Monday, September 17, 2012

Don’t You Forget About Me: John Hughes and the 1980s

When we think of the 80s we remember tall bangs, blue braces, bad perms and shoulder pads. Aside from those fashion beauties, shameful memories and (burned?) photographs of our younger selves, we cannot deny that this decade produced memorable films, music icons and revolutionary television. The influence of the 80s over pop culture is undeniable.

It’s impossible to think of those years and not mention writer and director John Hughes. Although he continued writing and directing films in later decades, his name will forever be linked to the 80s. What’s odd is that toward the end of his life, he remained in relative obscurity in his native Chicago and avoided interviews and public appearances. He even started writing under a pseudonym (Edmond Dantès, in honor of the protagonist of The Count of Montecristo). Did you know that he wrote such popular films as 101 Dalmatians (1996) and Maid in Manhattan (2002)? Before doing research for this article, I had no idea. (And I’m supposed to be a fan!) Why did he make the choice of using a pen name? And why did he live in Chicago, away from the spotlight, and not in Hollywood? Perhaps we’ll never know the answers to these questions, although some people claim his decision had to do with his deep sadness after the passing of comedian John Candy.Whatever the reason (s) may have been for Hughes’s decisions, we cannot deny the legacy of his films in popular culture.

Molly Ringwald, John Hughes and the actor forever known as Jake Ryan.

However, I'm not sure Hughes ever got the recognition he deserved. Not if we compare him to writers and directors of “serious” fiction. In our culture we seem to think that drama or films with big budgets are more impressive and deserve more awards. But comedy serves an important role, too. (And it’s so hard to write well!) If all entertainment offered was tragedy, where could we go to escape our own problems? Yes, tears can be therapeutic (not according to my husband!) but so is laughter.

So what was it about the 80s that made such an impact on us? I know we were young and impressionable, but so are other generations of teenagers who grew up in other decades, yet we all keep going back to this era.

In an attempt to understand the 80s cultural phenomena and Hughes's (and other directors') contributions, I’ve come up with a few theories of my own (feel free to add yours or reject mine).

1. Teenage comedies thrived during the 80s.

Books and films for teenagers in the 70s were mostly dark. We had horror (Carrie, Halloween) and cautionary tales that talked about drug addiction, unsafe sex, rapes and/or teenage pregancies, as though filmmakers were trying to show kids the consequences of these kinds of behaviors. (Some examples are: Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, Go Ask Alice, Born Innocent and Ode to Billy Joe.) Not surprisingly, the 70s were postwar years filled with experimentation so in a way, it’s understandable that the adults of the time would make “didactic” films. As Sister Malena recently pointed out to me, other teenage films and TV shows from the 70s were set in other eras: Remember When and The Summer of my German Soldier in the 40s, Grease and American Graffiti in the 50s, and I Wanna Hold Your Hand in the 60s.

The 60s had a more positive take on teenage years, I think, but it seems like most of them focused on teen idols such as Elvis, Sandra Dee, Patty Duke or Frankie Avalon. (Picture guitars and bikinis!)

Eighties films, on the other hand, presented us with common problems of adolescence outside the beach: high school crushes (Some Kind of Wonderful, Secret Admirer, Sixteen Candles, well, probably all of them!), social divisions (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles), principal/student conflicts (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), exchange students (who can forget Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles or Monique in Better Off Dead?) car problems (License to Drive, Ferris Bueller), etc. I know, once in a while we were exposed to drug use (St. Elmos Fire, Less than Zero) but overall the vibe of the decade was more positive than in the one prior.

Hughes understood sexual tension. He nails it in Some Kind of Wonderful (1987).

Never have teenage films been more popular than in the 80s. Notice how different they are now? How did we go from normal teenage angst to teenagers falling in love and/or fighting vampires/werewolves/angels/whatever OR behaving like adults (having sex with everything that moves?!)

