“What about prom, Blaine?!” This time out on Required Viewing, Annemarie learns about all of the feels and social implications behind that most righteous question. We watched Pretty In Pink — complete with a Skyped-in Q&A with Mr. Andrew McCarthy himself — and now it’s time for us to dig into this key cultural touchpoint of the 1980s. Annemarie, what did you know about Pretty In Pink before we hit this screening? What are your initial impressions now that you’ve seen it? And what about prom?!
AM: As with most of these cultural touchpoint movies, there’s no doubt I saw snippets from Pretty In Pink in an Oscars montage or repurposed for an ad campaign. I also knew Molly Ringwald and John Hughes were HUGE in the ’80s and of course I’ve seen Home Alone. But I believe this is the first time I’ve seen the results of the collaboration between Ringwald and Hughes and I was greatly entertained. Much has been said about this oeuvre, and having been more of a late 80s-early 90s kid myself, I can only guess at the accuracy of this world and this time. I do appreciate how Hughes’ movies highlight teenage culture in a way that no one else had touched. We take teen culture for granted in the zeitgeist but apparently the teens of the ’70s weren’t so well represented.
We can all use a friend like Iona, but if we have friends like Duckie, help us. I know Brooke is a fan, but honestly, the stalker tendencies were too strong for me to appreciate his love for Andie. “Doting” is how it’s described, but it’s a bit much for me. Tone it down, dude. Ok, Brooke, fill me in on why you love this movie outside of your love of all pink things (that’s a joke!), do you think Andie’s decision to go Blane vs Duckie was correct and what do you think of that prom dress?
B: Oh Annemarie! I’m sorry to have to tell you about your own life experience, but as you’ve seen The Breakfast Club (because I am such a good friend), this is your second time witnessing a Hughes-Ringwald collaboration. Of course, he directed The Breakfast Club whereas he only wrote Pretty In Pink. So we should probably have reversed these, but Required Viewing didn’t exist yet back when I hyperbolically called you History’s Greatest Monster and left a copy of The Breakfast Club on your desk. (Again, such a good friend). Anyway, back to the movie at hand.
I actually am pretty fond of pink as a shade, and while I dig Molly’s car, it’s definitely not the dress that has my favor for this movie. I actually have some pretty mixed emotions about Pretty In Pink as a whole, but there are elements of the aesthetic that I find delightful. Namely, I really dig that the divide between the rich kids and the poor kids is mostly manifested in their dress. And those wrong-side-of-the-tracks kids are rocking my kind of ’80s garb. Duckie is all about that powerclashing and Iona wears everything I would have wanted to wear in that era.
Your point about the Duck is very fair, AM. I wouldn’t want his affections toward Andie in any way shape or form, but as someone on the edges, like our dear Iona, I find him deeply, deeply amusing. From the record store dance to “Blaine, his name is Blaine?! That’s not a name, that’s a major appliance,” I’m on board. When he acts like a massive baby because Andie picks someone else is when I begin to lose patience with him, but the fact that he shows back up for his friend in the end shows his kind nature. And that’s ultimately why I fall on the Team Duckie side of the debate. Though we both know that in my wildest dreams Andie goes to that dance alone, wears a non-hideous dress and throws some sick shade at Blaine for being such a baby.
But before I get into my “Blaine is kind of the worst” tangent, I’m going to pause so you can air your feelings. And I’m also going to ask if you share my view that Andie ruined a perfectly great dress. Sound off.
A: I 100% agree that Andie ruined Iona’s dress. I know I’d seen the finished-product dress in a movie montage at some point, but to see it happen in real time is kind of horrifying. For context, here’s the before and after.
Yuck. I read Molly hated the Frankenstein’d version. I do have a question about the original Iona dress. This movie takes place when it was shot, I assume, and Iona is perhaps 35? She would have been born in the late ’50s and that dress screams 1955 housewife — but with flair! Do we think that Iona was so ahead of her time that she knew the ’50s look would be back in vogue in the ’80s? It seems that her prom dress would have been more 1960s flavored.
Let’s go back to Duckie before I give you my Blaine thoughts. I was probably being harsh on him, but man can high school boys be annoying! He’s clearly a rage of hormones, but you are right, his intentions are pure and he does show up and be a friend to Andie. I’m also fully on board with your fantasy ending of a better dress and no man, but I do think she made the right choice by picking Blaine. There’s little chance they would actually survive as a couple long-term (based more on their age than anything), but I do like that the poor girl won the rich boy over, even if he was sort of a weak person and probably doesn’t deserve her. The problem with Duckie and Andie is that she’s not attracted to her childhood best friend. It makes it poignant that he still comes to prom to be with her, because he seems to have resigned himself to the fact that it’s just not going to happen. I love that he gets a dance invite almost immediately after Andie ditches him. Get it, Duck!
