About a month ago, we went through the ups and downs of having a John Hughes boyfriend. As a tribute to Mr. Hughes, who passed away Friday, I thought I'd give the same treatment to his beloved teenage heroines.
I was too young for Hughes' teenage-centric films when they hit theaters; I fell in love with them via syndication, where they endlessly played on Saturday afternoons, the swears beeped out in favor of words like "butthead" and "jackal." My friends and I had "Molly Ringwald Trilogy" nights in high school, watching Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty In Pink until the wee hours of the morning and sighing over the all-too-relatable characters. It didn't matter that the clothing and the music were dated: the stories still rang true, and we saw ourselves sitting in that library, or showing up to the dance in that (hideous) dress, or standing in front of the mirror, wishing for "4 inches of bod and a great birthday." But which Hughes heroine really stands the test of time? Let's find out.
- Samantha Baker: Sixteen Candles
- Pros: Able to stay sane in a relatively insane household, forgives her parents for forgetting her birthday, wins over Jake Ryan by seeming like the type of girl who would be "a serious girlfriend," is the type of girl who would give her underwear away under non-sexual circumstances to help a geek in need; wears a hat, which, as Farmer Ted notes, is just so Vogue, you know?
- Cons: Cries a lot, has a bit of a Jan Brady complex when it comes to her dippy older sister, bases much of her happiness on if Jake Ryan likes her or not, actually thinks carrots will increase the size of her breasts at the age of 16.
- Final Analysis: Samantha embodies much of the hormonal insanity that comes along with being sixteen years old: she's impossibly in love with a boy she barely knows, she feels like her family doesn't understand her at all, and she's willing to unload her "bullshit" on anyone who is "human" enough to listen, like good ol' Farmer Ted. However, we don't see Samantha for much of the film; after she's humiliated at the dance, she takes a backseat to the film's other (and honestly, more interesting) stars. Her role is merely to be crushed by a guy, and then saved by a guy.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: C
- Allison Reynolds, The Breakfast Club
- Pros: Can make art with her own dandruff, finds interesting ways of amusing herself, keeps plenty of tampons on hand in case she ever has to "jam," clearly an excellent dancer, appreciates the finer things in life, like a Capn' Crunch/Pixy Stix sandwich.
- Cons: Has a tendency to withdraw completely in order to avoid socialization/confrontation, allows herself to be madeover, even though she likes the "black shit" under her eyes.
- Final Analysis The makeover. The makeover! It kills Allison's character completely, transforming her from the weird girl who won the heart of the jock simply by connecting with him emotionally to a Molly Ringwald-clone who is now deemed acceptable to be seen in public with. Allison never seemed to have a problem with her appearance; it was the other students who judged her. Every other member of the Breakfast Club goes through an internal change—why does Allison have to go through a makeover, too?
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: D
- Andie Walsh, Pretty In Pink
- Pros: Quirky dresser, not afraid to cross class lines to date the boy she likes, works at a pretty rad record store, makes her own clothes, quickly dismisses skeevy lothario Stef whenever he tries to pick her up.
- Cons: Oblivious to her best friend Duckie's romantic attachment, creator of the ugliest dress ever made in the history of fashion, takes Blaine back after he treats her like complete crap, ignoring her calls and dumping her as a prom date.
- Final Analysis: Andie isn't afraid of confrontation, standing up to Stef, her father, and Blaine in order to make her voice heard and let them know exactly how she feels. However, she totally crumbles at the end and makes up with Blaine, even though he's treated her like dirt for much of the last third of the film. The original ending had Andie ending up with super-clingy slightly obsessive bff Duckie; one wonders if she would have been better off alone. And honestly? Ruining two perfectly lovely dresses to make a Pepto-Bismol trapezoid nightmare frock is pretty unforgivable, even for 1986.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: C+
- Amanda Jones, Some Kind Of Wonderful
- Pros Amanda Jones was one in a line of many Hughesian characters drawn to depict the class divide in the 1980s—she's the Andie Walsh of this film, dealing with the humiliations of being the poor girl dating the rich guy. Only in Amanda's case, she's dating douchebag Harley not for love, like Andie and Blaine, but for status and security, as his money makes her a "richie" by default. Eventually she sees the error of her ways and rejects both Harley and poor suitor Keith, finding that it's "going to feel good to stand on my own."