2. John Hughes, in particular, wrote movies about everyday people.

If you look at Molly Ringwald’s characters, they’re all average girls (except for maybe Claire in The Breakfast Club). Sam and Andie are pretty ordinary, not nerds nor prom queens. The same goes for John Candy’s characters in both Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck, Eric Stoltz in Some Kind of Wonderful, and Kevin Bacon in She’s Having a Baby (I read somewhere that this film was semi-autobiographical). We feel like he know this people (or we could be them). Girls all over the world could identify with Molly’s characters because they were not stereotypes, they were real. And that made them appealing. Sure, he uses some stereotypes here and there, but I’ll talk about that next.

Okay, so he may not have been that normal. But who is?

3. Dichotomies and contrast.

John Hughes loved contrast, and when he used archetypes, he liked to mix them up to see what emerged. Arguably, his characters in The Breakfast Club could be considered archetypes-turned-into-stereotypes. We have the prom queen, the athlete, the criminal, the nerd and the eccentric loner. But Hughes made a point at showing us how these initially stereotypical characters become unique by the end. We get to know them, and they get to know each other and themselves. Even more, they grow and change (some more than others) and yes, friends, it only takes a few hours.

Sixteen Candles shows us a variety of contrasting characters: the prom queen with the dork, Sam’s snobbish grandmother vs. the more traditional and warm grandma, and remember the girl the Chinese exchange student picks? The same goes for the villains of Home Alone: one is tall with an eagle nose, and the other one is short and chunky, which lead me to my next point.

Long Duk Dong finds love.

4. Every character counts.

Hughes was not alone in his determination that every character in his films should be interesting and complement the protagonist in some way. His colleague, "Savage" Steve Holland, excelled at creating fascinating characters in his film Better Off Dead. Think about Cusack’s younger brother, his mom with her creative cooking, and his best friend (who, mind you, is no dummy after seven years of high school!)

The most memorable characters in Holland's film have minor roles.
"I want my two dollars!"
Wait, this thing moves!
Instead of being a mere side kick, Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is more complex (and perhaps more interesting?) than Ferris. His sister, played by Jennifer Grey, is compelling in her love/hate relationship with her brother (certainly more intriguing than  Ferris’s girlfriend, played by Mia Sara). Equally memorable are Andie’s best friends: her boss and the loyal Duckie in Pretty in Pink. I love the scene where her boss/mentor is reminiscing about her own prom in the sixties and dancing with Andie. And how about Joan Cusack’s small, but memorable, role in Sixteen Candles? Who doesn’t remember the scene where she’s trying to drink from the water fountain.

Hmm... who is the most complex character here? 

5. The villain grows up.

Another characteristic of Hughes’s films is that, in the end, the villain realizes the wrong of his/her ways and changes. Some examples are Uncle Buck’s niece Tia, who makes amends with both her mother and her uncle by the end of the movie; Judd Nelson’s character in The Breakfast Club, who softens and changes his views on the “losers” from his high school;  Jake Ryan’s girlfriend in Sixteen Candles, who discovers she likes nerds after all, and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Though not technically a villain, Martin is a very flawed protagonist: impatient, badly tempered, selfish and judgmental of John Candy’s character. In the end, when he realizes that Candy is alone in the world and homeless, he goes after him and brings him to his Thanksgiving celebration.

Good morning, honey!

6. Teenagers were treated with respect and their concerns mattered.

In an interview, John Hughes said he had chosen to write teenage films because he wanted to work with young people so they wouldn’t question his authority or experience (he went into filmmaking after being a copywriter at an advertising agency). So it was a somewhat accidental choice, but this didn’t stop this filmmaker from treating the subjects that concerned teens with respect. We see his thoughtfulness repeatedly in his films: in Sam’s heart to heart with her dad in Sixteen Candles, in Keith’s discussion with his father or his conversations with Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful, or when the characters finally open up to each other in The Breakfast Club.

7. Science nerds were cool.

John Hughes’s Weird Science and Robert J. Rosenthal’s Zapped! could be considered the forefathers of the "cool dorks" of today (i.e., The Big Bang Theory). In these films, smart teens came up with the formula for the perfect woman and the secret of telekinesis (which, of course, the guys from Zapped! used to their advantage to get girls). In the early 90s, Sandra Bullock made a similar film (Love Potion No. 9) where two scientists discover the formula to sexual attraction and use it on members of the opposite sex.

