When I flipped on my computer this morning I didn’t expect to see part of my childhood vanish in an instant.
The death of filmmaker John Hughes of a heart attack cuts away at those high school memories we all have. I suspect in the case of many who grew up in the ’80s, and this certainly includes me, it’s one of the first twinges of, “Whoa, I’m getting older than I thought I was.”
If Hughes doesn’t instantly ring a bell here’s a quick hint.
Hughes’ films were as much a part of ’80s pop culture as leg warmers and big hair. Dismiss it if you like, but the reaction to Michael Jackson’s death proves the relevance we all have to the times we grew up in.
Hughes’ films were peppered with the brutal honesty of what most teenagers obsess about: their grades, their parents and attracting interest from the opposite sex.
“The Breakfast Club” stereotype of the nerd, the jock, the beauty queen and the juvenile delinquent (does anybody else remember the line about borrowing Barry Manilow’s wardrobe?) could be panned as oversimplification. There is that to a degree in all of Hughes’ movies, but most teens see snippets of themselves or people they know in those characters. He also for the screenplay for “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” which forever redefined the cross-country family trip and gave us the infamous Clark W. Griswold.
Hughes’ ability to capture teen angst in a way that resonated with so many was a gift in a time where movies and TV were still the adolescent medium of choice. No trawling YouTube, texting or downloading apps here. If you wanted to be entertained, and you didn’t have concert tickets for Genesis, Survivor or INXS, the best place then was still the movie theater.
Personally the movies held an extra punch having grown up in suburban Chicago. Most of those films, it seemed at the time, were made walking down the halls of my high school. I know, however, that’s not unique to Illinois.
It’s also not unique that those of us in the fortyish range will start seeing this happen more and more. Older folks will chuckle at that and younger people will roll their eyes. And that’s OK. God makes it pretty clear he only give us one chance, and while I don’t know about Hughes’ faith background, his work leaves behind a poignant legacy many will recall the next time they dust off that high school yearbook.