Now to Blaine. It was interesting seeing the current-day Andrew McCarthy immediately before his ’80s counterpart. I can see why he was cast to play the rich boy with a heart, but again, I don’t like that he caved to peer pressure. It’s understandable, when you’re in high school that sort of thing happens all the time (and honestly it still happens to us adults), but it still isn’t a great character trait on someone. Let’s hope he grows up and becomes better for the experience.
Brooke, let’s have your thoughts on Andie’s character before I provide mine. And of course, it’s Tangent Time! GO!
B: Okay, imagine me threading my fingers together and pushing them out in a show of power. That’s actually what I did before beginning this #TeamNeverBlaine rant. Here’s the thing about Blaine. He’s cute. And the computer bit he pulls to flirt with Andie is creative. But they guy has zero backbone. The first time he heads into Trax he is doing some acceptable flirting, but he just bails the second his friend beckons him to shoot skeet. C’mon guy. Are you making an effort here or not? And then there is the fact that his idea of a fun get-to-know-you date is going to a house party with a bunch of wasted folks from school. How about a little personal attention, Blaine? How about making some kind of effort to find out what Andie is interested in?
But okay, they are in high school. So maybe his game needs work. But they have that one disaster of a date and he says the right things like, “let’s go anywhere you want.” And he makes a genuine attempt to understand why Andie doesn’t want him to see where she lives. Good job, Blaine. But then they go to the stables, they have a romantic time and then he completely wigs out. He spins some nonsense about getting in trouble for taking her there and then completely flakes. I don’t buy that for a second. He basically proto-ghosted her. Either be thrilled to have me with you, or get out of my way, Blaine. I mean, I’m pretty sure Stephen Colletti took lessons from this guy. AND then he thinks he can just roll up and prom and she’ll forgive him. No thanks, Blaine. Boy, byeeeeeeee.
I’ll call my Blaine rant here, you get the idea. But I won’t say that Andie is totally innocent. She does put up with all of his shenanigans. And while they are less annoying than the Duck’s desperate bids for her attention, they actively upset her. No guy who makes you cry after that short period of time is worth it. We deserve better. However, I give Andie props for being an iconoclast. She’s a bit too angry at the world merely for the way things are — I mean the chip on her shoulder that scares little Blaine away is significant — but she is also a teenager, so that’s par for the course.
Here’s where I never know if I should be exasperated with her or not. It’s pretty sweet that she takes care of her dad. But she also enables him to a huge degree. The sense that I’ve always had is that he turned into a worthless drunk the second his wife bailed. And he’s setting a terrible example for his daughter who spends time mooning for Blaine after he flakes in some kind of grotesque mirroring of her parent’s relationship. I’ll give her due credit for making it work for herself, but I never feel like she’s as empowered by that as she should be. For me, Andie isn’t as dynamic a character as you might imagine in one so willing to go against the grain. The logical side of my brain argues that this is a measure of realism you rarely see in a teen film, but we’ve seen Molly Ringwald bring so much more depth to other characters in this same era, Andie is rather underwhelming, somehow.
What’s your take on all of this, AM?
AM: Whoa on your comparison to other Ringwald flicks! Yes, I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, but any others I can’t draw on. Slow that roll. Yes, Andie isn’t perfect and she doesn’t know what to do when Blaine is hot and cold. I think she and Duckie and Blaine all live in Teenage Land. This is a place where it’s realistic that you love someone after two dates and huge romantic gestures usually involve borrowing your mom’s car. Teenage Land isn’t the best place to see logic at work. That’s why I’m more willing forgive that Blaine is hesitant to give up his childhood friends (no matter how lame they are) because he’s outgrowing them and trying out new things. I would argue that Andie is also hesitant to truly jump in because as much as she gripes about being poor, it’s what she knows. It’s familiar to her, as is Duckie. It’s scary falling in love, and to do it when you’re 18 and brand new to Adult World? I get why as adult-like audience members we’re frustrated by their lack of ownership about their lives. I think perhaps a lot of your Andie frustration stems from the fact that she is a realistic Teenage Land inhabitant. Teens are annoying. This is a fact of real life and Hollywood portrayals of teens.