8. Families in the 80s were generally portrayed under a positive light.

Sitcoms reined supreme in the 80s. Most of them portrayed positive role models and parents and children with good relationships. The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss? and Full House are some popular examples. But do you remember My Sister Sam, Small Wonder, Charles in Charge and Double Trouble? I do! And I LOVED them!

The Sagal Twins in the sitcom Double Trouble (1984-1985)

Let’s play a game! Can you name your Top 5 eighties movies, TV shows, actors, actresses, singers and songs?

Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)

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  1. I am going out today and collecting some of these films. As a "character driven-reader' I too remember all the sidekicks that left a far more memorable impression on me than the actual stars. Remember when Duckie was trapped in Jakes glass coffee table or when Long Dong was on the exercise bike with his new love ? I use to think that the movies of then were pretty innocent, they are not, yet I prefer them than to the teenage movies of now. You are so right ,the family was portrayed much differently then than it is now . Where are the John Hughes of the 21st century? What is wrong with having a traditional family portrayed in a movie? Your article was thought provoking . To go back to the game, I
    loved , The Goonies,Breakfast Club, Revenge of the Nerds (very riskay ,but had forgotten ) , Three O'clock High,Back to the Future and the list can go on and on. I know what I am doing this weekend .

    1. Hola chica!

      I never watched The Goonies (but I had the computer game for the Apple IIc), Revenge of the Nerds or Three O'Clock High (which one is that?). I liked The Breakfast Club so much I memorized parts of it. :) Who was your favorite character in the film?

  2. I can't believe you found a way to include 'Double Trouble' in this post, L! Not only that but you mention Lane's mom in 'Better Off Dead.' You are some kind of wonderful.

    I found it fascinating that Hughes worked in obscurity toward the end of his life. I think that artists joy in sharing their work but are, in large part, fairly introverted types who feel pretty keenly the drain of exposure. It's possible that his seclusion had something to do with the passing of the legendary John Candy but, and this is very simply my opinion, it may have had more to do with the need to pull away that I believe comes over anyone in the intense spotlight. I think Hughes did get the recognition he deserves and continues to. Perhaps not critically, but from his enduring and growing legion of fans. I love that pic of him with the main characters from 'Sixteen Candles.' I really do.

    Finally, I thought 'She's Having a Baby' was brilliant.

    1. Well, if we compare Hughes to other 80s directors/writers, then he definitely has had recognition. But yes, I was referring to the respect of the Academy (although I think they gave him some award after his passing). Yeah, that's a great picture. Molly looks like she has a real life crush on Jake Ryan, ha!

      I love "She's Having a Baby" as well (he had so many good ones!) If you had to pick your top 5 80's movies, which ones would they be?

    2. Just to add to something Suze said. I've always heard that Hughes left the limelight and decided he wanted a low-key life because Hollywood and that world out there had drained him physically as well as emotionally. He was ready for a quiet life. He did die of a heart attack, so one has so wonder how big of a strain Hollywood placed on him...

  3. As someone born in the late 80's, I am loving this post! Who's The Boss was a show I watched with my dad on a daily basis. Ferris Bueller is an all time favorite movie! Just came across your blog and love it!

    1. Saumya, I'm so glad you found us. I used to love "Who's the Boss?" and "Ferris Bueller." Hey, I just found out that there was a TV show based on Ferris (1990) but with different actors. (Jennifer Aniston played Jennifer Gray's role). It was also written by someone else. I guess it didn't turn out to be very successful as they cancelled it right away.

  4. The eighties were the best! I ... don't really remember them, because I was born in '87, but MAN OH MAN I love the music. Bon Jovi will forever be my teen angst go-to. And Journey never gets old!

    Others -- Breakfast Club, of course, and don't forget Adventures in Babysitting!

    1. Bess, I have my kids on an 80s music diet, ha, ha! (Journey, The Cure, The Police and Depeche Mode are some of my favorites. But there were so many others, too!)

