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"When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies"

"When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies"


We interrupt this column about television to talk about old John Hughes movies on television.

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When I woke up this morning (I'm writing this on Thursday, by the way; who knows when you're reading it, but I hope you're at work and being really unproductive) I was pretty excited that the first bit of rumor-ish news I heard was that Vicky Becks might join the American Idol judgment roster. That was going to be enough to put a quick end to my mourning for the possibly fake-absence of Paula.

I was excited to tell you all about my favorite Shark Week stuff like Great White Appetite , sponsored by Febreze -- no joke, Febreze, because sharks will stink up your house and if you've got one just lying around you'll need to make it smell like chemical flowers pretty quickly -- where the host put himself in a clear cube as human bait for a big Jaws guy, kind of like if the ocean was Charles Saatchi's gallery and the human was a Bizarro World Damien Hirst installation for the giant fish's aesthetic amusement.

I wasn't going to spend much time on real ATL housewife NeNe choking equally real ATL housewife Kim(berleigh). I mean, I would have talked about it a little, like any important news item. But I wasn't going to labor over it. Same with those busted Twilight drag queens on America's Got Talent . And to that judge who told them that they weren't what America needed: You are wrong. America needs tons more busted drag queens. These busted drag queens just forgot to include exploding fake-blood packs in their routine, is all.

I had quite a bit to say about Going Postal: The Most Shocking Acts of Violence on E! (which stands for "entertainment") and Monsters Inside Me , this great new show on Animal Planet about parasitic infections. I planned to cover those freaky assholes on the news who've been whipped into a frenzy by anti-health care reform corporate influences. I planned to hate Michelle Malkin a little. I planned to celebrate Paris Hilton's new BFF, the gay ex-Mormon. Not that she's less terrifying than they are. But whatever.

And then John Hughes died and all the enthusiasm for that stuff just drained right out of me.

I know that technically he had nothing to do with television. But he did for me and here's why: TBS. That basic cable channel did more to bring Hughes movies into every single last corner of American life than any movie theater ever could. So what if they were broken up by commercials, edited for language, and stripped of music they couldn't clear in the TV rights sales? Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink were always on that station. So was Ferris Bueller's Day Off , Some Kind of Wonderful , Uncle Buck, and She's Having a Baby , which all count in a tangential way. And at Thanksgiving they would show Planes, Trains, and Automobiles a lot. For all I know one of those movies is on that station right now.

In their original theatrical releases, those first three films were pretty much the only big studio products that acknowledged the fact that the '80s ran on multiple cultural tracks instead of the mandated one where everyone loved Ronald Reagan and Top Gun and other bullshitty stuff that was depressing. Eccentric characters were the stars and not the punch lines. As a weird person myself, I knew those characters well. When Duckie (who was pretty much flat-out coded gay or at the very least got read as homo by me and other young audience members who got the references) sat alone in his room pining for Andie in that weird androgynous way, listening to the Smiths, I knew what that was about instantly and I also knew that other people in the multiplex might not.

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club

But after that trilogy hit TV and stayed there permanently, I knew I could always find one of them if I needed it. Right after I got out of college, during my first years of working with grown-ups as peers and realizing that they all mostly hated their lives, I could go home from my crap job -- equally depressed -- to my tiny apartment, shut the blinds, eat some chocolate cake for dinner on the floor (I owned no couch yet), and watch Ally Sheedy bemoan impending adulthood and the death of her heart while making a meal out of bread and Cap'n Crunch. Doesn't sound awesome, I know. But it was comforting. And I liked Ferris Bueller's happy announcement, "We ate pancreas!" better anyway. It was comforting and cheering. I could not remain bummed out over my job while watching the "Twist and Shout" part for the 27th time.

And when I met my future husband, we bonded over this: One or the other would have an actual question that needed answering and that person would say something like, "I need to ask you something," and the other would immediately respond with, "Yes, you're a total fag." That's how people fall in love with each other, with dumb shit like that. Molly Ringwald was part of our romance. And if Sixteen Candles was on TV and one of us happened to flip past it, we'd both stop what we were doing and watch whatever remained.

So that's the bulk of my John Hughes experience: watching those movies over and over on TV, learning the fake-swears looped into the dialogue as well as I knew the real ones that should have been there, remembering that even though I was growing older I was forbidden from allowing any part of me that mattered to die. I mean, not counting the parts that made me a stupid teenager. And everybody over 21 knows that those monsters don't die either. They just shrink down and go to live inside the back of your brain to haunt you for the rest of your life.

Now I want to see Ferris Bueller again because I've just made myself sad. Except I think I might just get choked up if I do. Kind of defeats the purpose.

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"When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies"

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Dave White