My 14 year old recently discovered the genius which is the Psychedelic Furs. So, it was no surprise when I heard the familiar lyrics of “Pretty in Pink” which drew her dad from one end of the house to another to find her not listening to “Talk Talk Talk.” Rather, she was watching the John Hughes film of the same name for the first time. I sat silent watching her enjoy Pretty in Pink, one of the films which spoke so greatly to the teens of my generation. This was especially fun for me because Molly Ringwald, who played the lead in the film, and I are the same age.
My daughter is much like Molly Ringwald’s character Andie. Lauren attends a private school in which there is a figurative thick black line which separates the wealthy popular kids from those who are… not. Not so different from the line separating the “zoids” and “richies” in Pretty in Pink. Like Andie, Lauren’s circle of friends is very small. She spends most of her time outside school playing bass and singing in her band, “The Infinite Echo.” She prefers vintage and bargain shops to big chain stores. She likes indie rock, horror movies, video games, and long boarding. She talks about Kathleen Hanna, cute clothes, and even cuter boys. She is a typical 14-year-old girl.
For over an hour she empathized with Andie. Lauren often feels different, alone, and rejected like our heroine. She watched Andie fall in love only to have her naive heart broken into a million sparkling little pieces by the wealthy and popular Blane. With tears in her eyes my daughter watched Andie deliver the most poignant line of the film, “I just wanted to let them know they didn’t break me.”
Lauren’s hero, unlike Andie, was Duckie who openly professed, “I’m not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you.” No matter how badly Andie had hurt him, he loved her unconditionally. Lauren fell in love with, not Blane, but Duckie. As the film ended she turned to me and shouted, “She ended up with Blane instead of Duckie? But he loved her and she broke his heart! How disappointing…”
I was taken aback at by her reaction at first and then I realized Lauren is the product of a radically different generation than I am. Lauren didn’t doesn’t need to be saved. She is the heroine in her own story. She is not looking for a wealthy-popular prince to lift her out of her misery. She didn’t grow up with helpless Disney princesses. Lauren grew up with Merida and Mulan and two parents who have been raising her to be assertive and confident in who she is.
The ’80s, despite how they are often portrayed, were not necessarily a great time to grow up in. Shows like Miami Vice and Dynasty painted a world in which only those with money, popularity, and power could be happy. My wife and I struggled through the economic crises a few years ago as did our children. Lauren did not grow up in privilege and learned to value things other than name brand clothes and shoes. Like so many of her generation, her priorities are in a much better place than the kids of my own.
Relationships come before the superficial things we valued then. Simply, this generation is better. Most have their priorities in a better place. Lauren taught me that if Pretty in Pink was made today Andie would have ended up with Duckie. After all, strong young women like Lauren no longer need a guy like Blane to save them.
(Image via Paramount)