      Never saw Adventures in Babysitting (I feel like I grew up missing something important :-))

  5. Outside of a couple of things here or there (like some great comedies!) I have never cared for the eighties. Bad hair, bad cars, bad music, bad clothes, etc. I look back at some of the fashions from that era and feel my stomach turn.

    On another note, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is an annual must-watch in our house. Every year, two weeks before Thanksgiving (and most definitely on the actual turkey day) we watch our fill of the film. It was my husband's father's favorite movie, and he passed away when my husband was in college. Ever since, we make sure we watch it.

    Films involving teens today are a little sad in my opinion. I think of "Project X" that came out this past year and how it's basically about a bunch of nerdy teens throwing the raunchiest, most illicit, drunken orgy of a party that an R rating will allow. I would never want my child to think that kind of film is cool or want to emulate what he/she sees on film. Is it true to what teens are doing today? Probably, and that's the sad part. It's like we expect them to have fun only if it involves booze, drugs and sex and nothing more. Just look at "Superbad" or the "American Pie" movies.

    1. Sister May, Mary you criticize the fashions, but I see more outrageous clothing today. The 80’s had a sense of elegance about it with fashion icons like Princess Diana and David Bowie. And there was the “preppy style” that was nice and refined, and girls had hair and curls and wholesome looks. I remember teaching high-school back then, and you could tell at glance who was doing drugs or experiencing eating disorder because normal girls were fleshy, and pink like Molly Ringwald.

    2. I never watched "American Pie" (the theme was a big turn off for me :p) I also love "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (John Candy is my favorite comedian!)

    3. I think all eras go through good/bad clothes and hairstyles. Yes, there was some wholesomeness to the way girls dressed in the 80s, but it was with huge shoulder pads, hair so hairsprayed you could light it on fire, colors so bright you needed a pair of those faux lined sunglasses (you know the ones that were a row of slits with no real protection) to look at them. It's just that, IMHO, the overall ensemble both males and females wore makes me shake my head and ask, "What were they thinking?"

      In my high school, every graduating class has a photo compilation on the wall. I went to a pretty small school and the class sizes were never bigger than 24 kids. My sister, who graduated in 1988 was immortalized on that wall with the most awful poodle haircut known to mankind and a wonderfully garish red sweater to match. She hates that picture. It just makes me laugh every time I see it.

    4. I won´t stoop to defend 80’s fashions, but I have to confess that it was the only decade in which I had good hair. I guess that not being a highschooler gave me the choice to select only the nicest styles for my wardrobe so the 80’s were my first attempt to develop a personal style.

    5. Well, I didn't exactly thrive in the 80s either (your sister's poodle hair reminds me of my own!) But fortunately, my photos mysteriously disappear every year (hip hip hurray!) We can laugh all we want at the fashion, but there were some people with cool styles nonetheless, like Madonna in "Desperately Seeking Susan", Molly in "Sixteen Candles" and Mary Stuart Masterson in "Some Kind of Wonderful." So it wasn't horrible for all, I guess. (Just us normal humans ;))

  6. It's so hard for me to separate out my love for John Hughes' films from my nostalgia for my own adolescence, as they overlapped entirely. It felt like Hughes arrived on the scene just for me, capturing my time, my people, my little conflicts. (Solipsism much?) I would have dismissed him as just an 80s oddity, like legwarmers and asymmetrical hair, except my own teenager prefers his movies to the other "teen movies" out there now. When she got caught up in a love triangle this past summer, the reference point we both jumped to was Some Kind of Wonderful. "Your life has become a John Hughes movie!" I said, and she had to agree. She can't say her life has become a Stephenie Meyer novel, can she? Dearth of sparkly vampires. And lurking werewolf-boys.

    [Parents reading this, beware the PG ratings if you decide to rent Hughes' movies to watch with your own kids: we were a little surprised to get an eyeball full of boobs when we watched one of them -- Breakfast Club, I think? And some liberal use of the f-bomb. Fine to watch with teens, IMHO, but screen first before watching with younger kids: the movies aren't as innocent as you may remember!]

