Categories
Achievement

John Hughes: Reaching New Levels of Achievement in Hollywood

John Hughes: Reaching New Levels of Achievement in Hollywood David Bordwell (2006) firmly believes that when faced with the challenge of creating, people ask themselves how they can raise the premises to new levels of achievement, or revive a disreputable genre. He argues that people challenge themselves with the question ‘How can I make casual connections more felicitous, twists more unexpected, character psychology more involving, excitement more intense, motifs more tightly woven? How can I display my own virtuosity? Following this quote and my own research, I’ve come to believe that John Hughes is a very significant example of a filmmaker to reach a whole new level of achievement in Hollywood. As the director and writer of several well-known teen movies such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), from the mid-1980s Hughes has been respected as one of the more influential figures of Hollywood for redefining and leaving a long-lasting impression on movies with a teen demographic.
Through deeply focusing on new themes and motifs such as social hierarchy, he undeniably changed the teen movie genre forever by creating sympathy and understanding for adolescent characters. In the 1980s, teenager’s attitudes were changing, and many theorists believe music television was to blame. Shary (2005) states that with celebrity appearances, commercials, and a brand-new, fast-paced style, MTV became “the court where youth culture was told what was cool”.
He also believes that the political changes in America also heavily influenced teenagers perspectives, especially after the “carefree attitudes” of Carter’s presidency turned into the “peremptory dictates of Regan’s decade”. He states that: “The new Republican ethos may have won over voters, but at the same time its naive ‘just say no’ approach to serious adolescent choices gave youth a renewed sense of irritation for adult authority. ” To express their views on America’s politics, the youth became eager to experiment with sex and drugs, and Hollywood felt the effect of the youth’s impact and took note.

At this time period, Hollywood was experiencing a transition of sorts, between what was labelled as the Hollywood Renaissance (Schatz,1993), into a more contemporary style of cinema which theorist Geoff King (2002) labelled as ‘New Hollywood Version 2’. To understand the breakthrough of John Hughes’ movies, we must understand that before his directorial debut of Sixteen Candles, films of the 1980s were not sympathetic to teens, and the majority f said films came in the form of slasher movies, or sex-comedies, where audiences would watch teenagers be embarrassed and hurt in various different forms. In this period of transition, these movies would reap in profits, but did not focus on character psychology or emphasise performance the way earlier examples did. In this transition period, Hughes’ managed, in some form, to stay true to the earlier, character-based films, but still managed to produce a successful profit, without any high-scale production that would turn his films into the newer, blockbuster style pictures.
He often worked on more than one movie at once, and released them very close together, in a way that provided more money for the studios, as his reputation as a director became more well-known and his movies became more successful. It’s important to note also, that his films were released at a time where VCR and home videos were becoming more and more popular, which meant that young adults could watch his films over and over at home, and create a personal relationship with the characters.
As a director, Hughes knew exactly what he wanted; to show teenagers as important, intelligent, and not the sex-crazed and shallow adolescents that earlier movies portrayed them to be. Gora (2010) proposes that: “What would set Hughes apart, in an age when other filmmakers were quick to portray teens as vapid, horny, pimpled caricatures, was that he was wise enough to present the teenage experience with the pain, seriousness, and melodrama that so often imbues age. As proven by films such as Losin’ It (1983) and Little Darlings (1980), many movies in the early 1980s revolved simply around “the quest of teens to lose their virginity” (Shary, 2005). Although Hughes has focused on the theme of sex, it is just one of many different themes and motifs in his films, including the ever-popular idea of social hierarchy, or parental pressure. Sixteen Candles, centres around the story of sixteen-year old Sam (portrayed by Molly Ringwald), whose birthday is forgotten by her family in favour of her older sister’s wedding the next day.
This film includes the only completely nude scene of any of Hughes’ movies, and was only included due to pressure from the network, who insisted that it was needed in order to compete with the other teen films on the market. The scene itself is not remotely sexual however, and exists only to emphasise Sam’s self-consciousness, when she and her best friend spy on the girlfriend of her biggest crush whilst in the shower after gym. It does include many of the cliches, such as the virgin esperate to have sex, the rich teen driving an expensive car which will undoubtedly be wrecked somehow, or a house party where the house is destroyed, but unlike other teen films, it encourages us to laugh with the characters rather than at them. To portray the idea of social hierarchy, where some sort of clique is ‘better’ than another, Hughes’ often uses a form of what Roz Kaveney (2006) entitles the ‘anthropology shot’. Kaveney states that “such shots establish a number of social groups among high school students and pan between them to demonstrate social divisions”.
