Smells Like Teen Spirit
Last month marked the 25th anniversary of The Breakfast Club and served as a reminder of how few movies have spoken to American teenagers like those of John Hughes. Fittingly, February also saw the release of You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, a book by film journalist Susannah Gora that explores the 1980s’ “golden age of youth cinema.”
Though Gora discusses the work of Hughes’s colleagues, she places the sharpest lens on the godfather of the genre himself, portraying the filmmaker as a temperamental recluse who eventually abandons the teen realm for blockbusters like Home Alone. Through extensive research and interviews with insiders, she reveals the romantic undertones in the relationship between the late director and his pouty-lipped muse, Molly Ringwald, 18 years his junior. But, the author argues, perhaps it was his ability to relate to adolescents and his respect for their seemingly insignificant plights that allowed Hughes to capture coming-of-age so candidly.
While a long and involved read, Gora’s book offers an all-access pass to the Brat Pack, the films they starred in, and those behind the cameras of a movie era that is still relevant today. Not only has the material from this period paved the way for contemporary classics like 90210 and Freaks and Geeks, but its inherent message is filled with hope. In a world where high school hierarchies can be broken, making it possible for a basket case to land a hunky jock, optimism and passion prevail. Fans have carried those traits with them into adulthood.