Andie is enabling her dad’s alcoholism, absolutely. I’m not sure though what a girl is to do in this situation, though. Presumably, she should try to bail and get her own life started, but that would be hard when her father is basically incapable of getting his shit together. You don’t really want your dad to fall into homelessness. That makes me feel for her, but also dad, come on. Get a job. Keep a job. Earn money and stop drinking all day.
Ok, now that we’ve beat to death the dynamic between Duckie and Blaine and Andie, let’s talk about how James Spader is deliciously evil and I’d probably watch a spin-off of his life. He’s the most obnoxious rich kid but he does have a fascinating quality. A lot has been said already about Spader’s masterful portrayal in this genre, one he’s turned into a whole career, but there’s something kind of tempting about Steff. Andie is clearly a challenge for him, and when she turns down his maybe-joking advances, she becomes his focus of destructive energy. His comments are clearly what throw Blaine off his pursuit of Andie, and if we’re to assume that Steff and Blaine are old-time besties from way back, you can see why that threat of ostracism would be enough to make Blaine act like an ass.
Brooke, what are your thoughts on Steff?
B: Annemarie swooping in for the defense of the youths! I fully believe everything you say, but as someone who has been old since I was about 7, it’s always a thing that’s caused me to eyeroll in a real way. Kind of like Steff makes my ovaries shrivel up and wilt. And I 100% mean that as a compliment to Mr. Spader. I would definitely watch this hypothetical spin-off, though I’m thinking more half-hour premium cable channel dark comedy than film. I would hate him every single second, and therefore love him. I don’t know if you ever watched Gossip Girl, but I always saw Chuck Bass as a kind of evolution of Steff (minus the bit where he’s a secret decent human). I’m always fascinated that Steff is clearly aware that the girl he’s with at the party is a garbage human on his own level of garbageness (but seriously, how much does the way he treats her tell us about his future are a domestic abuser?). He’s an absolute asshole and he knows it, and therein lies his power. If I met him in the real world, I would loathe him to my very core, but as an abstract character I can study, yeah, I am fully on board.
Okay, here comes my last request for you, AM. Talk to me about the music in this movie? The 80s (at least commercially) represent the peak of the “music from and inspired by the motion picture” soundtrack era — thanks, MTV! Looking at that now, it feels sarcastic, but I really meant it. You can probably personally attest to the fact that I had an episode of Pop Up Video in my DVR for about 8 months because I just periodically needed to watch the movie-flavored music videos for Crazy For You (Madonna, featured in Desperately Seeking Susan), Take My Breath Away (Berlin, featured in Top Gun) … and whatever else was in there.
But I digress, we’re here to talk about Pretty in Pink, a youth movie about a culture-clashing romance that features numerous scenes in a record store and is capped off with a dance — clearly the music was essential to the tone and success of the picture. And for my money, it’s kind of the very best detail in terms of bringing the picture to life. The post-punk flavor speaks directly to the part of teen Brooke that could get on board with allowing emotions to overwhelm logic and occasionally act like a proper youth. And did you know that If You Leave — the song that eventually freed me to fully admit to myself that I really loved The OC — was recorded specifically for this movie? What a wonderful gift. I lament synergy very, very often, but I do miss the time when tentpole movies had songs made expressly to be featured in the picture. It still happens of course, but it’s not so much “a thing” anymore.
Clearly, I am a big fan, but I want to hear your thoughts, did the tunes strike a chord with you? Do you have a favorite track?
A: As a child of the ’90s into the early 2000s, I didn’t grow up with the ’80s pop music featured so wonderfully here, but I absolutely appreciate it on its face value, and further, the value it brings to this type of film. It’s a cliche that music and teens go together like mac and cheese, but it is a true statement. I read something recently about how the music of your teenage years means more to you than any other music the rest of your life, which is why Water Runs Dry by Boyz II Men and Time of Your Life by Green Day hold special places in my heart.
Especially for a teen like Andie, who probably can’t afford to buy a lot of music but works in a record store, the music of the times would have been an important factor in her life. My personal fave does happen to be the popular choice of If You Leave, which so eloquently sums up the emotions of the film and the characters. When you’re 18, can anything be worse than losing your crush? Again, even for a girl like Andie, who’s lost so much, this idea of losing out on the possibility of Blaine is heartbreaking. Music helps us empathize with her, even though we all know it’s not likely to last. That’s totally not the point of teenage romance, so we feel for her anyway.