This shot can be effective because despite the fact that we will only really know a few select characters, it is able to establish the kind of environment they are living in. An example of said shot is used in Sixteen Candles, introducing the ‘geeks’ at the dance. Although Hughes’ did not invent the shot, many films have reproduced the way he used it, such as Mean Girls (2004), where the character Janice introduces Cady to the social cliques in the cafeteria.
As well as the anthropology shot, Hughes’ also used many low-angle shots in his films to connote the sense of inadequacy teenagers feel when looking at the world. This is also used often when the characters talk to adults, and is especially prominent in The Breakfast Club when the characters talk to the principal. This shows the control Principal Vernon has over the kids, and enforces the belief that because they are young, they aren’t as powerful. Hughes,’ as a director, paid a great deal of attention to setting social background in his films.
The opening of The Breakfast Club, the story of five teens of different cliques who must spend their Saturday in detention, uses single shots to give us a feel for each character. Claire, for example, the typical rich and popular ‘princess’ is introduced with the shot of a prom queen poster, although we haven’t officially met her character yet. Similarly, John Bender, the ‘criminal’ problem-child, is introduced using a shot of a vandalized locker with a noose attached.
The film officially opens with a glass-shattering transition to an introductory shot of the high school, which could be read as foreshadowing; eventually, the character’s defences are broken down, and they open up to each other to become friends. The writing of Hughes’ films brought a great deal of attention to motifs that hadn’t been paid much attention before, such as the idea of the child acting like the parent. A prime example of this is Sixteen Candles, where Sam’s mother apologises to her for missing her birthday. In this scene, Sam, the teenager, is the one to comfort her emotional mother, and say “It’s okay, these things happen”.
Themes also explored were the ideas parental pressure, such as The Breakfast Club, where geeky Brian contemplated suicide because he feared his parents would be disappointed in him for failing his first class, or the theme of money and social classes, which Hughes’ addressed by pairing Claire and Bender together; the rich girl with the poor boy. He also brings a new light to female sexuality, which the character of Alison addresses directly; “If you say you haven’t you’re a prude. And if you say you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap. Seeing such touching scenes on screen empowers teens, and helps the audience sympathize with their experiences. Said themes have since been addressed in many teen movies to this date, such as Clueless (1995) or Easy A (2010). The impact that John Hughes has left on Hollywood is undoubtable and everlasting. Despite the fact that it has been over twenty-five years since The Breakfast Club was released, for example, countless references are still made to the film in today’s pop culture, including homages in NBC’s cult TV show ‘Community’ and a mention in CW’s ‘Gossip Girl’ (“we’re the non-judging Breakfast Club”).
Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, is also a huge fan of the film. Bart Simpson’s famous catchphrase ‘eat my shorts’ is a direct reference to John Bender’s line, which he says defiantly to Principal Vernon. Judd Nelson’s portrayal of the character was also the inspiration for the name of Futurama’s temperamental robot Bender. The movie has also been spoofed in many American advertisements, including the 2008 commercial for chain clothing store JCPenney.
The back-to-school line was heavily influenced by The Breakfast Club, and featured teenagers dancing in a library to the most popular song from the soundtrack, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’. Not Another Teen Movie (2001) was a complete parody of the majority of Hughes’ material, and featured a cameo from Molly Ringwald as an adult who disapproved of teenagers. To this day, Hughes’ is continually paid homage to, and because of the way he changed the portrayal of teenagers, people will continue to do so for a long time. (Word count: 1,643) References & Bibliography Driscoll, C (2011).
Teen Film: A Critical Introduction. UK: Berg. Easy A, 2010. [DVD] Will Gluck, United States: Sony Pictures. Clueless, 1995. [DVD] Amy Heckerling, United States: Universal Pictures. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986. [DVD] John Hughes, United States: Paramount Pictures Gora, S (2010). You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and their Impact on a Generation. New York: Crown Publishing Group Kaveney, R (2006). Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars. London: I. B. Tauris King, G (2002). New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction.