    To answer your music question, Lorena: I was a big fan of New Wave, so I had the Love & Rockets t-shirt, every Depeche Mode album memorized, and had long debates about whether Joy Division was superior to New Order. I don't really want to listen to that stuff anymore, with a few exceptions: Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party" has held up, as has Jane's Addiction, AC/DC, the Pixies, and the Violent Femmes. What I find really shocking is that the teenagers are listening to this stuff, too. At least, some of them. The ones who aren't listening to Flo Rida. (Although I do find kids nowadays are often more eclectic in their tastes than we were: when I was a teen, you listened to one genre of music and one only: I was endlessly mocked for admitting I liked a few Eagles' songs.)

    What a fun topic!

    p.s. I don't think anyone mentioned this yet, but little bit of Hughes trivia: the director of Some Kind of Wonderful, Howard Deutch, met Lea Thompson on the set of that movie: they've been married for 23 years now.

  7. You are so right . These movies are written so poorly and without any significant plot that they must add all the sex. Unfortunately our society is so sexualized that this is the norm and sex sells at all ages. Even all the supernatural teen flicks coming out revolve around love , sex , lust, passion. Why would we want to glorify that ?


    1. To be fair, stories consumed by young people have always revolved around love and sex. There is no group of human beings as sex-primed as teens and young adults (on the whole), and that has always been true. Nathaniel Hawthorne, DH Lawrence, Gustave Flaubert, even Voltaire: all wrote novels with strong sexuality, many of which are required reading for young people now.

    2. Agreed. But what we see today as opposed to the beginning of the film era is kind of like comparing a novel that has a side love story (meaning the story doesn't revolve around just that) and erotica. What Hollywood tries to get away with almost crosses that NC-17 line every time, (and they dread that rating so much!) whereas there are a multitude of films from back in the day that had love, alcohol, glimpses of drugs, etc. but weren't pushing such topics down teenagers throats in such an illicit, raunchy manner. I enjoy the film "Reefer Madness" but first, everyone can agree that it's more like watching one of those government informational films we were forced to watch in middle school and secondly, it doesn't go to the extremes that teen-oriented films of today go to with throwing in everything illegal and the kitchen sink just because the movie industry is trying to see what they can get away with. A couple of other older teen-oriented films that do revolve around sex, but just don't go to extremes are "Splendor in the Grass", "A Place in the Sun", and "The Last Picture Show." These films have sex at the center, but are psychologically deeper and get into what's going on inside a teen's head when it comes to sex. All that's at the center of "American Pie" is getting laid and how are these boys going to go about achieving that goal. There's not anything very deep to these films. Hughes on the other hand knew how to use that similar formula found in earlier cinema. What makes the teens tick when it comes to just being a teenager? That's what he was good at doing.

      Sorry, but Gustave Flaubert or Nathaniel Hawthorne isn't E.L James. Can you imagine forty, fifty, or a hundred years from now her Fifty Shades books being required reading for sex ed classes? I shudder to even think that!

    3. Since adolescence and teenage culture are a XX century phenomena, we can only compare it to entertainment material created in the 20c. But teen films have existed since the 30’s, and they have that division: comedies like the Andy Hardy series and more serious exploration of teenage angst like Finishing School (1934) that dealt with neglectful parents, boarding school customs and unwed pregnancies. But every decade has had its fads and morals that reflect s on the media. For example, prior to the 70’s, drugs were unknown, but alcohol was a major danger as were gangs (in 50’s films) and reckless driving. Early teen movies would involve girls romancing older men, something absolutely forbidden nowadays. And as Sister MM points out, raunchy irresponsible sex would be unheard off in the pre-Pill age films.

    4. I agree, it's not the theme/subject (sex) it's the execution. Comedies are an example of this. They have become so vulgar. Just look at SNL now and compare it to earlier decades. Look at "The Hangover" (I admit I laughed). But now in order to make us laugh you have to either talk about sex (or do it in a funny way) or be crude. Why? What happened to wit? And of course teenagers are more exposed to this because they have a great interest/curiosity in sex/experimentation. Another example: compare the 80s version of "Dangerous Liaisons" (which was already racy) with "Cruel Intentions," which went a step forward with the famous lesbian kiss. Was it really necessary (plot-wise)? Or where they just trying to entice a young audience? The theme is the same from the original novel: a man set on corrupting/ruining the reputation of a couple of women in order to win a bet (and take revenge). But look at how different the executions have been depending on the era.

