John Hughes and Hamster-eating Aliens. Day 4 of the International Week of the Popper

Hello and welcome to day 4 of the increasingly inaccurately titled week of the Popper. After finding out how the Popper spent his time with the other (or same) sex during his or her romantic moments and getting to know this counter-counter youthculture’s preferences in intoxication, today we’re going to have a look at his/her relationship with the mass media. Back in the early eighties, before the advent of multi channel cable TV and the internet in every household (though some people were already online with their Sinclair QL and an acoustic coupler, scaring the proprietors of the local Bulletin Board Systems shitless) access to the media was obviously dictated by the large state broadcasters, the local cinema and the news agent around the corner. ‘The Face’, ‘Smash Hits’ and the German trend magazine ‘Prinz’ were essential to gauge the newest fashion and music trends 3 months before they became mainstream and to impress one’s friends. The TV unfortunately didn’t offer many moments of brillance: Miami Vice and ‘V’ where highlights (no, really) and the Cosby Show was the funniest thing on the tube (no, really. Honestly). The cinema offered mainly John Hughes (I am pretty sure that I am still able to recite ‘Weird Science’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ from beginning to end), Ivan Reitman and John Landis. For the more culturally attuned there was always ‘Amadeus’ and ‘Diva’. For some reason or the other the female member of the species seemed to throng the cinemas to watch Highlander. Unexplainable.

So, were there any intentions of engaging in any, you know, serious literature or maybe even -gasp- the theatre?

No. You can neither drink nor smoke in these buildings and nobody sees what you’re wearing most of the time.


Weird Science

“Maybe it was a dream, you know, a very weird, bizarre, vivid, erotic, wet, detailed dream. Maybe we have malaria?”

When Weird Science was released in 1985, I was relieved that somebody finally came forward to make a film for people like me: Hormone fuelled geeks with a sense of humour. So I was not the only boy in the world with a huge stack of Penthouse, Scientific American and a Sinclair ZX Spectrum!

Gosh, who would have thought.

John Hughes gave with his first four films (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) a whole worldwide generation of disenfranchised, uglyish non-jocks the reassuring feeling that they were not singular on this world and that the daily struggle against the beautiful bullies at school was a fight not fought alone.

This is what Weird Science is about: Recognition and the desire to be wanted.

Somewhere in the US, in some easily exchangeable suburb, Garry (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are two average boys in a world where being average is just not good enough. Sitting one evening in Wyatt’s room, they fantasize about creating the perfect simulation of a woman with Wyatt’s computer (which looks remarkably like an MSX): She should be brainy and sexy: the perfect woman for two geeks who never had the chance to get to know the opposite sex without getting into serious trouble. So they hack into the local mainframe, scan in a couple of pictures and start simulating away. To add a bit of mysticism, they attach a Barbie doll to the serial port and hum a bit:

Wyatt: Garry, by the way, why are we wearing bras on our heads?

Garry: Ceremonial.

And yes, the perfect woman (aka Kelly LeBrock) appears in Garry’s closet: she’s beautiful, she’s scantily clothed and she can make every of their wishes come true. She gives them sportscars and cool clothes, makes a fool of their archenemy (Robert Downey Jr) and teaches Wyatt’s sadistic big brother (a hilarious Bill Paxton) a lesson (by letting it snow in his bedroom and turning him into a slimy, ball-less monster). By displaying some motherly insight, she even gives them the chance to fall in love and fight for their girls (against a horde of mutant bikers right out of Mad Max) during their first own party.

” You know, I can’t believe this, Wyatt. I’m so disappointed in us. I mean, all our lives we’ve been saying how great it would be if we went to parties, right? And now it’s our party and we’re in the john. We’re in the john! ”

Everybody seems happy.

Then she vanishes…

I can not recommend this movie more highly: This (with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) is Hughes’ masterpiece and should be seen as his lasting legacy to the first generation that grew up with immense media pressure to be perfect in any way.

A very funny, and very human film.

Good bye John Hughes. And thanks for all the dreams.