There was a brief window in the 1980s when people told me I looked like Molly Ringwald. I have brown eyes, full lips, thick hair. I loved Molly. I loved the way she chewed her lip, how she gave off an aura of ‘I’m quite resilient, but also tender, baby, tender like the tiniest pea. Don’t come near me, but also come over and shuck me and eat me off a spoon.’
That window when people said I looked like Molly, Molly was so very hot then, and I loved her anyway. It wasn’t like I had to start loving her just because people said I looked like her. That was my pretty time. It was a good time. It was over before I had time to bask. I’m thankful it happened at all.
I even loved Molly’s name, like ‘dolly’ but with the gravitas of an ‘M’, like a gangster’s moll. She just kept getting hotter and brighter. She took ’16 Candles’ and raised it a ‘Breakfast Club’, then slapped down a ‘Pretty In Pink’.
Aah – ‘Pretty In Pink’ – I have seen it dozens of times. Although I’m pushing 40, it remains one of my favourite films.
I can’t see how bad it is, how cheesey because I can only see it with my teenaged, adoring eyes. That movie has everything perfect: The Smiths, second hand clothes, a record store, class war, an excellent soundtrack, ….and a funny alternative boy called ‘Duckie Dale’.
Duckie! He was so perfect and fey and heartbreaking. The scene where Duckie is sitting in his ugly bedroom on a dirty mattress, because he is poor and has no proper bed and he is longing for Molly (in the film, her character is called ‘Andy’ but really Molly only ever played Molly so I will call her Molly), but he knows it is fruitless, that she only loves his wit, the wit that is a blanket he hides under, an umbrella to shield him from how ugly and cruel the world is – that she will never love his sad, yearning entrails, his melancholic viscera, that he will have to carry on cracking jokes into her benevolent indifference because she will never be able to see him ‘in that way’- in that ‘love, love, won’t you run your hand along the swell of my inner thigh. Won’t you lie down on this mattress beside me so we can just gaze at each other without saying anything’ way.
In that scene, I think Duckie thinks, ‘although – Molly Ringwald- we laugh so hard together and I love that we laugh- it is not funny how much I love you, it is as serious as a dirty mattress on a floor in a shitty house somewhere west of privilege and south of comfort and yes, on the wrong side of the tracks, and you are the sun that comes in my curtains, you are the complete perfection of The Smiths playing over this scene. Yes, that is how deeply and seriously I love you, Molly, as serious as your alcoholic Dad and my broke-down house, as serious Morrissey’s voice on a dark Sunday afternoon.’
The Smiths’ song which plays over Duckie’s scene is ‘Please, please, please let me get what I want‘, but he won’t get it, certainly he won’t get Molly, not in the way he wants her. There is a scene at the end of the film where Duckie has his arm around a girl at the prom, so that the ending isn’t in any way sad, so that we aren’t left thinking ‘sure, Molly got her rich guy, but what about Duckie?’, but we know that he isn’t really into that girl. It’s just a noble act for Molly’s sake. He loves Molly so much he doesn’t want her to feel guilty.
That is how awesome Duckie is.
I think that is why ‘Pretty In Pink’ haunts so many aging Gen Xers – because, now even more than then, it’s clear that Molly chose the wrong guy. Blane (as Duckie said: ‘Blane? That’s not even a name, it’s an appliance!) might have been rich, but he was a vapid a-hole. The film is a tragedy, because Molly should have chosen Duckie.
I sure would have.
5 responses to “‘May I admire you again today?’”
I watched this recently and all I could think of was the rather creepy/co-dependent relationship she had with her dad. Yuck. And she SO should’ve chose Duckie he had style (and he loved her). But then children of alcoholics often choose unsuitable partners…
So, true! Her Dad is wonderfully creepy in the movie. Ick. And I love the record shop own, except for when she turns straight at the end – what a let-down!
I agree that Molly should have chosen Duckie. Characters often make the wrong choices in John Hughes movies – like Ally Sheedy going all pink at the end of The Breakfast Club. Gah! Maybe that’s deliberate – maybe John Hughes knew they were making the wrong choices, but he knew that most of his viewers wouldn’t realise until later, later when _they’d_ made their wrong choices too. Maybe he knew he was making tragedies in comedy’s clothes.
I know now (or by the age of 17) that Molly (Molly! I love her too!) should have chosen Duckie, but when I was 14 and first saw the movie I was not evolved enough to disagree with her choice of Blaine. I was not even dark enough to think she should have gone with James Spader. Blaine melted my 14-year-old heart. But as I’ve noted before, you were precociously cool, Helen! But oh, Duckie! Please, please, please, let him get what he wanted. He probably did by the time he was 22. Probably all the girls and boys were fighting over him. Oh, but what a movie! And Molly’s friend, the one with the dresses. The travesty of Molly cutting up that gorgeous 50s frock – but I kind of respect her for that, even though at the time I didn’t like the results. The music, the op-shops, the record store, that dance Duckie does to that soul song, Andy’s dad – it makes me so nostalgic!! Thanks for this, Helen. Beautiful post as always.