Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nostalgia for intensity

Many of my friends know about my visceral dislike of Sex and the City. I mean, when did easy become synonymous with feminism? But I don't want to beat a dead horse (I'll simply refer you all to two of the best commentaries on the new SATC movie here and here.)

Instead, let me discuss the real culture-changing movie for those of us in our 30s: Pretty in Pink. OK, really I'm referring to any John Hughes movie. The whole Brat Pack series were pretty life-changing for anyone who wore a dress with puffed sleeves or Z Cavarichi pants (the latter may have been a Staten Island phenomenon). But Pretty in Pink was on VH1 this week, which left me nostalgic for intensity.

For those of you living under a rock and unfamiliar with the plot, here it is in a nutshell: Nice girl (Andie) is part of counter-culture element at public high school, ruled by rich, popular kids (demarcated by their choice of pastel shirts and white blazers). Rich, cool jackass (Steff) likes her. She turns him down. Rich, cool nice guy (Blane) likes her. She goes out with Blane. They have a bad first date, redeemed only when Blane asks her to the prom. They kiss. Andie shares excitement with father and says she thinks she's in love. Did you catch that--she thinks she's in love after ONE kiss!! Blane flakes out after Steff poisons his mind. Trouble. Andie makes her own prom dress and goes to prom solo. Blane apologizes. Tells her he loves her. Always. They kiss again. The End.

Now, perhaps I used movies as my handbook for negotiating American culture a little too much in my youth, but I'm still struck by how OK it was to fall in love after one kiss. If they'd try to make this movie with today's Millennial Generation, it would take months for the main characters to even admit to dating. Then someone would admit to commitment issues. Which begs the question, why would anyone have commitment issues in high school? What are you afraid of? Turning into your divorced parents? (OK, that may be legit). But still. The complete thrill of Pretty in Pink is the character's intensity. Nowadays, Andie would be the crazy girlfriend and Blane would be the sane, rational guy, appropriately afraid of committing to anyone he met in high school. And Andie would probably end up trying to adjust her needs to the desires of such men. Which I believe, would turn her into Carrie.

Crap, I think I just understood Carrie on a deeper level. I really didn't think she could have one.

Nevertheless, I still sympathize and root for Andie 25 years later. I get butterflies when Blane looks at her. I am vicariously thrilled at the whole sewing montage when she makes her own prom dress--it's like the A-Team's DIY montage for girls. Hell, every girl wants to be that fashion designer--the one that can create a new look that allows her to triumph over school bullies and insecurity. Not the fashionista that simply knew which name brands are the most hot. Puh-lease. Where's the triumph over adversity? Where's the counter-culture rebellion that ever teen identifies with? And most of all, where's the intensity?

When did being intense become undesirable? Was is around the same time that being easy became synonymous with feminism?

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