London: I. B. Tauris Little Darlings, 1980. [DVD] Ronald F. Maxwell, United States: Stephen Friedman/King’s Road Productions Losin’ It, 1983. [DVD] Curtis Hanson, United States: Tiberius Film Productions Mean Girls, 2004. [DVD] Mark Waters, United States: Paramount Pictures Pretty in Pink, 1986. [DVD] Howard Deutch, United States: Paramount Pictures Shary, T (2005). Teen Movies: American Youth on Screen. London: Wallflower Press Sixteen Candles, 1984. [DVD] John Hughes, United States: Universal Pictures The Breakfast Club, 1985. [DVD] John Hughes, United States: Universal Pictures

Categories
Achievement

The African American Achievement Gap:

The African American Achievement Gap: Why is it There and What Can be Done Are Black Americans Dumber than White Americans? Can it unequivocally be stated that European Americans hold more intelligence then African Americans? Are African Americans genetically wired to have a lesser mental capacity then European Americans? For a long time this was the explanation to a burning problem. African Americans score lower than White Americans on vocabulary, reading, and mathematics tests, as well as on tests that claim to measure scholastic aptitude and intelligence. This gap appears before children enter kindergarten and it persists into adulthood. The typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on most standardized tests. On some tests the typical American black scores below more than 85 percent of whites. ” (CHRISTOPHER, JENCKS) This test score gap is not an inevitable fact of nature. It is true that the gap shrinks only a little when black and white children attend the same schools. It is also true that the gap shrinks only a little when black and white families have the same amount of schooling, the same income, and the same wealth.
However, after extensive research, no one has found any evidence saying that blacks have less intellectual ability than whites. So what causes this gap in test scores? Some attribute it to the culture of African Americans. They say that African Americans are uninterested in learning and don’t seek to pursue academic excellence. Some attribute the gap to testing conditions. Some attribute it to concepts such as “White Guilt” and “Stereotype Threat. ”(Will be explained later) I however cannot attribute it to any one thing. This whole issue cannot be explained by one concept.
Rather then trying to describe the achievement gap with one concept, I attribute it to a combination of many. The reason for the perceived gap in test scores is an intricate combination of things such as Stereotype threat, White Guilt, and Culture. On this issue, Thomas Sowell takes the position that this gap has nothing to do with racism or race. Sowell says, “For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race-that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people.

The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th Century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites. ” (Sowell, Thomas) However, his research showed something different. With his study at Harvard, he noticed that most of the black alumni were either from “the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both. ” (Sowell, Thomas) This completely dispels the idea of race being a factor. So what does cause the gap?
Sowell believes Culture does. His main argument is that the culture from so-called “rednecks” from Europe caused this uneducated culture seen in blacks. He says, “The culture of the people who were called “rednecks” and “crackers” before they ever got on the boats to cross the Atlantic was a culture that produce far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as high levels of violence and sexual promiscuity. ” (Sowell, Thomas) Now the most important points raised are that only a third of whites lived in this culture while 90% of blacks live in it.
Of course culture fades away eventually but, it has very slow within the black community; especially in the worst black ghettos in the country. This is a culture of counter productivity and self-destruction. Sowell says all blacks are regarded this way. However, the question has to be asked; can this really be applied to all blacks? It really can’t. Culture can be a valid explanation for this particular group of black people but it does not prove anything for all blacks. Not all blacks are from the ghetto.
Some actually come from prominent, stable homes. Some actually come from the same environment as successful whites and Langston Hughes takes a look at some of these people. Hughes also takes the view of culture but he examines it from the view of blacks that are not stuck in the ghetto but have stable backgrounds. Hughes takes the view that blacks are actually hindering themselves. He says that there is a huge obstacle standing in the way of every black person. He actually makes a reference about artist but it can be viewed as any black person.
He says the obstacle is, “this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible. ” (Hughes, Langston) His example is a poet. This poet subconsciously wants to be white because he feels it will make him a better poet. This poet comes from a strong background in the middle class. According to Hughes, they attend church; the father has a steady job; the mother works on occasion; and the children attend mixed schools.
However, the problem comes with how the parents treat their children. The mother says things like, “Don’t be like niggers” when the children are bad. In turn the father says things like, “Look how well a white man does things. ” So in this home and many others, black is not praised or celebrated it is taught to be ashamed of. They are taught to want to be white. It is staggering what blacks do to themselves because of this. Fist Hughes says the more predominant don’t support their own people.
His example is that, A “Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear “that woman. ” Clara Smith, a great artist, sing Negro folk songs. ” (Hughes, Langston) This is the problem with many blacks. They don’t support their own people in anything because they don’t feel it will be accepted by whites and, that is ultimately what they want. Hughes also alludes to how blacks don’t’ support their own until whites do.
