Some directors can capture the vibe of an era so completely that it’s hard to think of someone else. The late John Hughes certainly pulled it off with an endless list of classic movies, many of which comically captured the heartbreak of being a teenager in the United States in the 1980s.
Sixteen candles, The breakfast club, Pretty in pink, Y Ferris Bueller day off they are just a small sample of the movies that fans remember him for. That being said, there are some things about his films that definitely stick decades later and some not so much.
10 DATE: predominantly white casts
While some fans didn’t really notice this when some of Hughes’s biggest movies first came out, the casts in them were pretty much all white. But when fans come back and see even his most classic features, this certainly sticks out like a sore thumb.
That said, this issue was certainly not limited to John Hughes movies. The vast majority of mainstream movies were anchored by predominantly white casts during that era, something Hollywood continues to struggle with today. It has improved, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard.
9 RELEVANT: Family dynamics
One thing Hughes always seemed to nail down was the complexity of the family dynamic. This can mean many different things, from the way children and parents treat each other to sibling issues and everything in between.
Even when these aspects are not at the forefront of the story, they are often key pieces in setting the stage. Ferris Bueller day off is an excellent example of this, as her relationship with her parents does not define the story, but it is incredibly important to her.
8 DATE: Parents are idiots
While family dynamics are absolutely key to many John Hughes films, there is something about parents that often doesn’t add up. Most of the time, they are described as inept and incompetent, if not completely stupid.
That was certainly true in the Home alone franchise since the same parents forgot the same child more than once. Returning it to Ferris Bueller day off, his parents seemed to trust their son, a notorious con artist and liar. That just didn’t add up.
7 RELEVANT: Subverting the norms
On the face of many of the Hughes films, they seemed to play up many of the stereotypes that plagued many films of the time. But he often subtly managed to subvert expectations and defy the norms that people had come to expect from Hollywood movies.
A good example of this is described in Uncle buck when he goes to rescue his niece from a nasty party. Rather than turning it into a stereotypical “male savior” situation, the scene between them was much more poignant, with Buck acknowledging her as an adult in his own way afterward.
6 DATE: Sexism appears
At the same time, it is also difficult to ignore the inherent sexism embodied in some of these films, particularly when viewed through a modern lens. Too many of Hughes’s female characters became one-dimensional props for a story centered on the male protagonist.
This certainly appears in Ferris Bueller day off as characters like Sloane and Jeanie are there to respond to Ferris’ actions. The same goes for Ellen Griswold in National Lampoon Vacation as it is often little more than a contrast to Clark’s absurdity.
5 RELEVANT: Reflective and sensitive at times
There is a lot going on in a John Hughes movie. While not everything is good, it is hard to deny that there are many incredible movies. That includes a seemingly endless series of thoughtful and sensitive moments that punctuate almost countless scenes.
The Breakfast Club is literally structured around moments like these where each of the characters opens up on themselves. And this also arises in Ferris Bueller day off as Cameron has an extremely deep moment of self-actualization.
4 DATE: Lazy stereotypes
There are many angles to attack this one from. It’s important to remember that we were in the 1980s and sometimes the characters weren’t quite as developed as they should be, especially when it came to taking shortcuts by using lazy stereotypes. That still happens.
The Johnson family of the Holidays The franchise is certainly troublesome in that regard. While its hillbilly style was easy to understand for almost everyone who saw the movie, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lazy way of depicting people who live in similar parts of the United States.
3 RELEVANT: Writing about people
While not all the characters were on full blast, it’s hard to deny that John Hughes was a master at writing about people. Many of his characters instantly identified on various levels with almost everyone who saw his movies.
Clark Griswold enraged at the world. Ferris Beuller bringing that same world to school. Pretty much all the roles Molly Ringwald played. John Hughes knew how to create main characters that remain relevant decades later.
two DATE: Representations of the breed
This is a difficult one. No one should suggest that the depictions of race in modern movies are perfect by any means. However, they are still superior to what viewers used to get back in the day. The 1980s certainly had big problems with that and the John Hughes movies were no exception.
Easily the most talked about example of this Long Duk Dong from Sixteen candles. He was an offensively racist character by the standards of almost any movie era. A gong sounds every time he enters the scene; that’s almost mickey rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s bad.
1 RELEVANT: Adolescent anguish
John Hughes directed, produced, and wrote dozens of films between 1982 and 2008. While they ran the gamut in theme, tone, and style, it’s hard to argue that their muse was teenage angst. Many of his more classic films are absolutely drenched in it.
For some reason, Hughes got it and understood how to portray it on movie screens. While times change, teenage angst doesn’t. That has made many of his best films continually identifiable, even decades after their initial releases.
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