- Cons: The aforementioned dating a douchebag for status, the way she allows herself to be humiliated by men in order to fit in, the way she uses Keith to hurt her dumbass ex-boyfriend, the way she allows Keith to use her, her general bitchiness throughout the film.
- Final Analysis: In many ways, one feels sorry for Amanda Jones, as she's a product of the times, a material girl living in a material world who is only trying to keep up with her popular friends. She eventually gets her priorities straight and tells her cruel ex-boyfriend where to stick it, but it takes her a while to get there—for most of the film, she's a doormat, a tool through which teenage boys can get what they want.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: D
- Jeannie Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Pros: Not to be messed with, knows how to destroy a high school principal, stands up for her brother when necessary, even though she pretty much hates him.
- Cons: Goes out of her way to destroy her brother until a more suitable enemy captures her wrath, changes her name to Shawna in order to impress a wasted Charlie Sheen at the police department.
- Final Analysis: I love Jeannie Bueller. She is the best and the worst big sister anyone could ask for. Yes, she spends most of her time trying to ruin Ferris' life, but when it comes down to it, she's a loyal family member and her heart is in the right place. Just don't cross her, or you'll be faced with a "scorching case of herpes."
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: B
- Claire Standish, The Breakfast Club
- Pros: Also an excellent dancer, can put lipstick on without using her hands, shows kindness to geek Brian upon learning he's a virgin, is very proud of her family name.
- Cons:Defends her shallow pursuits as a means to stay popular and respected, admits she won't acknowledge the rest of the Breakfast Club once school resumes, is the direct cause of Allison's dumb makeover, ends up with Bender even though he's spent most of their time together sexually harassing and humiliating her.
- Final Analysis: Claire doesn't seem to grow too much throughout the film. She admits that she's shallow, but doesn't seem to do much about it, other than makeout with the bad boy and give the weird girl a makeover.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: C
- Sloane Peterson, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Pros: You have to be pretty damn awesome to date Ferris Bueller, and Sloane Peterson was. She was effortlessly cool, able to play along with Ferris' insane schemes with ease, staying detached and calm, even in the wackiest of circumstances. She seemed fearless yet romantic, noting at one point that Ferris was "going to marry" her, but still seeming to live in the moment, most of the time anyway.
- Cons: However, it seemed like Sloane was more fascinated by Ferris' future than her own, noting that she wasn't interested in anything, but dreamily asking Cameron what he thought would happen to Ferris as the years went on. She appears to have hitched her wagon to Ferris' star: one wishes she had more of a star of her own, you know?
- Final Analysis: Sloane, like Cameron's house, was very beautiful and very cold, and though her cool factor was off the charts, she often seemed to have little personality outside of being Ferris Bueller's girlfriend.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: C+
- Watts, Some Kind Of Wonderful
- Pros: Watts is tough as nails, but has a soft spot for her best friend Keith, who is completely oblivious, of course, as he's too busy making googly eyes at popularity queen Amanda Jones. The scenes where Watts chauffeurs Keith and Amanda around on their fancy-pants date are heartbreaking, as her pride and her clearly hurt feelings combine to paint a portrait of how many of us felt as teenage girls: a bit lost, a bit sad, and a bit pissed off at the universe in general. The scene where's she's mocked for wearing boys' underpants is painful as well; the way she looks at herself in the mirror with a mix of confusion and disdain pretty much sums up that awkward phase between being a girl and being a woman: you don't know what the hell is going on, and you're not sure if you like it or not. She also has some of the best lines in the Hughes canon, including "Don't go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs."
- Cons: Watts never has a problem saying what she thinks, until it comes to expressing her feelings towards Keith. She's also quick to cut down Amanda Jones, even though she barely knows her, simply because she's stealing Keith's attention away, calling her shallow and "a skag."
- Final Analysis: Watts embodies the tough girl with a heart of gold; she's the poster girl for unrequited love for most of the film, dropping such lines as "You break his heart, I break your face," about the boy she loves so dearly. One gets the sense that her relationship won't change too much with Keith once they get together; they've always treated each other as equals, something that's often missing from many teen romances.
- John Hughes Heroine Grade: A
Agree? Disagree? Anyone you'd like to add? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.