One constant in many John Hughes movies is the out-of-touch parent or adult.
Authority figures are often presented as being clueless to the world around them, either blissfully unaware of what it’s like to be a teenager or outright hostile towards the situation. Think of Ferris Bueller’s cheerful yet dim parents, or the scolding and neglectful parents at the outset of The Breakfast Club.
Watching John Hughes films, I always wondered, “At what point does someone go from being an emotional, confused and hormonal teen, to an apathetic, boring adult with no memory of their own past?”
Now that I am (technically) an adult, I see it happening among some of my peers. I’m trying to figure out what process they go through that allows it to occur.
One shift came from a friend, Mike, and I found it incredibly confusing.
I received a text from him, “Dude, I’m looking for a place to unload my used heavy metal albums.”
I was a little confused, and responded, “Unload? Your kids get those.”
Mike not only has kids, but sons. As I have boy parts between my legs , I was fairly certain that of all people, they would be especially interested in the albums he was trying to do away with.
Mike’s response was, “Dude, it’s Slayer, Overkill, Venom… lots of offensive and satanic stuff.”
That pretty much ended it for me. I stared at my phone in utter confusion, my head tilted like a dog.
In high school, this was the music Mike and I listened to. It got us through the silly moments of teen angst every youth feels at some point or another. We attended numerous Slayer concerts—saw upside down crosses and pentagrams aplenty—and turned out just fine. Neither of us ever worshiped the devil, and the music didn’t cause us to fail as adults. Mike exists in an upper middle-class world, owns his own home, has a wife, a good job…
So why did he suddenly feel the need to protect his kids from music that did no damage to him?
Self-created amnesia bothers me. You’d think having lived through out-of-touch parents/adults meander cluelessly through life would instill a determination not to let it happen to you.
But it doesn’t.
Years ago, Steven Spielberg revamped his biggest movie, E.T. The film was edited it to be more “politically correct.” This was done by changing the word “terrorist” to “hippie,” and digitally removing shotguns, replacing them with walkie-talkies. George Lucas also riled up his fan base by having Greedo shoot first. This destroyed some of the rogue element that made Han Solo so popular a character.
Their respective press releases said silly things, like “It’s a different world we live in today,” which makes no sense. Did Spielberg believe that a child hearing the word “terrorist” post 9/11 would curl into the fetal position? Did he think they’d and weep for days on end, unable to leave the house and support newer Spielberg movies?
I’d like to think John Hughes wouldn’t have gone back and “corrected” any of his films. Even the uncomfortable scenes, such as Bender under Clair’s desk. Movies are a snapshot of time. As wrong as that moment was, to pretend it never happened would be wrong. Society simply wasn’t as enlightened back then as they are today. Many people don’t like to admit this, but we aren’t as enlightened today as we will be in 30 years.
Time means progress.
It’s that simple.
Personally, and I could be wrong, but I believe over-protecting kids creates disenfranchised, angry teens. It’s because we lie to and coddle them as children that when they get old enough to realize they’ve been spoon-fed a pile of shit, they lash out in response.
I cite Jenna and Barbara Bush as examples.
Right before the farce known as Election 2000, it was uncovered that G.W. had a DUI in his past. When asked about it, he said he “didn’t want his kids to see their father in such a poor light.”
Instead of being honest with his family, he tried to place himself on a pedestal to be idolized and emulated. Unfortunately, the example he presented was a lie. The Bush girls were—possibly in response to having been lied to—notorious party animals. Stories of the Secret Service monitoring their drinking and pot-smoking ways were legendary during his presidency. If leading by example was supposed to work, it damn well didn’t.
But here’s the thing: after getting it out of their system, they both turned out great.
Today both are mature women. Barbara worked with AIDS patients in Africa and for LBGT equality in New York, and Jenna spent time with UNICEF. Yes, they had powerful family connections handing them whatever they needed, but the point is they both turned out fine. Even after OMG, drinking (a lot) in their early twenties.
If you want to lead by example, you must do so with unmasked honesty.
This is my life, these are the places I stumbled, and these are the consequences I faced. If you want, I can help you avoid certain pitfalls, but I’ll be here with a non-judgmental helping hand should you become mired along the way.
This brings me full circle to my friend. If people attempt to cover their “actual” mistakes from family, what chance do kids have when non-mistakes (like musical choices) are hidden? “Do as I say, not as I do” causes a larger disconnect between child and parent than anything else.
Kids aren’t stupid; they can sense a cover up or half-truth. They may not be able to articulate their feelings well, but they do know sullen resentment. And they damn well know how to carry a chip on their shoulder.
John Hughes remembered what it was like to be a confused teenager. I appreciated the help his movies offered me when navigating the minefield of teen life.
As I look back from my old-age vantage point, I realize that everything I did got me to where I am today: happily married, a homeowner, and a parent.
And guess what? I still own the Slayer records from my youth.
They’re in a milk crate in the basement, and when my son is old enough, I plan to bust those puppies out.
Better Slayer than Justin Bieber, after all.