Oscars, John Hughes, and generations

Not much to say about Sunday’s Oscars show, though I thought Slate.com did a fine job of capturing the generational divides on display during the televised ceremony. Troy Patterson, Slate’s TV critic, hit it right on the head in writing about the segment honoring the late John Hughes. Patterson writes:

In witnessing the canonization of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, those of us who came of age in the ’80s (or were trying to, anyway) were watching the very soul of our collective adolescence pass into history. We’re getting old, and we must resolve to do so with more grace than the awful boomers, represented again last night by James Taylor and his tediously gentle guitar, which ruined the in memoriam segment.

Though, Dana Stevens, Slate’s movie critic, and herself a fellow Gen Xer (I believe), had a good line, too:

“When you grow up, your heart dies,” Ally says in a clip from The Breakfast Club. Whether you hear that line as one that ironizes adolescent self-pity or lionizes it, to scan the faces of those middle-aged actors was to confirm that when you grow up, your collagen tissue dies and takes with it your roseate bloom of precocious gawkiness.

Ouch, but a good shot, nonetheless.

For me, the best part of the Oscars show was seeing that John Hughes segment. Ironically, Hughes, hardly an Oscar-type director, received his due from the Academy after his passing with this presentation. Though it was a little unsettling to see the aging stars from my generation up on stage (and even more unsettling with the death this week of Corey Haim at age 38), what they said on stage — about Hughes, about growing up, and, by extension, what that all says about our generations — still rings true.

“His genius was taking the pain of growing up and relating it to everyone,” Ringwald said on stage.

Yes, of course, we weren’t the first generation to grow up and to feel awkward and unsure as teenagers. Nor were we the first to have films or mass media aimed at us at that age — Hughes didn’t invent the teen flick.

But John Hughes’ films spoke to us in our place in time and history with comedy, sentimentality, pathos, and most importantly, understanding. Simply put, those films were ours.

Or, as the clip shown at the Oscar’s from the Breakfast Club had it:

Andrew (Emilio Estevez): My God, are we going to be like our parents?
Claire (Molly Ringwald): Not me.
Allison (Ally Sheedy): It’s unavoidable. It just happens.
Claire: What happens?
Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.
John Bender (Judd Nelson): Who cares?
Allison: I care.

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One Comment on “Oscars, John Hughes, and generations”

  1. jen says:

    Of course, i loved John Hughes, but my fave all-time movie of his is Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

    I love that quote from Patterson…grace. We have it.


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