    5. I love Cruel Intentions, but the lesbian kiss... Purists would say Choderlos de Lenclos implied in his novel that Merteuil had a lesbic interest in Cecile, but in truth, the kiss was there for schock value 90's style (just like Catherine carrying cocaine inside her crucifix).

    6. 'Just look at SNL now and compare it to earlier decades. Look at "The Hangover"' I dunno, do you remember Dan Akroyd and "Jane, you ignorant slut," from ... the 70s? Or 80s? ;-) SNL could be pretty raunchy. Watch a Mel Brooks film, any Mel Brooks film, to remember how edgy comedy could be. You could say the quality was better than today's dreck, but then I remind you of Spaceballs, haha. (Ultra-dreck!)

      I'm just very skeptical of the claim that things were better/purer/simpler/more innocent in the Good Old Days, and it's all gone straight to hell since then. I don't think the data supports that; rather, I think we have very selective memory. We selectively look at what was better then, and what's bad now, and draw our conclusions from that: we ignore data that doesn't support our perceptions.

      There is more STUFF out there now, for one thing: with a gazillion movies being made, you can find whatever you want: crappy teen vampires, or lofty arthouse. There has always been a market for crappy entertainment. We just forget that, because examples of it don't live on the way the quality stuff does. Yesterday's crappy entertainment, by the way, included public executions. This was considered good clean family fun. The good old days? A more innocent age?

      As far as sexuality goes, that has varied from decade to decade and culture to culture: at the end of the 18th century, in England and France, smut was wildly popular and parties amongst the elite were veritable orgies. Women wore diaphanous clothing that literally revealed their breasts and ladyparts. "Vulgarity" is not new. We do see a gradual trend of liberalization over centuries, of course; but on the whole that has gone along with a rise in standard-of-living: strong correlation. It's not a bad thing.

    7. Mm, just as erroneous as saying “In the good old days everything was innocent ad good” is to make generalizations about the rampant immorality of the past (something that period pieces would like as to believe is true). At a time when most people were illiterate, one can´t say smut was read by everybody, and even intellectuals didn´t read it. The elite has always abused its privileges and because of its prosperity and idleness, their members have sought exotic pleasures. But not every elite party ended in an orgy. Let´s not be Jacobins and claim that every aristocrat was a debauchee, and the bourgeoisie was too busy plotting against the Old Regime to indulge in lecherous pleasures. Yes, Baudelaire and The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood did drugs, but there was not a “social usage” of drugs like ours, not even among bohemians.
      The see-through Empire fashion was mostly for evening wear, and only very daring women wore it with nothing under (just like some wet their garments to make them cling to their bodies). One thing is to pose, for an artist, in a revealing garb, another to catch a chill parading outdoors in nothing but a flimsy shift, specially in cold weather.

    8. I don't know all your references since I didn't grow up in the US, but I know there was vulgarity on TV before. Just not to this extreme. When I first moved here (early 90s) and watched SNL, they didn't have guys licking each other all over or even the girl who's always smelling her armpits (:p) I remember "It's Pat" and others that were more clever, IMO. (Don't know what Spaceballs is or the Dan Akroyd reference.)

      Of course the 70s and 80s were the beginning of what we're seeing now. But now, even movies for kids have sexual references (Shrek II & III, The Cat in the Hat). But if I put on "The Cosby Show" or "I Love Lucy" I know I don't have to worry about changing the channel during the dirty jokes. That's basically what I meant.

      "Yesterday's crappy entertainment, by the way, included public executions."

      Well, in the history of humanity we go from periods of liberalism to conservatism and back to liberalism in response to whatever happened in the previous era. So the entire history of humanity cannot be bundled up in one bag and be called "the past". Obviously we're talking about the 20th and 21st centuries, since television/film were invented.

