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John Hughes: Death of the ’80s
How the creator of <em>The Breakfast Club</em> and <em>Ferris Bueller</em> defined an era whose sensibility died before he did
 

Some people might think of the 1980s as “the Reagan era,” said Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today, but it will always be “the John Hughes decade” for a generation of “disaffected suburban kids.” Hughes, who died of a heart attack Thursday, at 59, had his biggest commercial success as the writer of the 1990s Home Alone franchise, but he made his biggest mark with his iconic ’80s Brat Pack hits: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Hughes “left Hollywood behind” in the 1990s, but if he hadn’t, it would have left him, said Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. Comedy “went raunchier, darker, meaner” than Hughes’ “very specific slice of Americana” would ever allow—his outsiders were “white, comfortably middle-class, and probably from one of Chicago’s affluent suburbs,” where nothing much worse that “teen angst” ever went down.

We take that smart, empathetic depiction of “adolescent turmoil” for granted today, said Rene Rodriguez in the Miami Herald, “in the modern era of Twilight, Gossip Girl and NYC Prep.” But it was a “revelation” for '80s teens “weaned” on mostly “crummy and exploitative” raunchy sex comedies. Hughes created balm for teen angst, and that “overrides” any beef with his “exclusively white protagonists” or “obsession” with suburbia.

You never know “which celebrity death will hit you the hardest,” said Carl Kozlowski in Big Hollywood. Well, Hughes’ too-soon death "hit me like a ton of bricks”—much harder than Michael Jackson’s. For Gen Xers, Hughes’ films are the “touchstones of our lives.” He got us: When I saw Duckie Dale in Pretty in Pink, “I felt like John Hughes had rigged my room with spy equipment and had translated my life right onto the screen.”

 

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