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6.03.2010

COLOSSAL YOUTH


Duckie didn’t get Andie at the end of Pretty In Pink . . .and it felt at first like high treason. John Hughes' teenage movies were like fight songs for the high school underclass, tapping as they did into those overfamiliar dichotomies - - - popular versus unpopular, jock versus nerd, all that - - -and always coming out in favor of the ones who never got to sit at the cool table, the freaks and geeks and dorks and misfits, that entire strata of outcasts. He had our backs.

I don’t remember there being such dichotomies in my high school, though, nor jocks or nerds but rather a curious mixture of both, nor was there a cool table. There was the usual obsession with girls and the usual trouble with them and I’m not sure what strand of empathy I was picking up from Duckie - - -the social retard or the hopeless romantic or maybe both - - -but I rooted for him nonetheless. And the original ending of Pretty In Pink - - - scripted, filmed, not used - - -would have been the ultimate revenge of the nerd. But the one the world saw felt like a test screening cop-out, given over to wishful thinking . . .except maybe it wasn’t too wishful.

John Hughes' teenage movies had the temperament of fairy tales but all that groggy optimism was always undercut by this gnawing anxiety, this creeping melancholia. Duckie and Andie felt like a mortal lock,sure. His fidelity to her was hardcore - - -he was that into her. And when he did that sublime Otis Redding lipsynch, well. . . wasn’t it almost heroic? Try a little tenderness, Andie - - -what's not to love? Looking back, though, Duckie ending up with Andie was wishful thinking and Andie ending up with Blaine was probably the purest hit of reality in the entire Hughes ouevre. . .unless Duckie ended up with Blaine, which is another story and another Brat Pack filmmaker. Giving Duckie a hot girl as consolation prize was sort of the cop-out. What was a boy in love going to do with a bombshell? Well . . plenty, really, but you know what I mean,fellow boys in love. Still. The petty,percevied betrayal turned out to be just that - - petty and perceived.

There was no going back after that for me,though. The spell had been broken, the gauze lifted ,the cycle ground to a halt. There was no going back after that for John Hughes either - - -his lapse into the immensely lucrative blandness of safe as milk adult comedies and preteen slapstick came almost immediately after, followed by semiretirement, and sadly, his untimely, albeit serene, passing. That the six high school movies he left behind - - - -of which Ferris Bueller is what the world upholds as the height of his powers but I'm more partial to the hormonal anarchy of Weird Science - - - have become touchstones of several generations comes as no surprise: youth movies tend to have that totemic charge. 400 Blows, Napoleon Dynamite, Dazed and Confused, Battle Royale, Linda Linda Linda. All these pivot thematically on the knotty interior politics of a specific time in your life, but they also had this exuberant cockiness, this finite surge of invincibility that's almost empowering even if it often mixes with a resentful sense of loss and even if it lasts only a little while and mostly in your head.

Not so odd ,then, that I'm remembering John Hughes' death just now, a little belatedly. The birthday is around the pike and I get a little more maudlin than usual this time of year. And there's also been a lot of disquiet and vertigo lately, the repercussions of too much happening too fast still- - too many conversations cut short, too many status quos shifting, too many disappearing acts,too many irreversible goodbyes. A part of it has to do with receding into the warm corners of nostalgia, looking for places to hide for a little bit. But mostly I'm harnessing that exuberant cockiness. God knows how much time I've got left on my side but I'm thinking this empowering surge will prop me up long enough to ask that pretty girl in pink for a last dance. And maybe the movie ends differently. Maybe. Just this once.

2 comments:

foursundaysofseptember said...

amazing article... suddenly i remember being duckie... i still am duckie. love this article. thanks for this...

dodo dayao said...

Thank you for reading.

And yes, we all were/are Duckie. :)