His example is “a young colored writer who had been writing well for the colored magazines for some years, but it was not until he recently broke into the white publications and his first book was accepted by a prominent New York publisher that the “best” Negros in his city took the trouble to discover that he lived there. ” (Hughes, Langston) The key here is “white. ” Blacks are afraid to be who they are because white is seen as the ultimate goal. Black is seen as inferior. So can this be applied to test taking? It certainly can. If blacks are feeling inferior then their test performance cannot be as good as whites.
Hughes is saying that being black is a hindrance that was built by blacks ourselves. But can this still be applied to all blacks. No it can’t because not all blacks come from households where white power is subconsciously feed to them. Some come from homes where black is celebrated. But for some reason the gap is still there but why? Shelby Steele’s position on the matter is based on the theory of White Guilt. White Guilt is a “vacuum of moral authority in matters of race, equality and opportunity that comes from the association of mere white skin with America’s historical racism.
It is the stigmatization of whites and, more importantly, American institutions with the sin of racism. ” (Steele, Shelby) Simply meaning that all white institutions are doing whatever they have to do not to appear racist. According to Steele this started right after the civil-rights movement. Where he believes that blacks made, “the greatest miscalculation in black American history. ” (Steele, Shelby) He says, we allowed ourselves to see a greater power in America’s liability for our oppression than we saw in ourselves. (Steele, Shelby) This meaning blacks saw an opportunity to get lazy because they thought they could get more out of taking what whites give rather then working to take their own. According to Steele, blacks have been living in an age of white guilt for about a few decades now. So Steele is taking the position that the achievement gap is where it is at because blacks do not have to work as much as they did before. Steele uses the example of a University. There is no way that they would admit students just based on academia because chances are there would be little to no black faces at the University.
This university would be called racist and scrutinized heavily. In Modern time, it is politically correct to include blacks in all walks of life. During the Civil Rights Movement, being black was terrible thing. You were punished for it. Today blacks are rewarded for it in many ways. It is good but bad also. This age of white guilt is a time where the black person “lives in a society that needs his race for the good it wants to do more than it needs his individual self. His race makes him popular with the white institutions and unifies him with blacks. ” (Steele, Shelby) This however limits him as a person.
This gives him less desire to work hard. What’s the point when things will just be put in his hand anyway? Steele uses Dr. Cornel West as an example. Dr. West was promoted to a full professorship at Harvard, which is a very high honor. However Steele says, “It was never Cornel West-the individual- that Harvard wanted; it was the defanged protest identity that he carried, which redounded to the university as racial innocence itself. How could anyone charge this university with racism when it promoted Cornel West to its higher reaches? ” (Steele, Shelby) So there lies the main point. Dr.
West achieved high position by doing less work. This is Steele’s explanation as to why the achievement gap is there. Blacks simply do not have to work as hard as they once did to succeed because the whites are “too eager for the moral authority black skin offers them. ” (Steele, Shelby) Can this explanation be applied to all blacks? Again some blacks are exempt from this. Some take the easy way out and take full advantage of things like affirmative action. However, some do actually work at what they do. But, for some reason, there is still a gap within this group that is working hard. Why is that? Claude M.
Steele offers the concept of Stereotype Threat as the reason this gap exists. Stereotype threat is “the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype, or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype. ” (Steele, Claude M) Stereotype threat can be used to explain the reason that hard working goal oriented black Americans contribute to the achievement gap. When it comes to matters of race, it is assumed that a particular situation is experienced in much the same way by different groups of people. This is especially assumed to be true in test taking.
However, this is often times not true for blacks. Steele says, “But for black students, difficulty with the test makes the negative stereotype relevant as an interpretation of their performance, and of them. They know that they are especially likely to be seen as having limited ability. ” (Steele, Claude M) It is not that blacks are in anyway inferior its just a certain pressure is always put on them when doing things like taking test. This is because tests are often given as a test to measure ability, so because of the negative stereotype blacks feel an added pressure and succumb to it.
