Molly Ringwald is the original—and definitive—teen movie star. For many of us, watching Ringwald’s coming-of-age movies was a coming-of-age experience in itself. However, it’s not an experience the star plans to share with her own children.
Molly Ringwald, John Hughes, And The Teen Movie Trifecta
She was undeniably Pretty In Pink. She found herself in The Breakfast Club. For everyone except her on-screen family, she made Sixteen Candles unforgettable. If you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with the plot of Ringwald’s breakout role, she played Sam, a teenager whose family was so wrapped up in her older sister’s upcoming wedding they forgot her milestone birthday.
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Yes, they were teen movies, but for many of us, they were more than that. From rites of passage to social issues, they covered sweet 16s, detention, and prom. They explored the wealth gap, peer pressure, family dysfunction, and stereotypes. They captured crushes, first kisses, and heart break—and don’t forget the parties, underage drinking, and iconic nicknames. These weren’t just teen movies; they were distinct stories united by universal themes: the search for identity and the struggle to fit in.
But as Ringwald pointed out in a 2018 essay for The New Yorker, her movies with writer/director John Hughes were problematic. They “could also be considered racist, misogynistic, and, at times, homophobic.”
“How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose?” she wrote. “What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”
Breaking Down The Breakfast Club
In her essay, Ringwald reflected on what it was like to watch The Breakfast Club with her then-ten-year-old daughter, Matilda “It’s a strange experience, watching a younger, more innocent version of yourself onscreen,” she wrote. “It’s stranger still—surreal, even—watching it with your child when she is much closer in age to that version of yourself than you are.”
“I worried that she would find aspects of it troubling,” the actress wrote, “but I hadn’t anticipated that it would ultimately be most troubling to me.”
Watching The Breakfast Club with her children isn’t an experience Ringwald plans to repeat. Now that her youngest children, twins Adele and Roman, are officially teens, she says she won’t watch her classic movies with them
“There is still so much that I love in them,” she wrote. “But lately I have felt the need to examine the role that these movies have played in our cultural life: where they came from, and what they might mean now.”