Sunday, October 12, 2014

80s Movie Wisdom

There are certain moments in our lives that we remember with absolute clarity. One of mine occurred when I discovered that many important lessons could be gleaned from the stellar collection of movies that I watched in the 1980s. I was writing my first book, French Twist, and I found my mind continually wandering to my favorite John Hughes and Cameron Crowe movies from my childhood.  I giggled as my fingers flew over the keyboard, peppering the dialogue of my characters with indelible quotes from these cinematic gems. Suddenly, I realized that these movies were jam packed with critical life lessons for future generations to come.

At first, it may seem like a bit of a stretch, but if you really think about it, you will see that there is much knowledge to be acquired from your favorite movies from the decade of excess…

Lesson #1: Don’t Lie

This may seem rather obvious and is definitely one that our parents told us over and over again, but with his script for Pretty in Pink, John Hughes was able to convey this idea in a way that seemed decidedly less lame. Just cast your mind back to the wonderfully idealistic and honest Andie, played by Molly Ringwald. She is not na├»ve enough to miss the socioeconomic differences enforced en masse by the students at her high school, but she will not allow herself to be treated poorly by any of the “in-crowd” and values telling the truth above all else. In the end, Blaine, played by the gorgeous Andrew McCarthy, realizes what an idiot he has been, sticks it to his heinous best friend Steph, played with such delightful creepiness by James Spader, and begs Andie’s forgiveness. Even as a teenager I could see that the massive amount of lies told by the popular kids were bringing them nothing but pain. I was totally ahead of my time!

Lesson #2: Money Isn’t Everything

This is a lesson that takes YEARS to learn and some people will never truly take it to heart. Admittedly, it is exceedingly hard to grasp - especially when you are a kid and money appears to be a very simple solution to every problem. But again, our man John Hughes comes through with some serious brilliance in Some Kind of Wonderful. Here we meet Keith, played by the dreamy Eric Stoltz and Amanda, played by Leah Thompson, both high school students from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  While Amanda essentially sells herself to “run with the rich and the beautiful” (Thank you, Mary Stuart Masterson!), Keith is content to hang with his other economically challenged friends, stumbling through the usual teenage insecurities and big dreams for the future. Amanda picks up the scraps of her rich friends, but it is only after she sees the true nature of her revolting ex-boyfriend, played so effectively by Craig Sheffer, that she understands that money cannot buy happiness, only a very small approximation of it.

Lesson #3: Crazy Things Can Happen

Crazy things certainly happen far more often in the movies, but real life has its moments.  (French Twist is the true story of how I met my husband and it is full of crazy happenings!) Enter once again, the amazing Mr. John Hughes, with the Sixteen Candles. Here we find Samantha, played by Molly Ringwald, torn between being angry with her family for forgetting her SIXTEENTH birthday and mooning over THE Jake Ryan. Every girl had a Jake Ryan in high school.  You know, the incredibly hot guy, who was also sweet, charming AND athletic? Fictional Jake is also wealthy and interested in a moderately dorky girl rather than his smokin’ hot girlfriend; why wouldn’t we be enamored with the idea of such a thing?  OK, OK, so there is a degree of suspension of disbelief at work here, but Sixteen Candles reminds kids of the very important lesson that these crazy things CAN happen. Let’s not shatter their dreams with the fact that the odds are not ever in their favor. (Points for cross generational reference!)

Lesson #4: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

I find this lesson a bit funny considering that at this point in time, I spend a lot of time thinking about cover design, since people most definitely judge them before buying my books, but we are going with the metaphorical sense on this one. In another of his cinematic triumphs, The Breakfast Club, John Hughes warns us about the dangers of stereotyping. We are presented with John – the criminal played by Judd Nelson, Andrew - the athlete played by Emilio Estevez, Claire – the princess played by Molly Ringwald, Allison - the basket case played by Ally Sheedy and Brian - the brain played by Anthony Michael Hall. Each character comes with a corresponding image and background and it would be easy enough to pigeon hole these kids based on their roles. However, as the movie progresses, we see why this is such a colossal mistake. We quickly learn that no one’s life is ever really what it seems – good or bad – and we all have a lot more in common than we thought. And though the future of John and Claire’s relationship is absolutely doomed, at least their short stint together removed the deep rooted animosity that was based on good old fashioned assumptions.

Lesson #5: Never Underestimate the Impact of a Grand Gesture

Now it is time for us to hand the reins over to Mr. Cameron Crowe and his extraordinary film, Say Anything. Simply hearing the title of this movie instantly evokes the image of Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusak, holding a boom box over his head that is blasting the unforgettable Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes.” I can easily picture him standing in front of his blue Chevy Malibu in that borderline skeevy trench coat, with a look on his face that was part determination and part anguish. Whether you are a teenager, or perhaps a little, um, older you can easily appreciate the bravery it takes to put yourself on the line like that. And really, would we all swoon over magnificent scenes like this in both movies and books, if we did not desperately want them to happen in real life? I think not.

I hope that you enjoyed my musings on the wisdom of my favorite 1980s movies. I could have droned on and on for pages, but I know that you have a busy life to lead! If you have any interest in reading about a few real life grand gestures executed by my incredibly romantic husband of twelve years, please check out my French Twist series!


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