I love to share my beloved old movies with my kids and watch their reactions. This past weekend, I saw one of my favorite teen movies, Pretty in Pink, with my thirteen-year-old daughter.
Pretty in Pink came out when I was sixteen. In case you were not a sixteen-year-old girl in 1986, here’s a synopsis: Molly Ringwald plays a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who goes to a school where the haves and the have-nots mix, but not too happily. The haves are mostly not very nice. Well, except adorable Andrew McCarthy, who buys a Lawrence Welk vinyl album from the Molly Ringwald at the record store where she works to show that he is smitten. (Asked if she had ever seen a vinyl album, my daughter replied, “Well, yeah, like in cartoons and stuff. I’ve never, you know, actually seen one in real life.” I was embarrassed to tell her I still have a crate of them).
Did I mention this movie is 27 years old? Eek.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen this flick since Reagan was president I think it’s safe to spoil a few things for you. Andie (Molly Ringwald’s character) has a best friend named Duckie, played by a very cute and very young Jon Cryer. He is like her – offbeat, an eclectic dresser and a true individual, also a have-not. (I just loved the courage to be themselves they both seemed to have). Also, he adores her. Goes to her house to pretend-study (but really just to gaze at her), rides his bike past her house obsessively. Heck, he even chills with her dad. He is Serious Boyfriend Material. She just doesn’t know it.
Instead, Andie likes the Andrew McCarthy’s character, Blaine. They hang out, kiss (Assessment from my daughter: “Eeew, people kissed so gross in the 80’s. They’re like eating each other’s faces.”). Blaine asks Andie to the prom.
Misunderstandings occur, Blaine bows to pressure from his snobby friends and “dis-invites” Andie. She goes anyway and meets up with Duckie by cinematic accident. But then Blaine swoops in and, with Duckie’s blessing (“You came here alone. Go after him.”) Andie chases after him to the parking lot where they engage in another “gross” 80’s kiss.
Fade out to the fabulous OMD song, “If You Leave” and into a majorly significant cultural moment of my adolescence.
Except, here’s the thing: somewhere in the middle of watching it as a 43-year-old woman, I realized… Andie should have ended up with Duckie. I don’t know if you can fully appreciate the way this rocked my universe. I used to love that ending. It spoke to all my hopes and the things that dazzled me (I mean, come on, Blaine drove a BMW, people). Plus Blaine was clearly way cuter and a better dresser that Duckie. Andie was lucky to get him in the end.
Except, no, she wasn’t. Duckie was constant and devoted and funny. Blaine was weak and a little mean (he just stopped calling at one point, with no explanation). What Blaine offers is superficial. Clearly the whole movie Duckie is being set up as the better guy that she finally sees for the first time when they run into each other at prom. In fact, a little Googling reveals that that’s exactly the ending that was originally written and shot for the film. The test audience (no doubt vapid little sixteen-year-olds like me who also didn’t understand what makes for a solid relationship) hated it, so they re-shot it with her getting the “better” guy.
And a significant moment of my adolescence becomes a significantly happy moment of my middle age when I realize that I have finally figured out what a good guy looks like. The other bonus? Unprompted, my daughter had a viscerally negative reaction to the ending. “This is horrible. Why doesn’t she end up with Duckie? He’s clearly a nicer guy.” Let’s hope she is spared 27 years of falling for the glitzy “bad boys.” And, pat on the back for Mom for raising the kind of girl who knows that at thirteen.