Thursday, November 10, 2011
Pretty in Pink and Say Anything: A Discussion about Love Transcending Class Lines in Teen Movies of the 1980s
I watched one of my favorite movies yesterday, Pretty in Pink, and while watching it, I was struck with a number of similarities in subject matter and theme to another one of my favorite movies, Say Anything.
If this were a proper literature paper, my thesis statement might be something like "Pretty in Pink and Say Anything are perfect examples of 1980s coming of age movies about romance across class lines."
Just as a tangent, I find it funny that MOST 80s movies I watch instantly become favorite movies. Well, other than Sixteen Candles. I liked it, but not like I like The Princess Bride, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Say Anything, Pretty in Pink, Overboard, The Lost Boys, Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing, The Goonies, and Ghostbusters.
Anyway, watching Pretty in Pink again, I'm still among the camp that thinks Andie (the Molly Ringwald character) should've ended up with Duckie. (Jon Cryer) Now, don't get me wrong, to make a movie that will make money, I understand what they mean when they said in the bonus feature, "Ya can't make a movie where she doesn't get the cute guy in the end."
Also, they discussed how if you make a movie about romance across class lines and then have the lower-class heroine end up with the lower-class guy, that doesn't send a good message about love conquering all and stuff like that.
The big problem with that in Pretty in Pink is the lack of character on the part of Blane (Andrew McCarthy), the rich kid Andie falls for. I just don't find him interesting and lovable like I do Duckie. Yes, he at first thinks he can go out with Andie despite backlash for it from his rich friends and possible backlash from his parents, but he loses any respect I had for him by backing out on taking Andie to the prom and making up the excuse that he had "asked someone else earlier and forgot."
Duck, on the other hand, though he acts a bit like a jerk when he finds out Andie is going out with Blane, he only does so in an overreaction. He truly believes that Blane is only going out with her to use her and finds that disgusting when Duckie himself has been devoted to her for so long and loves her so much.
Now turning to Say Anything, I believe this movie also is thematically about love over class lines, but in a much subtler way. In Pretty in Pink, there is very obviously a divide in the town: a literal wrong side of the railroad tracks. Andie at the end of her first date with Blane doesn't want him to take her home because she doesn't want him to see where she lives.
In Say Anything, the "class line" isn't so much about physical address and/or amount of money, but about education and prospects, and this I believe is more likely to be realistic in today's world.
While in Pretty in Pink we have Andie, the "lower class girl" and Blane the "rich guy," in Say Anything we have Diane Court (Ione Sky), the valedictorian and Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack), an intelligent and sweet but underachieving guy. Diane has been accepted to a prestigious study abroad fellowship in England, while Lloyd has no concrete plans for the future and what plans he does have include trying to become a pro in kickboxing "the sport of the future."
In Pretty in Pink, we have pressure placed on the couple from their social groups and on Blane's side, his parents if they knew about what was going on, but Andie's father encourages her that if they love each other, they should forget about their friends.
In Say Anything, most of the action takes place after graduation. At the party Lloyd and Diane go to as their first date, Lloyd's friends all like Diane (though they all wish they could have known her before graduation. It is explained that she took classes at the college in their town as well, so wasn't involved heavily in the student body.) After graduation and the final party, social groups aren't much of a force over the summer, so pressure on the couple in this movie comes in the form of Diane's overprotective loving father. (John Mahoney)
Diane's father doesn't object to him based on money; (Lloyd at the time is living with his grown sister and his parents are working in Europe.) he objects to her dating him because of his lack of prospects, saying to him, "You're not a permanent part of her life. You're a distraction."
In both of these movies, we have an absent mother and a father who wants to take care of his baby girl the best he can. In Pretty in Pink, the father is still bereaved from his wife leaving, so he's more...how do I say this?...sympathetic to his daughter's happiness in the way of love.
In Say Anything, the father also wants his daughter to be happy, but he sees that goal as being accomplished by urging her to get the best possible education and preparing for the future. He sees anything (or anyone) that takes even a little away from that as a distraction and a waste of time.
And so, you ask, what is to be gleaned from all this?
I'm not sure. In Pretty in Pink, the ending is left hazy. Andie obviously chooses Blane, the rich kid, and we're left to hope that things worked out for them in the end despite potential criticism from his parents and being ostracized by his friends. We know that Duckie gains respect for Blane for coming alone to the prom and tells Andie to go after him so that they can be happy. Her father wasn't much of an issue. And so we have a fairy tale type ending.
In Say Anything, we also have a happy ending, but this one is a bit more bittersweet. Diane's dad is conveniently convicted of embezzling money from tenants of his nursing home, and so put away into prison and not much of a driving force in his daughter's life. She forgives him and visits him before she leaves for England, but decides to be with Lloyd even though from prison, her Dad still disapproves of him.
I'm left to wonder what happened when (or if) they came back from England. I'm sure they were happy together and Lloyd got his act together to take care of and eventually marry Diane, but assuming they ever went back to America and Diane's dad ever got out of prison, what kind of family dynamics would they have?
Would he still be angry for her choosing to be with Lloyd or would he see that he was unreasonable and accept them? And would they care if he did or not? We know that she forgave him for what he did with the money, but would she still want to have a major relationship with a man who stole most of what they had and caused so much unhappiness for her and Lloyd over the summer before they got back together?