Monday, January 16, 2012

Weird Science and the second coming of the American teenager

My image is the film poster for the 1985 teen comedy, Weird Science. Written and directed by one of the best loved filmmakers of the 80s, John Hughes, the film chronicles the high jinx of two suburban best friends and nerds, Gary and Wyatt, as they try to turn the tide of their woeful love lives by creating a virtual perfect woman - a computer age Frankenstein. With help from perfectly timed lighting and the suspension of disbelief, the boys manage to bring a Barbie doll to real, fantastically voluptuous, real life.

As a huge John Hughes fan I am aware that this is not one of his finest films, or even his funniest, but it is very useful to anyone studying the 80s. The 80s was a time of great change for many reasons, especially in the habits and interests of the average American; even with the threat of mutually assured destruction that the Cold War brought, the effects of Reaganomics had breathed new life in to a spluttering economy, giving people a sense of confidence they had not felt since the optimistic early 60s.

As with any time of significant change, Hollywood can be used as a yardstick to measure the interests of the wider population, as a means of seeing what the average person wanted, feared, admired. The 80s saw a huge amount of popular, and successful teen comedies, aimed at the suburban adolescents who enjoyed the cinema so much. John Hughes was famous for such films, and his pictures, Weird Science in particular, show a move by Hollywood studios to capitalise on a contented and affluent middle America.

Another reason I have chosen this film is its reliance on technology, and the idea that at that time, the future of technology and computers in particular was still undefined. It shows that America had positive ambitions for the future, and that technology, whether for typing up homework or creating a curvaceous 6ft bombshell, would be a part of it somehow.

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