When it came to John Hughes movies of my ’80s teen years, Pretty in Pink had that attribute I valued most: a genius soundtrack. I wore out my cassette version, which included New Order ("Shellshock"), Echo and the Bunnymen ("Bring on the Dancing Horses") and, of course, the title track by the Psychedelic Furs.
What the movie lacked, however, was a romantic lead I could get behind. No disrespect to Andrew McCarthy, who did the best he could playing Blane, the biggest wet rag of a love interest in cinema. How could our girl Andie (Molly Ringwald) — who single-handedly propelled her broken-hearted father back into the land of the living, designed her own prom dress and pulled off the tricky redhead/pink wardrobe combo with aplomb — settle for a guy whose entrance music should be a sad trombone?
Lest you think I’m Team Duckie, let me assure you, even with his Otis Redding lip-synch skills, Jon Cryer's Duckie scared me more than Blane. His cologne was Eau de Desperation. But since it’s Blane for whom Andie is pining, I thought I’d break down the reasons why she should think again.
There’s Andie in the library, staring at the ginormous ’80s black computer screen that could accommodate only one fact plus a blinking cursor at a time, and who pops up to chat? Blane, who has somehow created a program that shows photos, which was, in terms of everyday computer life, aeons away. Creepy factor? Through the roof.
Of course, Blane had nothing on Duckie when it came to actual stalking. Between the bike drive-bys, the false alarms and the visits to Andie’s dad to discuss marriage, Duckie was one restraining order away from asking Andie if he could wear her skin as a suit.
I know we all look back at our teenage years with horror at our fashion choices, and the '80s were a particularly challenging time to exercise fashion judgment for young adults. Still, did everything Blane wore need to be topped with a burlap sack with lapels? Then again, he had nothing on James Spader’s rich boy snob Steff McKee when it came to sartorial mistakes. Steff wore suits to high school every day. School may have been where he went on coffee breaks at his banking internship.
Really, Blane? Your idea of a fun first date for the low-income girl you’re trying to impress is to drag her off to a rich-kid party, where people dancing in boxers and Brooks Brothers shirts are going to judge her choice of jewelry? Next, it’s off to sit on some scratchy hay bales at your polo club, where grooms are apparently spying for your parents to make sure you don’t date 99 percenters. For the third date, maybe just tie a raw steak to Andie’s neck with a pink ribbon and send her running through your fox-hunting-dog kennel.
Blane's best friend Steff has an outsize, louche influence over Blane. I think Steff’s power emanates from his perfectly feathered hair. But even Duckie — stalker Duckie — finds a backbone when Andie’s honor is on the line and instigates a spectacularly ineffective beatdown of the Steffmeister in the middle of the school hallway.
Blane is given at least five golden opportunities to slap the smug right off Steff’s face; instead, he pensively bites his lower lip while his eyes fill with tears. That’s not helpful, Blane. Andie can do that for herself.
You may not know that in the original movie version, Andie ends up with Duckie (because Stockholm Syndrome? I’m still against it). But test audiences protested, and they needed to reshoot the ending. Unfortunately, McCarthy had gone on to his next project, a stage play that required him to shave his head. So that thing on his head is not, as you could be forgiven for thinking, a very tired muskrat. It’s a toupee.
I know, different movie, different director. But if you can’t make Jake Ryan the love interest for every movie (and you can’t, because as soon as Sixteen Candles was over, he ascended back to Mt. Olympus), you have to go with the boombox-raising, scrappy, trenchcoat-wearing Dobler, who had more in common with Andie than anyone else in the whole Pretty in Pink universe.
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