Like many Generation X and Y-ers I grew up with John Hughes and his gang of angst-ridden misfit teens, watching as they faced first loves, social pressures and impending adulthood. John Hughes will forever be one of my favourite filmmakers; for me nobody has ever captured the teenage experience as accurately as he did, and it’s unlikely that anyone ever will again.
His list of producer and director credits is longer than my arm, but John Hughes was first and foremost a writer, producing some of the most powerful and memorable scripts of all time. Here are just ten of the lessons I’ve learned from watching his films.
“Screws fall out all the time, the world’s an imperfect place.” – Bender, The Breakfast Club
This quote is brilliant in its simplicity. Basically, shit happens. Life’s messy and complicated and doesn’t always go the way you want it to, and you just have to accept it. When things go wrong, all you can do is fix it as best you can and move on.
“I don’t have to run away and live in the street. I can run away and I can go to the ocean, I can go the country, I can go to the mountains. I could go to Israel, Africa, Afghanistan.” – Allison, The Breakfast Club
Allison may have been talking specifically about escaping her poor home life, but to me this quote has a much wider message. The world is full of possibilities, and even when you think you’re trapped in a situation, most of the barriers are created by your own mind. Your life is your own, and you can change it whenever you want.
“Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like me.” – Del, Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Del Griffith had his priorities right. Uptight Neal Page may have hated the fact that Del was loud and clumsy and untactful, but Del accepted his own flaws and knew that he had plenty of good qualities to balance it out. He knew the people he cared about liked him, and he liked himself, so the opinions of anyone else didn’t really matter to him.
“This is my house. I have to defend it.” – Kevin, Home Alone
Sometimes in life people are going to push you around, and eventually you reach a point where you have to stop running and take a stand. Even if victory seems unlikely, even if you’re an eight-year-old going up against two scary burglars, its important that you don’t let anyone else dictate your lives or your choices.
“You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.” – Ferris, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
What a motivator! When you’re in a funk or feeling down it’s easy to get locked in a downward spiral; you feel rubbish, so you hide yourself away and consequently feel more rubbish, and so it continues. Nothing feeds the soul more than the simple fact of having something to get out of bed for.
“A person should not believe in an -ism; he should believe in himself” – Ferris, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It’s dangerous to let ourselves be dictated by predefined ideologies. It’s cool if you want to be a Buddhist, or a Feminist, or a Marxist, but don’t mindlessly accept everything attached to that identity. Ideologies are flawed, so don’t be afraid to question, criticise or flat out disagree.
“When you’re given things kind of easily, you don’t always appreciate them.” – Mr Baker, Sixteen Candles
We all know people who have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth or have a god-given talent for being brilliant at everything, and I’m not going to pretend we wouldn’t all like to be one of them. But there’s a quiet satisfaction in knowing you earned your success, and the fact that you had to struggle will make you appreciate it all the more.
“If somebody doesn’t believe in me, I can’t believe in them” – Andie, Pretty In Pink
This one’s important – sometimes we sell ourselves short, but we definitely shouldn’t let anybody else. If you have someone in your life who thinks you’re anything less than absolutely breathtakingly brilliant, that’s someone you don’t need around.
“I’ll walk in, walk out, and come home. I just want to let them know that they didn’t break me.” – Andie, Pretty In Pink
Andie was my ultimate John Hughes heroine – she knew who she was, she didn’t care what the popular girls thought, and even though Blane was one of the rich cool kids she refused to let him mistreat her. She taught me that some people just want to drag others down, and you have to fight those people with everything you’ve got.
“They’re all good kids, until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good.” – Buck, Uncle Buck
It can be easy to let other people’s opinions of you break your self-confidence, especially when you’re a kid. I truly believe that everyone starts out decent and talented, and it’s our surroundings and influences that warp and ruin us. If you think you’re no good, know that the person who made you believe that is wrong and you are better than they will ever be.
Does anyone have their own John Hughes lessons? What films do you think have influenced your life?