Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be (John Hughes Edition) By Guest Blogger Kiko Jones.

The Second Essential Scary Truth

Today’s guest blog is a thought provoking bit from Kiko Jones:

As a proud Gen-Xer I have watched with bemusement how certain pop culture artifacts of my youth are being celebrated within the context of anniversaries, and given “classic” status by some who, in many cases, weren’t old enough to enjoy them during their original run. To us they were just great examples of artistic expression our peers managed to create in our own time, so understandably, it’s heartwarming to now witness and enjoy as the touchstones of your past get the accolades and appreciation they deserve. Yes, admittedly, this goes hand-in-hand with the fact that we have become more concerned with not letting go of our youth—even more than the boomers ever did. But I’d like to think we’re doing a much better job of accomplishing the delicate balancing act of juggling adult responsibilities and arrested adolescence. Either that, or we’re faking it incredibly well.

But getting back to the pop culture aspect, I’m sure that in elevating some of these beloved albums, movies and books, there are quite a few instances of revisionism out there; undeserved praise and/or status for something just because of their emergence during a certain era. (In the same way that clothes and guitars aren’t automatically vintage just because they’re old.) But in this instance I’m not concerned with undue praise but with misinterpretation, particularly regarding three teen-oriented John Hughes movies of the ‘80s: ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty in Pink’, and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’.

The late filmmaker has been lauded, and deservedly so, for his honest portrayal of the teen experience which, barring a few exceptions, had been mostly lost in the years prior to his arrival on the scene. Not to mention the casting of actual teenagers in these roles; or at the very least actors who could convincingly portray being adolescents and were not that far removed from it age-wise. (Surely we’ve all noticed how long in the tooth the high school students in ‘Grease’ are. Yes, John Travolta was only 24 at the time, but the late Jeff Conaway was pushing 30, Olivia Newton-John was already there, and the great Stockard Channing was actually 34 at the time!) Hughes’ movies in this particular realm were a much more believable alternative to the likes of ‘Porky’s’ and its ilk, which were then clogging up screens left and right.

However, there’s a strong undercurrent of narrow-minded, conservative morality in these particular films, of the kind the baby-boomer love letter ‘Forrest Gump’ would exude a decade later: don’t take risks; free-thinking is not to be rewarded; and most importantly, within the context of the above three movies, strive to be popular or at least make every effort to associate with those who are—nobody wants to be around a “loser”. It wasn’t until Hughes died—which in a sad turn of poetic justice, occurred during a visit to New York City, which he had once described as “cesspool”—that I came to realize that these films which I’d loved—‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ not so much—were adolescent morality plays masquerading as enlightened teenage entertainment. Granted, Hughes’ talents made his work not as obvious, but it was no less deliberate than that of his less subtle and/or gifted peers.

Maybe I was blindsided by these films having been portrayed by identifiable contemporaries who then spoke to me on a basic level. Perhaps I was not as discerning then. (Well, duh: it took me a quarter century to figure it out, right?)  Maybe the cynicism of one’s 40s is the ideal filter to block certain elements and let the real intent—subconscious or otherwise—seep thru. In any case, it’s nowhere near discovering a life-altering lie has been perpetrated, but considering how much stock we put in certain pop culture identifiers of our youth, to come to the realization that what we considered an artistic manifestation of acknowledgement and empowerment is anything but, is a sobering thought nonetheless.

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