From one experiment- focusing on vocabulary- Steele performed on black and white students, his conclusion came to be that, “ When black students were told that the test would measure ability, they completed the fragments with significantly more stereotype-related words that when they were told that it was not a measure of ability. ” Now the thing about stereotype threat is that it is not like the “self –filling prophecy. ” They don’t think they will perform inadequately and then in-turn score low. Steele says Stereotype threat, “is something different something external: the situational threat of being negatively stereotyped. So Stereotype threat can be applied to hard working black Americans because it only exist if they care that the negative stereotype is there. So these students actually work so hard to disprove the stereotype that they actually hinder themselves. For one of Steele’s experiments he noticed this to be true. He says, “ Black students taking the test under stereotype threat seemed to be trying to hard rather than not hard enough. They reread the question, reread the multiple choice, and recheck their answers, more then when they were not under stereotype threat. (Steele, Claude M) So what this did was make the test takers inefficient. If you think to long on standardized to you are automatically hindering a very good score. So the reason hard working black Americans contribute to the gap is evident. But, like it was previously stated, not all black Americans actually work hard so this cannot be the only reason the gap exist. I believe the gap exist because of a combination of a few of the afore mentioned arguments. Yes Sowell’s point is valid but the culture argument cannot be applied to all blacks.
Yes Langston Hughes point is valid but his aspect of culture cannot be applied to all blacks. The same goes for both Shelby and Claude Steele. Applying one of these theories to an entire race of people to explain the gap in test scores will just not suffice. I can honestly say that throughout my life experiences that I have seen every theory for myself. I have seen and lived among the people that these theories apply to and I believe that it all culminates to create the observed gap between African Americans and other ethnic groups.
Sowell is absolutely correct when he says there is a self destructive, counterproductive culture in the nations ghettos. Everyone I know from these areas thinks that way. They do not like learning; they hate hard work and are content being at the lower rungs of life. So when the children do go to school and take there standardized test, more often then not, they don’t try. They have a “whatever” attitude towards it. And for the few that do try, they just aren’t prepared because the people around them and raising them have this disdain towards learning.
I have a close connection with people who embody the “White Guilt” theory and the “Stereotype threat” idea. I have lived with it all of my life and I can say it has affected me. In high school and even in college I have seen an abundance of students who are whole-heartedly living in the age of white guilt. It’s not that they don’t’ try it’s just they do enough to get by because they know if they make it to a certain point, aids like affirmative action and minority quotas will take them where they need to go. So when it comes to test taking they do try, but won’t stress themselves out over it.
Although they are just as smart as their white counterparts, they just don’t see the need to put in the extra effort. Students that experience stereotype threat are just as prevalent. I can say that I fit into this mold. These students do in fact try to hard. They try so hard to prove the stereotype wrong they actually end of proving it. They try so hard not to make mistakes on the test that they do. They try so hard not to contribute to the gap, they actually do. So the reason the gap exist is a combination of many different people that come from different demographics and situations.
All of these added together make the achievement gap in test scores. It is clear to see that this gap cannot be explained by one theory. Too many blacks come from to many different situations for this to be the case. So we can see that when these are added up it amounts to the gap in test scores among other things. So how can it be fixed? Just like there is not one factor contributing to the gap, there is not one way to fix the gap. The solution would be more of a chain reaction effect. The problem starts in the inner city where the lazy “I don’t care” attitude is prevalent.
These are the people that create the negative stereotype black people have. So the blacks that are doing better than these people and are trying to do better in life have to bear the burden that the “ghetto” blacks place on them. The people that apply to Hughes theory are ashamed of them. The people in Shelby Steele’s theory are lazy because the world is trying to integrate them (the ghetto blacks). And the people in Claude Steele’s theory are working so hard to overcome the stereotype the “ghetto” blacks have placed on them.
Until the blacks from the inner city change nothing will. The blacks in the higher rungs of life can’t change their ways, in this case test taking ways, until the burden placed on them is lifted. So until the inner city mentality changes, the gap will forever be there. Works Cited CHRISTOPHER, JENCKS. “The Black-White Test Score Gap. ” The New York Times. 1998. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. . Hughes, Langston. “”The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926). ” Welcome to English « Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois. 926. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. . Sowell, Thomas. “Thomas Sowell — Crippled by Their Culture. ” OrthodoxyToday. org | Home. 26 Apr. 2005. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. . Steele, Shelby. “The Age of White Guilt: and the Disappearance of the Black Individual. ” CIR Home. Nov. 2002. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. . Steele, Claude M. “Thin Ice: “Stereotype Threat” and Black College Students – 99. 08. ” The Atlantic — News and Analysis on Politics, Business, Culture, Technology, National, International, and Food a? “ TheAtlantic. com. 1999. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. .