John Hughes Changed My Life

FerrisDuckie

It’s weird to admit, but I don’t know who I would be without those two characters. Like all adolescents, I was searching for my identity, and those guys showed up at just the right moment and made a huge impact on my life.

I saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off several times in the theater when it came out in 1986. Ferris was everything I wanted to be: cool, confident, nonchalant, easygoing, and hilarious. The quote that has stuck in my mind for 23 years is: “You can’t respect someone who kisses your ass.” Hearing that was like a bomb going off in my head. It changed my entire outlook toward the world. I realize that sounds like hyperbole, but emotions are big when you’re 15. And John Hughes understood that more than any other adult.


After the second time I saw I Ferris Bueller, I walked across the parking lot to the record store in the mall and bought a Beatles compilation with “Twist and Shout” on it. That wasn’t my first Beatles purchase, but it fired up what was soon to become a major obsession. This obsession was spurred on later that year when I started hanging around with a kid in my art class named Derek Phillips who also liked the Beatles. Fifteen years later, the two of us would start Glorious Noise together with a few other friends. Would this have happened if not for Ferris Bueller? Who knows?

Then there was Duckie. I watched Pretty in Pink on video and immediately started dressing like my new doomed hero. Vests, straw hats, bolo ties, the whole bit. Kind of embarrassing now. But it’s true. He was so cool, and Molly Ringwald was an idiot for picking Blane. “That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!” I hated John Hughes for always making the weird kids get normal to finally appeal to their popular crush. Molly Ringwald may have sold out for Blane, but Duckie stayed true. And that appealed to me. I might never get the girl, but I’m going to keep wearing the funny shoes that define my character. And I’m never going to kiss your ass.

And the music in Pretty in Pink was pretty amazing too. Was that the first time I’d heard the Smiths? OMD? New Order? I can’t remember, but I had the soundtrack on tape. And I played it out.

So yeah, John Hughes had a pretty huge effect on my life. Probably not as much as this girl, who was pen pals with him when she was a teenager… But still. Hughes didn’t condescend to teenagers. It’s easy to forget what it felt like to be a kid. It’s easy to scoff at the melodrama. It’s easy to think that your adult problems are so much more important than the shit that teenagers have to deal with. It’s easy, but it’s not right. And John Hughes got that.

And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.

John Hughes died Thursday at the age of 59.

Previously: Exile in Hitsville: xxoo Liz Phair (2003), in which Liz Phair‘s inglorious kiss off to her indie fans is compared to—what else?—the plot of Pretty in Pink.

7 thoughts on “John Hughes Changed My Life”

  1. I was never a huge fan of Ferris Bueller, and I absolutely despise Pretty In Pink. Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, however, are another story entirely.

  2. What sab said. Plus I teetotally despised that cheesedick version of “Pretty in Pink” by The Pyschedelic Furs used in the movie soundtrack. Horns — blecccchhh.

  3. “Molly Ringwald was an idiot for picking Blane. … I hated John Hughes for always making the weird kids get normal to finally appeal to their popular crush.”

    I hear you, Jake. Sadly, this happens in real life, more often than not. Then those “normal” kids are stuck with the consequences of their lame choice. A fate worse than Duckie’s, I think.

  4. Robbie Fulks eulogizes Hughes:

    A thing that irks me a little is the insinuation in many obituaries that Hughes’s retreat from movie directing in 1991 was some kind of inexplicable slide down the greasy pole. From his farm in Harvard, Illinois, his productivity as a screenwriter continued. Friends of friends who live in my neighborhood and worked for him during his Salinger years have only positive character reports. His declining to yak about himself and his work for the TV and press reinforce the point. We’re left with a picture of a man who was not only bright, skilled, and opportunistic (most people in showbiz are) but also mindful of the difference between price and value. John Hughes married his high-school sweetheart and remained a devoted family man. When he was able to, at the mere age of 41, he took the pile he had made off the frameworks of other men to establish his own, writing in happy seclusion far from Hollywood, accepting its rewards by mailbox while attending to his cows and his loved ones.

    People just can’t imagine that anybody wouldn’t want celebrity. Dave Chappelle and John Hughes should’ve collaborated on a screenplay.

  5. I thought it was really interesting in that eulogy from his “penpal” (http://wellknowwhenwegetthere.blogspot.com/2009/08/sincerely-john-hughes.html) how he said he was getting out because he was worried what Hollywood was doing to his sons. I mean, that’s a completely understandable and commendable reason to go, and I’m more surprised than anything that that hasn’t surfaced and been more of an accepted story than the mystique that surrounds the whole thing. Here’s a dude who presumably was still sitting on a ton of cash and said, “We can have a better life for ourselves elsewhere”, which is what any good parent should do, right? (this is, of course, all assuming that that statement of his to this girl was true)

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