Writer/ director John Hughes’ legacy is complicated. He was, in a lot of ways, kind of a white trash Spike Lee, maybe a little more skillful at browbeating the masses with his message than Lee is. He spent a lot of time railing against elitism, often at the risk of telling better stories. No one can deny his brilliance, buoyancy of his writing and direction that captured a beautiful vibrant middle America seldom seen in cinema. But his vision was myopic. His work is populated by geeks, freaks, latent homosexuals and the Evil Entitled right out of central casting. He liked to punch rich kids in the mouth and sadly his work never veered far from that narrative.
Hughes’ body of work, while technically and visually astute, is largely the same film made over and over: vapid young white kids from various caste struggling with existential angst and longing over a mope-rock soundtrack. His work spoke to dreamers looking for signs of life in the American landscape, and there is something to be said for that. But how could his work have spanned the 80s and not touched on the realities of the working poor, the ubiquitous anxiety and stress of an America in the last gasp of The Cold War and last but certainly not least, the expansion of the black Middle Class and the general browning of the New American Suburbs? Hughes’ work romanticized working class white bohemians rather than using characters to explore how the average American was working from up under Reaganomics. I don’t believe in the power of cinema as a tool for social engineering, but it is powerful propaganda. Hughes’ America was funny, flat, pretty to look at but white bread and wholey predicatable.