I just watched “Shane” (1953) and “Sixteen Candles” (1984). Reason: I never watched the first one before. I haven’t seen all that many Westerns and I just thought I’d try it. Result: yep, all pre-Clint Eastwood, non-John Wayne Westerns feel vaguely like “Star Trek” episodes to me. It’s like I’m caught in a nostalgia wormhole for this later thing that hearkens back to this earlier thing. I experience time in reverse! The Old West was always already nostalgic for Spock to cock an eyebrow: ‘primitive technology, captain’. And Kirk gets that rakish gleam in his eye and we’re off! Trivia: how many times does that kid yell ‘Shane!’ A lot, that’s how many.
“Sixteen Candles”. This isn’t the sort of film I would normally pick to re-watch but, in this way, I was cunningly replaying an episode from my youth. My friend Scott and I went to the theater to see something else – which wasn’t showing. We had made a terrible mistake. There was nothing that looked good. We settled on “Sixteen” as the least unlikely, paid our money. We loved it. It made me a John Hughes fan, then I went to college in Chicago, which is sort of John Hughes land – well, the richy-rich suburbs, anyway. I wondered whether, by some miracle, it would hold up after all these years. It was, alas, pretty terrible. I knew the Long Duk Dong stuff was going to be cringe-worthy, although “Lake! Big lake!” is still funny. A lot of it is downright painful. What really struck me is what a cowardly, kind of date rapey-by-proxy douche the love interest, Jake, is. He knows Samantha likes him because she actually wrote a note saying she would have sex with him, and he found it, but he’s still afraid to ask her out, despite being this super-confidence senior jock-type. This is supposed to make him seem sensitive. He has a hot blonde girlfriend he could “violate ten different ways any time I want,” I believe were his words. But he’s bored and wants Sam instead. This, again, is supposed to make him seem sensitive. And that’s before he dumps his unconscious girlfriend in his dad’s Rolls, driven by his new best friend, the Geek. Well, whatever. This movie was supposed to be kind of sweet and tender, right?
Here’s the thing about teen romance: this sort of film is really about being young and just being intensely attracted to another young person, not really for a reason – duh, you’re young. That’s Molly Ringwald, just sort of glowing nicely throughout, as Sam. She’s sweet! She is! But you’re young so you have to tell a stupid story about your feelings that isn’t it at all. And this film is really that stupid story. I suppose one thing people like about John Hughes is that he feels there are a few things that are sacred in life. Like the experience of being a super-privileged, attractive white kid in the suburbs who thinks their little non-problem is the end of the world. You can’t mock a thing like that. You can mock anything else. But, in the end, not that. You must treat it tenderly. I should probably rewatch The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off again now. I think Ferris is going to hold up and redeem my youthful love of John Hughes. What do you think? Will I be disappointed?
In honor of John Hughes, Regina Spektor’s “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”. That’s the way I remember it feeling at the time, but now I’m old. Damn kids. Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about these sorts of problems in my life. My older daughter’s 11, not 16. (Whew, dodged that bullet.)