    9. Let´s keep focused. We are talking about the 80’s (running water, MTV, high standards of living) not the wicked ancient past. I did grow up in the USA (I arrived in 1974 and left in 1996). I went through high school and college in NY, and there is a huge difference between the 70’s, the 80’s and the 21c cultures. In fact (aside from the technological advancements) we are much closer to the 70’s. than to the 80’s.
      I have a memory of the 80’s (after the Aids scare) when chastity became fashionable even among adults and high-school students were encouraged “to wait.” Something unheard off today. And, I do remember a time when saying “fuck” in every sentence was considered a lack of oral skills.

    10. You mean using the f-bomb is still not considered a lack of oral skills?

      I just had to add my two-cents worth of sarcasm!
      (Although, I personally feel that hearing cuss words used more than any actual type of proper grammar in dialogue tends to reflect a person's lack of oral skills.)

    11. Well, regarding quality of life over a broad history, it's definitely improved and we're far less violent and brutish now ... there are fluctuations but the standard of living has steadily risen, and if we define "morality" as "not hurting other people" then that's also improved steadily from ancient times. I realize people look around them and see lots of exceptions and think that cannot possibly be true, but it is. Violence and misery are not gone, they are just less-awful now than they were in the past ... broadly speaking.

      Focusing on recent history, Harvard professor Steven Pinker (in his excellent book "The Better Angels of Our Nature") talks about the "decivilization" than happened in the 1960s, when the West began to get nastier: rapes and robberies and crime generally went way up, reversing the steady decline of previous decades and centuries. That unpleasantness continued until the 1990s. From 1960 to 1980 the homicide rate doubled, and violent crime increased by 165%. Perhaps filmmakers in the 1980s were inventing a picture of innocence to soothe a ravaged, stressed-out population? At any rate, the "recivilization" process began in the 1990s, and has continued even through this recent economic slump.

      This is about real misery and human suffering though, not whether people curse more or show their boobies more. :) It would be interesting to see some data on whether we in the West are more vulgar now, and what (if any) social effects that may have.

      "I have a memory of the 80’s (after the Aids scare) when chastity became fashionable even among adults and high-school students were encouraged “to wait.” Something unheard off today."

      This should make you happy: I have a teenager now, in an American high school, and "purity rings" are all the rage ... if you're a religious girl. I just asked my daughter and she said yep, "Tons of girls wear those, mostly the Catholic girls." And when I was in high school, in the 1980s, virtually every single one of my friends had lost their virginity by the time they were seniors. We also swore like f***ing sailors, haha. (I still do! I am just careful about who I do it around.)

    12. I thoroughly enjoyed everyones comments. Great debate !!! Insightful on all angles. I would add though that we may not be any more crude or violent,but we have become desensitized. The Entertainment today is a reflection of what is going on in our society. We have become compliant and apathetic because after all" it's just a movie ." Sex and violence should not be the main plot of a teen movie.

  8. I never saw any of those teenage angst movies in the 80s. Except for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which I always hated. When I met my wife she made me watch a bunch of these movies which I still don't really care for. I do like Planes, Trains and Automobiles though.

    Best 80s movie? Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    Major H

    1. I did the same thing to my husband and he had the same reaction. :)

    2. Oh, come on, you know you love the "two dollars" guy! ;)

    3. My husband actually enjoys most 80s movies, as do I. And I love the "two dollar" boy! If you've ever seen "Paper Moon" then you'll know to "Shut up and eat your Coney and drink you're Nehi!" while all the while demanding, "I want my 200 dollars!"

      Love that film!

    4. I loved "Paper Moon", too! :-)

    5. I'm with you Maj on the the teeniebopper movies of the 80s, gotta point out Back to the future though as an exception.

