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Thursday, December 28, 2006


Velveeta Jukebox, Part V: Don't You (Forget About Me)

Is it even possible to hear Simple Minds' biggest hit without picturing Judd Nelson pumping his fist in the air and striding cockily across the football field? Okay, I suppose you can do it if you were born after 1980, but if that's the case then you're one of those feckless slackers and you don't count anyway. (I kid the twenty-somethings, but you know I love you.)

For those of us in high school at some point during the Reagan era, though, there was no greater chronicler of our times than Mr. John Hughes. Okay, again, I suppose that people who grew up in major cities and had film snobs for parents probably felt a stronger teenage affiliation with Truffaut. But people like me who had to take what the local mall cineplex dished out went gaga over Hughes.

There is no greater John Hughes movie than The Breakfast Club. Okay, I need to stop qualifying this shit. If you liked Sixteen Candles or Weird Science better, then just trust me when I say that you're in the minority. For most of us, there was no equal to this examination of the social strata of a suburban high school.

The flick had characters for almost everybody to identify with. To at least some degree, most everyone I know felt like they were in some way a kindred spirit with either the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the criminal.

If this was the movie we loved the most, the moment in the movie that we loved the most was the end, when the promise of Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald breaking through the walls that divide them is cemented by the placement in Nelson's ear of Ringwald's earring and his subsequent triumphant march into the sunset. Never mind that we would go back to our own schools and be reminded that there was no way outside of winning a million dollars that we could ever ascend the social ladder in our own schools. In that darkened theater, there was hope.

And the song that helped to pump that hope up inside us is "Don't You (Forget About Me)". It's a solid enough bit of 80s pop. It's catchy. It has some fun keyboard action. It's got one of only a handful of drum solos that could get me to air drum. (Not, though, with the same level of enthusiasm I used to get for the percussion in "In the Air Tonight".) But the song's actual worth is negligible when one removes it from its association with that touchstone GenX film.

Now, I will say that I've seen The Breakfast Club since I passed the age of twenty-five and I've determined that, for me at least, it didn't really hold up that well. For starters, Molly Ringwald is nowhere near as hot as she seemed back then. Maybe my aesthetics have changed; I don't know. The jokes don't seem as clever; the characters seem much more like thin stereotypes than I recalled; it's harder to accept Judd Nelson as the cool rebel when you know that his career eventually spiralled down to a place where he's starring in movies called Lethal Eviction.

Despite all this, despite the fact that I can never see the movie in the same light again, the song still has the same power it did back then. The power to make me feel as if I can make friends with the jocks and the princesses. The power to dance to shitty music in a library. Which I'm going to go do right now.

In the next installment of Velveeta Jukebox, I'll examine the appeal of Norway's most successful cheese pop band. And, man, if there's a more successful Norwegian cheese pop band out there, I don't want to fucking know about it.

I am the minority because I thought 16 Candles was a great movie. Could be because it was a chick flick and The Breakfast Club was more of a guy movie. I also thought that Jake (in 16 Candles was very cute).
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