Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pretty in Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986)

As they're leaving Trax to go on their first date, Blane asks Andie, "So, do you wanna go home and change"? Obviously implying that what she is currently wearing is not appropriate first date attire. Can you believe this guy? There's a lot to like about John Hughes' Pretty in Pink, but there's a lot that will make your spiro-saturated blood boil. And the scenario I just mentioned is one of the most infuriating. If I was Andie, the date would have ended the second that glob of verbal repulsiveness passed through the mouth-hole attached to Blane's smug face. Now, you could say: Hey, give the guy a break. I mean, he's not used to dating girls who shop at thrift stores. But I'm not going to be doing that today. No fucking way. Besides, his decision to then take Andie to a party being thrown at James Spader's house was just as misguided. And, no, this isn't the kooky, lovable version of James Spader from 2002 we're talking about. This James Spader circa 1986. In other words, we're talking about someone who is a major douchebag. I don't know 'bout you, but "major douchebag" actually undersells the level of douchiness James Spader is putting out there in this movie. At any rate, what was Blane thinking? I realize that the whole dating sequence is set up to highlight the colossal divide that exists between Blane and Andie's different social structures. But never have seen someone act so clueless before. Seriously, you would think, judging by his actions, that he was trying to sabotage his relationship with the redheaded enchantress right from the get-go.

Mind you, I'm not one of those Pretty in Pink fans who, after they're done trashing Blane, goes ahead and starts listing the reasons why Andie should be dating her best bud Duckie instead. I don't think so. Despite possessing "strong lips" and a unique sense of style, Duckie is a clingy crybaby and a bit of a stalker. Actually, all the men in this film have a stalker-ish vibe about them.

Watching Blane stalk Andie in the halls and then show up at Trax, the record store where Andie works after school, like that was kind of unnerving. Think about it. Who wants some guy with no personality or fashion sense following you around for most of the day? I know I sure don't.

Wait, did I just say that Duckie, played by Jon Cryer (Dudes), had a "unique sense of style"? While it's true, Duckie is a style icon. You'll notice that when Blane (Andrew McCarthy) goes to talk Andie (Molly Ringwald) in the place where all the cool/misunderstood students hangout, the joint is crawling with Duckie clones.

We're talking garish blazers, brightly-coloured blazers, tweed blazers, check blazers, blazers covered with anachronistic military insignia. It's like an irregular blazer free-for-all back there. Not to mention, vests! Bolo ties! Studded bracelets! Jelly bracelets! Pointy monk strap shoes!

And my God. The fedoras! Never have I seen so many young people in fedoras. Of course, that statement makes sense when said between 1986 and, oh, let's say, the year 2000. But have you walked down the street of any major North American city over the past fifteen years? There are fedoras everywhere. You could say that everyone has morphed into Duckie. Yeah, yeah, not everyone looks like Duckie. But you can definitely feel his presence. It's kinda eerie when you think about it.

Who would have thought a character from a John Hughes movie would go on to become the template for the hipster movement?

Don't be fooled, though, the toxic brand of masculinity that the likes of Blane and Steff stink of still permeates the atmosphere. Anytime you see a man assume that a woman owes him something, whether it be her attention or even sex, you can thank the likes Blane and Steff... And, in a way, Duckie is no better than them. He has this idea in his head that if he keeps harassing Andie, she'll eventually fall in love with him.

At the end of the day, Andie shouldn't date any of them. Okay, she should definitely fuck James Spader... a bunch of times. But as for long term relationships? Yeah, I don't think so.

My advice to Andie is: Listen to music... on vinyl (it's 1985/86!!! Depeche Mode, Skinny Puppy, Cocteau Twins and countless others are putting out albums, like, all the time), continue to play around with fashion, try dating a woman. It's 1986! You're living in one of the most exciting times to be alive. Don't waste it by dating a bunch of needy twerps.

Hell, date a trans person. I'm not sure, but I think I spotted one during the fedora scene. They're wearing a brimmed hat and carrying a camouflage backpack. Trans or not, there's definitely some gender fluidity brewing at this particular high school.

Anyway, yeah. I'd tell Andie to date Iona (Annie Potts), the owner of Trax, but she seems to fall under the soul crushing spell that is mid-1980s heterosexuality. Sure, heterosexuality is fun now (you know, with all those newfangled kinks and fetishes and whatnot), but mid-1980s heterosexuality was a different story all-together. You can watch Iona slowly succumb to it by watching how her wardrobe changes over the course of the film.

In her first scene, she's rocking a bondage-inspired punk look. And to top it off, she uses a stapler against a shoplifter. Bad-ass.

Her second outfit is a new wave look with new romantic flourishes. All that was missing was a Visage song blasting chic-ly on the soundtrack (the film's real soundtrack features three(!) New Order tracks).

The third and I guess fourth outfits combine cultural appropriation and nostalgia, as Iona embraces that brief trend where everyone pretended they were Chinese or Japanese (or, in some cases, both at once) and sports a 1960s-style beehive hairdo/pink prom dress.

Of course, if you were Chinese or Japanese in the 1980s, you pretended you were Madonna. Who, by the way, is mentioned in this film. This might sound odd, but it was kinda freaky hearing people talk about Madonna in the 1980s.

At the end, Iona sells out and becomes a yuppie. Which, in a way, sums up the last ten years (1976-86) pretty accurately.

You start off with punk (safety pin earrings)  and new wave (pink lip gloss on weekdays), dabble with cultural appropriation (remember when you wore a Japanese rising sun bandana to that Kajagoogoo concert?)  and nostalgia (admit it, you used to watch Sha Na Na reruns... unironically). And then you sell out and move to Connecticut. The end.

Random PIP observations:

Duckie, from the looks of it, lives in an abandoned crack house.

Gina Gershon can be spotted twice, once during the gym scene and again at the prom.

Did you know that Trax, the record store where Andie works, is based on Wax Trax! Records, the iconic record store/record label in Chicago? Yeah, I didn't know this. Apparently it's where John Hughes used to shop when he lived in Chicago.

The DJs at the prom are ridiculous. I mean, really? Does it take that much gear to spin OMD records?

A copy of The Residents' Diskomo/Goosebump can be seen for sale at Trax for 7.99.

Hey, Duckie. Yeah, Ed Norton from The Honeymooners called, he wants his entire wardrobe back.

And finally, Andie can't even surf the 1985-86 version of the internet without being harassed. Typical.


  1. A very refreshing & hilarious analysis!

    1. Thanks. I hope I can do the same for Some Kind of Wonderful.

  2. Great review and as much I enjoy pretty in pink, I think my favorite john Hughes film is weird science.

    1. Thanks.

      I love Anthony Michael Hall's floppy hair in Weird Science.

  3. I watched this for the first time a few years back (mine was a childhood deprived of many popular cultural icons and landmarks) and I, too, was rather appalled by all three of the "love interests." I recently read Jane Eyre and my takeaway was "Charlotte Bronte had a really bent view of me", this movie could say something similar about John Hughes.

    1. I can't believe I used to be a Duckie apologist.

    2. I actually found myself identifying a bit with Duckie; and I've probably acted somewhat like him in the past. That just made the character even more painful for me.

    3. The clingy motherfucker's got style, I've give 'em that much.

  4. Andie and Duckie got together in the original ending, but test audiences didn't like it, so they filmed the one that is shown. John Hughes made Some Kind Of Wonderful so the friends would get together to make up for changing Pretty in Pink.