Anyone who believes that their high school years were the best years of their life has probably repressed those heinous memories and replaced them with delusional fantasies. Or else you were head cheerleader/captain of the football team.
Congratulations! You peaked in high school. Everything was downhill after that.
In the 1980’s I would have donated my spleen for a high school experience that even remotely resembled any one of John Hughes’ teen movies. I spent my high school years double dipped in emo, sobbing my black eyeliner off to New Order songs. I even faked being vegan.
As an adult, I realized that these movies are culturally iconic masterpieces which contain essential adult life lessons. Everything I need to know about life, I learned from a John Hughes movie.
Fun is Essential
Ferris Bueller knew this when he played hooky from school, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Fun is a powerful respite from life’s challenges. Life is short, so PLAY!
Of course, we can’t all end up atop a parade float in downtown Chicago, like Ferris. Instead, go swimming in icy cold water and experience the exhilaration of hypothermia! Spend the entire day speaking only in quotes from The Godfather. Run around in a forest, pretending to be a magical creature and beat other people with a latex sword.
Just try not to do anything than lands you in jail or the ER.
And leave the gun – take the cannoli.
In Pretty in Pink, wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl Andie Walsh dresses in her own unique, if not bizarre, style.
For the love of God, DON’T GOOGLE PRETTY IN PINK! I’ve warned you about Lady Google, have I not? Google is no longer a search engine and is now the gateway to a pornographic den of iniquity.
Back to Andie – yes, she often dressed as though she was impersonating her own grandmother. And her homemade prom dress at the end – is she going to the prom, or taking the helm as Captain of the USS “What the Fuck?”
BUT- she is an original.
The suburban fashion police patrolling my neighborhood want me in Lululemon and Louis Vuitton. I prefer shopping at Hot Topic for rock tee shirts and superhero underwear.
Like Andie, I dress to express my individuality. Most importantly, I feel safe knowing that Spider Man is guarding my crotch.
“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.” So says teen delinquent John Bender of The Breakfast Club, in this classic quote.
Perfection is unattainable, and chasing after it is boring. People with messy, beautifully flawed lives seek adventure. Those women at the supermarket who are perfectly coiffed and accessorized at 9 am? BORING. Imperfection gives people character. Every time you fail, you get stronger and more enlightened.
And epic failure gives you something spectacular to write about.
Age is Only a Number
In Pretty In Pink, Andie defies societal attitudes towards age. Her best female friend is the quirky, 30-something record store manager where she works. At home, Andie has a complete role reversal – she is the “adult,” caring for her father.
We are who we are inside – not the number assigned to us because of birth year. I prefer life through youth-colored glasses. Which is a nice way of saying I never matured past 15.
My only concern is that in another year or two, my 12 year-old kid will totally outgrow me.
You’re Stronger Than You Think
Andie is devastated when rich heartthrob Blaine retracts his prom invite. Yet she plans to go herself, “so they know they didn’t break me.”
You have more strength and resilience than you realize. You may think you can’t handle it, but whatever it is, you CAN. Face life’s challenges head on, like Andie preparing to march her bad-ass self into the freaking prom, SOLO.
Don’t let it break you! Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! And whatever kills you – well, you’re dead. So it’s irrelevant.
Good Man/Bad Boy
So, you’re madly in love with a man whose neck tattoos scream “I may not cook meth but I know a guy.” Marrying him is risky, no doubt.
However, a good man CAN be a bad boy. And bad boys are FUN.
John Bender was the quintessential bad boy hottie. But his vulnerability is a precious gem glistening underneath the gymnasium floor of The Breakfast Club. When we finally recognize his desperate need to be loved, we see the good man who will eventually claw his way out from under all that pent-up pain and cry-for-help rage.
Life Is Right Now
We spend our lives waiting for that amazing thing that’s going to happen someday. But life is right now – a whole chain of small, glorious, ‘right nows.’ John Hughes depicted ordinary people in everyday circumstances, living small, beautiful moments.
One of my favorites is in Ferris Bueller, when Cameron, Ferris’s best friend, loses himself by staring intently at a painting in the Chicago Art Institute.
Or maybe it’s the tender kiss over a birthday cake at the end of Sixteen Candles.
Simple, small moments as light as breath, as constant as a heartbeat.
Don’t Let Your Heart Die
All the characters in The Breakfast Club hope desperately not to turn out like their parents. And yet, it’s inevitable, says eccentric outcast Allison. Because “when you grow up, your heart dies.”
DON’T LET YOUR HEART DIE. EVER.
Keep your heart as alive and full of magic as when you were a teenager. Have crushes. Stay up all night. Get drunk and vomit all over your friends (okay maybe not that one).Take chances. Dream. Love.
Love is the ultimate expression of life. The protagonists of all John Hughes movies are united in their quest for love. And in his movies, love wins.
It’s an ideal worth living for.
*This post is dedicated to my sweet Lizzi, who reminds me all the time that #LoveWins. Really.
What was high school like for you? Was it anything like these movies?
Have you learned any useful life lessons from a movie? Talk to me. I’m listening.