By Nick Manteris · 0 Comments · Leave a Comment
When John Hughes passed away from a heart attack I encountered the news somewhat randomly. There weren’t hundreds of people talking about it on Twitter and if I hadn’t recognized the name I may have missed it entirely. Celebrities are human and, just like regular people, they die all of the time. (Except there’s that whole “dying in threes” thing, but don’t get me off-topic.) This rarely has any real effect on me because I don’t feel any special connection to celebrities in general. I’ve never had any role models or heroes and the death of a media figure is really no different than the death of any other person. It’s sad, sure, but death is always sad… it isn’t more sad when famous people die.
A friend of mine – the one that had originally clued me in to the fact that the filmmakers of Not Another Teen Movie paid homage by having a “John Hughes High School” in their movie – called me on the night of Hughes’ death to make sure I had heard. We ended up talking about which of his films were our favorites, but our reminiscence seemed like an inadequate tribute. It felt like we were the only two people that had noticed. Only a month before, Michael Jackson passed away and the inescapable media barrage lasted for weeks… it didn’t seem fair. For the first time in memory I was having a strong reaction to the death of a celebrity and I can’t believe this:
They fucking forgot about Hughes.
The next day – before I started writing this, thinking that perhaps I had misjudged – I looked around online to try and find something about the writer/director. What little I found was from news outlets and the highlights were Molly Ringwald’s New York Times article, Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times article and an excellent, moving blog post entitled “Sincerely, John Hughes” by his pen pal, Alison Byrne Fields. I came to the realization that maybe the general public just doesn’t recognize his name… because the people that know John Hughes are very passionate about the effect his movies have had on their lives. To be fair, I must admit that I didn’t actually know that the same guy was responsible for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful AND Sixteen Candles until about a decade after those films were made.
I also discovered a recent documentary called Don’t You Forget About Me, that attempts to find out more about Hughes’ disappearance from Hollywood in 1991… further proof that the filmmaker really made an impact on his audience. Some more of the films that he wrote before his exit from Hollywood are National Lampoon's Vacation, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Career Opportunities and Planes Trains and Automobiles, and there’s a good chance that you’ve seen one of his films even if you didn’t know his name.
I still think that the tragically unexpected and early passing of John Hughes should have been followed by a bit more concern and sympathy, but maybe he enjoyed being out of the public eye… for all I know, that could even have played a role in his relocation to Chicago over fifteen years ago. Either way, his passing did not go completely unnoticed and he will be missed, but at least he left behind an impressive collection of films that will continue to entertain, influence and resonate for years to come. I feel fortunate to have lived in a world that was touched by John Hughes and – I can't stress this part enough – without him the 80s would have been positively unbearable. Thank you, John Hughes... for everything.
Edit: Another example of the impact that Hughes had is Project Bueller, an organization whose sole purpose was to recreate the parade scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. After several setbacks they were eventually successful at the NYC Halloween Parade.