By Allie Loukas
My obsession with John Hughes started from a very young age. Growing up in the same town he lived in, Lake Forest, Illinois, made me feel like I was living inside one of his films, and I could relate. I always felt uncomfortable growing up, similar to the way most Hughes characters do, there was always something about them that was different from the other kids, something real.
I felt like Samantha from “Sixteen Candles” (1984), like someone forgot my fucking birthday and I was living in an accidental life. As the child of a first generation immigrant in the service industry I always felt out of place in the WASP-y town. It was like being rich adjacent, never really feeling fully accepted because my dad cut the hair of the rich and powerful. I even had a Jake Ryan, but my outcome didn’t turn out like Samantha’s, my Jake never progressed much past his in-crowd and I floated off on my own. Little did I know my obsession would carry over well into my adult life and I would become a filmmaker. I shot my film “Kathryn Upside Down” in our town, with the idea of creating a modern resurrection of the classic Hughes style.
It’s funny the lifelong effect that John Hughes, a male director and writer had on a young girl. He spoke to teenage girls in a way I have never seen any other artist do, his writing was so raw and real. In that sense I think he felt like a bit of a father figure to me, and I’m sure to many others; like he deeply understood us.
This was the brilliance of John Hughes. Everything felt so tangible, so real. It’s like he gripped an actual life, an actual language and way of speaking. His films almost feel like documentaries, like we’re watching real lives unfold before our very eyes, and I think we can all find pieces of ourselves in so many of his characters.
“There is no arguing his gravitational pull to wide and general audiences. The people spoke, and they loved him. His films felt like home, they showed us that we were not alone in our cares, and it was ok to laugh at them.”
He tackled topics that would today be made into dramatic films or TV shows, but he did so with such a rare ease that we didn’t even realize we were watching such heavy themes. Samantha’s confusion and parental neglect in “Sixteen Candles” or Andie’s embarrassment due to her unemployed father and crappy house in “Pretty in Pink” (1986) may today resemble two plot lines out of episodes of “13 Reasons Why,” but that was the beauty of Hughes’s films.
He knew how to dust these topics with sugar, encasing such sad and heartbreaking plot lines in with silly that you almost didn’t even notice them, but, to me, that’s exactly what life is. We all go along unable to predict anything, we sometimes transfix on the bad, but we’re all just really looking for the good. We all have dreams, aspirations, successes, failures and disappointments; we laugh, we cry, but we, mostly, just live.
Hughes’ career was never lauded with awards, though, in my opinion, he was the most brilliant filmmaker of his time, a genius who deserved so much more praise than what he got. Maybe the powers that be who hand out awards didn’t understand how deeply moving his films were, but there is no arguing his gravitational pull to wide and general audiences. The people spoke, and they loved him. His films felt like home, they showed us that we were not alone in our cares, and it was ok to laugh at them.
“As Ferris Bueller famously said “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That’s why we remember and adore his films, they made us stop, look around and live, even as a teenage girl.”
This past father’s day I felt like visiting John Hughes’s grave, after all, it’s just down the street from my parent’s house. I noticed there were no flowers on it, I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to buy him a plant. I went to the grocery store and got him a yellow potted flower and left a note about how the world missed him. I went back a while later to check and see if my plant had blown away, it hadn’t, but my note was gone and the plant had moved from where I had rested it on the left side of his headstone to the center. It looked like someone had watered it, and more flowers had bloomed.
I can only assume one of his family members found my note and took care of it for me, for all of us who admired him. I also felt change, like it was almost time to resurrect his style, for other films like his to begin to bloom, but, this time, for them to be seen and appreciated as real art. It gave me hope for my own dreams of resurrecting the genre.
As Ferris Bueller famously said “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
That’s why we remember and adore his films, they made us stop, look around and live, even as a teenage girl.