I have to admit that I spent a lot of the movie trying to point out the styles and music that were synonymous with being an American teenager in 1986. As soon as the movie started, I felt transported back to 1986. Its funny how some movies/bands/books will do that. I immediately felt 15 again, and I loved it! Levis 501’s, off the shoulder layered t-shirts, Fedoras (is this sounding familiar to anyone??), button down oxford shirts, bangles, and of course Molly Ringwald’s famous hair. I wish I had a scanner because I’d scan in my yearbook picture from my sophomore year of high school. (10th grade – that would have made me about 14-15 years old) I had it all going on – the hair, the layered shirts, all of it. Then of course there was the music. I heard Madness, Simple Minds, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet…and if that weren’t enough there were the posters in the girls’ bedrooms. There’s one scene where I even caught the bottom half of a very familiar band in a poster that I still have to this very day. I think I squealed in delight quite a bit last night, and my two kids were laughing at me in response.
The funny thing is, the movie held their attention. The themes of the movie: turning 16, having your birthday forgotten, feeling like a complete outcast and then of course finally being noticed by “That” guy… those themes translate well no matter how old the movie was. At one point my daughter turned to me and mentioned that some of the styles in the movie were popular today (Yes, yes they are my dear child. You think your mom hasn’t noticed how you cut the neck out of your t-shirts and wear bangles these days??) even though the movie is almost 30 years old now. (Gee, thanks for reminding me…)
I tried to explain to both kids, my oldest in particular though, why we girls loved Molly Ringwald so much. When she saw the movie, I could see the question in her eyes. Molly looks like any other ordinary girl. I would necessarily say she was a knock out back when she was a kid, but you know – isn’t that the way of most girls? My teen years certainly weren’t my best! I felt awkward. My body had grown, sort of…but I still felt like a kid. I couldn’t quite figure it all out. Molly always seemed to capture that beautifully and that’s why we loved her. She could BE us. She could have been our best friend. I really did look up to her and for me, she was everything I aspired. (Although we were nearly the same age – another thing I loved about her movies. She wasn’t a twenty-five year old trying to look and act like she was sixteen. She simply WAS sixteen.) Of course I say that with not just this particular movie in mind, I think that at least for me, I knew I was very much the sixteen year old that could be easily forgotten, but also the girl who admired “THAT” guy in high school – the one that never even remotely looked my way. I was also the girl who befriended some of the most interesting outcasts at school (I had friends who were so much like Ducky in Pretty in Pink that it’s scary.), and I was apparently from the wrong side of the tracks: something that never really bothered me that much in high school, but I knew I wasn’t from “The Hills”, either. So Molly’s characters kind of collectively embodied everything that I knew, at least partly. (She did always end up with the guy though…which still fascinates me to this day. :D)
For my son, it was/is just as easy to pick out why I usually loved the male characters in her movies so much. My son is a gamer. He feels completely out of it without his headset on and his computer live in front of him. (I can’t wait to see what withdrawals will be like during these next few weeks while we’re on vacation.) He’s never going to be the football player (even though he’s truly built to be one – to those who know him he has REALLY grown this year and he’s a big guy now!) or the big man on campus. He’s going to be living in the computer lab, and maybe someday he’ll actually notice that girls are for more than just annoying boys. (I’m hoping that’s a little ways off though!) He doesn’t really care about what others think of him just yet, but I know he got the point when we were watching last night. I was never that fond of the guys who played the romantic “goal” for Molly, but I usually adored her sidekicks. Michael Anthony Hall couldn’t have been any more perfect in Sixteen Candles. Braces (as my son currently wears), trying to dress as though he were part of the crowd when the only person he succeeded in fooling was himself – yet at the end of it all, he was just trying to find himself like any other kid his age. You can’t help but love him. Then there’s Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink. He plays Ducky – and like I said, he was the coolest nerd ever. I had many a friend like him back in high school, and I would take a Ducky Any. Single. Day. over a Blaine in my real life. Actually, I sort of married a Ducky. 🙂 My son doesn’t romanticize quite as much as my oldest and I tend to do, because that is “…so girly and lame, Mom”, but I think he got the point.
For me as their parent though, I was silently very thankful for being able to share a little bit of what makes me…well…me…with them. I love my mom and dad dearly, but they never really spent the time watching old movies with me or things like that. Or maybe they tried and I just didn’t take an interest, I’m not really sure to be honest. I know that my dad had a wonderful childhood, even though he was truly poorer than dirt at times. He was on the football team in high school and had a great time. My mom on the other hand, did not have such a great childhood. She doesn’t talk much about her time in high school (in fact she dropped out for a year then went back to finish – scandalous!!), she doesn’t like to say much about being a kid, much less talk about the bands she liked or things she saw back then. Me? I have to say that I adored being a kid. I have some fantastic memories from both junior high and high school. I wasn’t at all “popular” – in fact I was in band during high school, which immediately branded me as one of the nerdy kids, but you know – I had a great time and I sure didn’t feel like a nerd or outcast. I just wasn’t a cheerleader, and that was just fine by me. (We actually made fun of THEM.)
I’m glad to be able to share some of my history with my children. I’m even happier that they seem so interested, even though I had to endure my husband’s groans and protests every single time something off-color was on the screen during the movie last night. (Like I said – PG means something completely different these days than it did back then I guess!) He’s a lot more reserved than I am. My kids think he’s a stick-in-the-mud, and I have to say – he kind of is these days. I’m a little more free-spirited with them. My husband finds fault with what I allow sometimes, but I figure it’s worth the kids seeing and doing a little more than I might have intended if it means letting them understand me a little better. I guess I really treasured being able to share that time with them, and I hope that they remember little moments like that as fondly as I do.
The real secret here is that I kind of think this movie will be something my daughter remembers forever. I saw the look of delight in her eye at the end of the movie when Samantha (Molly) and Jake (Michael) are kissing over the cake at the end. Yes, it’s completely schmaltzy, syrupy teenage love — and girls eat that up! I sure did, and loads of other girls my age did as well. I hope she does remember it, and that someday she takes the time to share it with her kids as well. By that time, Duran Duran and I will probably be long gone, or at least we’ll all be in our Duranie retirement, but the legacy will live on forever.