      Best 80's Movies: Die Hard, Das Boot and The Untouchables


  9. Only 5? That´s too little. It was the most prolific decade for entertainment.
    Ohhh let me see
    5 top movies of the 80’s and not only teen licks
    1. Sophie´s Choice
    2. Moonstruck
    3. The Year of Living Dangerously
    4. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
    5. 16 Candles
    6. (And I´m sorry I have to add more: Crossing Delancey, A Passage to India, A Room with a View, Heathers, Cinema Paradiso, Glory, The Untouchables, Blade Runner, Desperately Seeking Susan, Platoon, and The Unforgiven. Ohhh so many. That was a major Hollywood decade)

    5 top TV Shows (somehow, I had he feeling that I spent my 80’s watching telenovelas, General Hospital and mininiseries. That was THE Decade for great miniseries like Brideshead Revisited, The Winds of War and The Jewel in the Crown)
    1. The Cosby Show
    2. Who’s the Boss
    3. China Beach
    4. Designing Women
    5. L.A. Law
    5 top 80’s actresses
    1. Meryl Streep.
    2. Helena Bonham Carter
    3. Molly Ringwald
    4. Winona Ryder
    5. Kathleen Turner
    5 top actors
    1. Mel Gibson
    2. Harrison Ford
    3. Kevin Costner
    4. Charlie Sheen
    5. Tom Cruise
    5 Top Singers
    1. Madonna
    2. Bruce Springsteen
    3. David Bowie
    4. Duran Duran (groups qualify right?)
    5. Eurhythmics

    5 Top songs
    1. Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Cyndi Lauer)
    2. Take my Breath Away (Berlin)
    3. Borderline (Madonna)
    4. Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield)
    5. Careless Whisper (George Michael)
    You can tell I really enjoyed the 80’s!

    1. Sister Malena,

      From your list I loved "Women on the Verge...", "Sixteen Candles", "Cinema Paradiso" and "Desperately Seeking Susan." I used to love "Moonstruck" but when I saw it recently (after decades) I was a bit turned off by Cage's character and their quick romance. Plus the moon theme was a little overdone. Conclusion: sometimes it's a bad idea to watch a film you loved when you were a teen, ha!

      "Heathers" is great, but to me, it was very different from the rest of the 80's teenage films. It was the beginning of something new and much darker. But I loved Winona in it.

      I can see now why you had a crush on Mel Gibson in the 80s, but I was looking at the Brat Pack and Outsiders then (especially Matt Dillon, ha ha) to notice him. I started liking him after "Braveheart."

      I need to watch "Sophie's Choice" (at least so I can talk to you guys about it since you mention it so much). :-)

    2. I hesitated between Women on the Verge or Matador for that list. I went for Women because it displayed wit, quality and wholesome entertainment without nudity, heavy sexual content (it was more into romance) or profanity. There are those who can’t believe it was an Almodovar film.
      Nooo, Moonstruck is not a bit dated. I still love it and watch it when I can. Her dress, the opera, the moon, the grandfather and his dogs, and it´s my favorite Nick Cage film.
      You have to see The Year of Living Dangerously to realize the extent of Mel Gibson´s beauty.
      Heathers was the anti-Hughes film, one that would satirize “fuzzy cute” teen high-school movies, just like Married with Children parodied family sitcoms.

    3. "Matador" was totally shocking for me (I was *really* young when I saw it). My favorite Almodovar films are "Women on the Verge", "Talk to Her" and "Volver". They're also his cleanest ones.

      I used to love Married with Children :D !

  10. What made the 80’s teen movies stand out, particularly Hughes comedies, was a sense of community safety (I don’t know how false it was) and an exaltation of family values that overruled the nihilistic rebellion and alienation of 70’s films.

  11. Eduardo,

    You are right about Die Hard and the Untouchables, I didn't realize Das Boot was an 80s movie. Back to the Future was okay I guess but the sequels weren't that good.

    I guess you could categorize Red Dawn as a teenage movie, it was pretty good (at the time I thought it was amazing). Top Gun was also a big hit among both genders. I still like to watch that movie for the flying scenes. Of course several excellent Sylvester Stallone movies were produced in that decade notably the Rambo and Rocky series.

    Major H

  12. Jake Ryan is so dreamy. I don't care what his birth certificate says; he doesn't have another name.


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