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John Hughes the writer is what I will miss

August 6, 2009

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It may be Duckie that is the most iconic character of John Hughes writing career, but it was Keith Nelson that was my first love. As the world continues to hear of the loss of Hughes today, many on Twitter and Facebook are responding by saying they will watch one of his films. For many, it is “Weird Science,” “Breakfast Club,” or even “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” that they watch in remembrance.

But for me, it is “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

While this may not have been the pinnacle of Hughes writing career, it taught me some of life’s early lessons. I learned that being the rebel or the misfit wasn’t such a bad thing and that sometimes what you think is unrequited love may have a happy ending after all. Hughes character Keith Nelson was played by Eric Stoltz and when I first saw it at age 10, I fell head over heels. What other boy breaks into a museum to hang a portrait of you or risks being beaten up just to prove he is just as good as everyone else? But what made me love him was that after everything, he realized his love for his best friend, Watts. A boyish character that preferred playing drums to wearing dresses, Watts became a role model for me to not be afraid to be unique.

But it is Lea Thompson’s character, Amanda Jones, that still inspires me in relationships today. A line that has stuck with me through much of my terrible dating career has been this: “I’d rather be with someone for the wrong reasons then alone for the right ones.”

But it is not because of that statement, but Jones discovery at the end of the film that she would rather be right and therefore alone than waste her time on a guy that is not worth her that has kept the line imprinted in my brain.

It may not be eye opening by any means, but to a 10-year-old girl, and even a 31-year-old today, there has been many a time when she has struggled between being right and being with someone.

In fact, when I met Eric Stoltz while standing in line for the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland a few years ago, it was not his work on “Pulp Fiction,” nor his recent role (at the time) on “Once and Again,” or even Vahlere in “Say Anything” that I wanted to gab about, it was simply Keith. Stoltz, like I imagined, was as friendly as could be and even let me get a photo with him and Dexter Fletcher who had just had a starring role in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” I imagine the poor man was thinking, I really just want to go to Never Never land, but he never acted disappointed in my starstruck manner. Perhaps though my mother’s opening line of asking him if anyone ever told him he looks like Eric Stoltz may have softened the harrassment. But for the 10-year-old girl inside, it was a dream come true.

Other films like “The Breakfast Club” may have made more of a stamp on the 80s generation but Hughes writing career expanded far beyond his directing. There may have been some misses, like “Curly Sue,” or “Maid in Manhatten” but through every one of Hughes scripts there has been the underdog that defies the odds. In “Home Alone,” Kevin McAllister, overcomes being left at Christmas to fight back the robbers that want to get into his house. In “Mr. Mom” Jack overcomes the vacuum, the washing machine and kid duty. But more of his films dealt with man vs man and the struggle to overcome our own preconceptions of others but also ourselves. We don’t love Andie Walsh for her final choice to not choose Duckie, but we embrace her for realizing that she is just as good as the kids on the other side of the tracks (just like his other redhead Amanda Jones).

Sure, Hughes work in the 2000’s seemed to be off a bit. Writing new “Home Alone” repeats and “Beethoven’s 4th and 5th”, left me missing his earlier writings. Even “Drillbit Taylor” which I hoped might bring him back to his original glory never really did much for me. But as great as he was at capturing teen angst in the 80’s, Hughes also had a way of capturing wholesome comedy and the struggle between close relationships with films like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and “She’s Having a Baby.”

But it is the Hughes as director of classic 80s teen films such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” , “Weird Science” and of course “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles” that many mourn today as we discovered he died of a heart attack in New York. But for me, it is the writer that knew that inside each of us was a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal that I will miss.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2009 6:28 am

    You may have seen this already but check this out…

    http://wellknowwhenwegetthere.blogspot.com/2009/08/sincerely-john-hughes.html

    More about the man himself rather than the movies.

    GS

    • August 7, 2009 7:02 am

      That was a great story, thanks for posting it! Everyone should read that to really get a glimpse at who he was.

  2. August 7, 2009 2:22 am

    Good post. I just have a few seldom-mentioned things to add…- Hughes wrote the spectacular National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), which featured a score by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. The ridiculous guilty pleasure “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo comes from the Hughes film of the same name.

    • August 7, 2009 7:03 am

      True, Vacation was amazing. Weird Science I have seen too many times to count. In fact, Hughes films are some of the few that I will watch over and over again.

  3. August 6, 2009 7:39 pm

    I enjoyed reading this, thanks. The Breakfast Club had most impact on me, followed by Some Kind of Wonderful and (strangely) Weird Science – hey, I was at the age where the underdogs getting the girls was important. As for Duckie being the most iconic Hughes character… I have to disagree – John Bender gets the nod from me (he even gets a special mention from Jay and Silent Bob in Dogma).

    Cheers,

    GS

    • August 6, 2009 8:03 pm

      True any of The Breakfast Club characters really but you are right, Judd Nelson’s character is near the top of my list.

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