John Hughes had a great bead on the pulse of my generation’s nerds. I very much identified with his social misfits struggling to be accepted, cool members of the clique. Watching his movies I felt I was part of an entire army of independent thinkers, creative types and weirdoes. Even though I so totally didn’t, I felt like I belonged. And it was cool.
In 1989 the laws of high school were clear, simple and necessary:
The jocks were strong athletes, always cool, usually good looking and rarely single. The purpose of their position was to abuse the geeks, to inspire in them revenge on the scale of world domination. Hot chicks were shallow to further the astronomical hipness of the jocks. Their symbiotic existence served as further motivation for the scores of rejected geeks. “If I can’t have Heather, I’ll make a sim-stim game and make out with her in a virtual world.” Even the dick principal served the divine purpose of incessantly hammering upon the spirit of the geek in order to drive him to get out, get out of this small fuck town and make something of himself. It was the circle of life. Survival of the fittest. The jocks, the hot chicks and the dick principals were the laser-eyed, multi-armed predators and geeks were the sniveling, seething prey … with plans.
Because of all the hell those assholes put us through we became great writers, freakishly enterprising software developers, influential journalists and revolutionary artists. We’d been forced to spin a protective cocoon out our asses and from it sprang a beautiful mind in the body of a determined, hard-working contributor to our culture.Enter John Hughes. As we and our peers poured through Weird Science and The Breakfast Club the geeks bonded, they felt empowered. The hot chicks began thinking “Hay, maybe I shouldn’t be such a douche to him. He could be a millionaire some day.” The principals? Well principals still wanted to be dicks but now moms and dads were becoming a sort of meddling, law-suit incensed abomination, but that’s for another essay. So we all saw the movies – the credible dialogue, the excellent and relatable character development and the all too familiar general awkwardness. We bought in to it. All of us. The jocks eased up on the ass whoopings, some geeks got laid and some got letters of recommendations for college.
The endless hell of being a geek in high school was over but we’d lost our natural predators. We’ve since been left to propagate unchecked. Now all that remains of that brilliant and innovative creature is an unsocialized, over-privileged, complaining hack who couldn’t build a baking soda volcano if his Nintendo DSi depended on it. Just as there are double standards in sexuality (yet another essay), getting your ass kicked for being yourself is a very necessary rite of passage. The films of John Hughes were the impetus of a movement away from those old laws. The figurehead in the march towards mainstreamed geekdom and thusly the death of “cool.”