By Tracy ChappellUpdated Apr 04, 2017
Photo courtesy of Indigo Books.
If you’re in your late-30s/early-40s, you probably grew up watching John Hughes movies. If you’re like me, you watched them a lot. I mean recite-every-word a lot. These were the early days of the VCR (who knew the bigger VHS tapes would reign supreme over the more compact Beta tapes?), when remote controls were still connected by cord and only offered fast-forward, rewind and pause options. (We had no idea we were in the dark ages!) But they were clearly durable machines; I can hardly fathom the hundreds of hours my sisters, friends and I spent watching movies in our basement. To have such endless free time again!
Several of the movies on constant play were John Hughes offerings: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful (I admit I didn’t watch Some Kind of Wonderful as much — though who could forget Watts’ “I’d bet my hands on it” line? — but the others I knew pretty much verbatim).
Not only did I love these movies and the actors in them, they were a huge influence on how I perceived the world around me as a young teen dealing with friendships, crushes, high school, parents, popularity and all the drama. Everything — everything — is so urgent and intense and emotional at that age. What my friends and I didn’t realize back then (remember: this was life before the Internet and paparazzi and today’s overwhelming obsession with celebrity) is that we were part of an international mass of young people viewing themselves in these films and, for the first time, seeing our emotions and struggles and day-to-day reality reflected back to us honestly, respectfully.
I now know we weren’t alone, because I’ve just finished reading this book about it: You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and their Impact on a Generation, by Susannah Gora.
I loved it. It took me back to those nights spent cuddled up on our basement sofa bed, watching these movies until 3 a.m., even though we’d seen them a hundred times before. It reminded me of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat (which still exists! Who knew!) magazines and how totally cool Judd Nelson was. The book tackles one film per chapter, with behind-the-scenes dish about what happened on set, what the actors were really like and the challenges in getting the movies made, which was in turn endearing, appalling, eyebrow-raising and always insightful.
I loved reading about how driven Hughes was to see teen angst and emotion portrayed seriously on film, even though the picture painted of the iconic writer/director/producer himself — along with his muse — wasn’t particularly complimentary. It was fun to learn revelatory tidbits about the actors and their adventures and misadventures as they handled sudden fame and wealth and fought against being typecast by the roles that set them on the road to stardom. (After all, they were my friends — or at least I thought of them that way.) For example:
So, did you grow up adoring these films and actors along with me? Tell me your favourites and what they meant to you, or tweet me @T_Chappell. (And go buy the book! It was one of those I wish I had written this! moments for me.)