -- would never have been the same without him. And by extension, my entire generation owes a tremendous debt to films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club . . . it goes on. Teen movies had traditionally been teensploitation; that is, they were about little more than sex and beer: throw those two ingredients onto a beach, or a ski resort, or hell, anything at all, and you had a teen movie. It had been that way since the late 1950s, with surf movies, and the tradition went on and on. Some of those movies were good. Occasionally, a funny or poignant script would build on that formula and maybe become great. But John Hughes broke that mold for good. He created movies with characters of depth and scope. Relationships were real. Every conversation, be it between Ally and Andrew, or Duckie and Andie, or Cameron and Ferris (in one of the finest friendships ever captured on film) is as weighty as it should be, because that's what life as a teen is: heavy, moment-to-moment, rarely the carefree sex-and-booze-fest many filmmakers (and local politicans) would have you believe.
As a writer of YA, I am constantly paying homage to, and occasionally ripping off, Mr. Hughes, and my guess is most writers of my generation, and those younger, have his work -- and the archetypal characters he favored -- constantly in their unconcious as they work. It would be impossible not to.