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As a child, I was obsessed with 80’s movies. I admired Ferris Bueller’s infectious charisma and fearless confidence. I dreamed of having my own Jake Ryan waiting outside the church, grinning an impish smile while standing by his cool red Porsche. I pitied poor Duckie who never got the girl, and rooted for Lloyd when he gained the courage to serenade his, albeit from a stereo. One movie in particular that I was always drawn to was St. Elmo’s Fire. Because I was young, I didn’t fully understand the conflicts that the characters faced. I only admired them, and dreamed of one day having a life like theirs. The movie begins on the characters’ graduation day from college. All seven of them are celebrating, hopeful and enthusiastic about the bright futures ahead of them. They seemed so grown-up, so successful and admirable. I knew from then on that I wanted to be like them.
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I, much like Judd Nelson’s character Alec, have always been drawn to the field of law. His character always struck a chord with me, because he was an up-and-coming yuppie, hoping for a job in politics. I was awed by him — by his intelligent and cool demeanor. I wanted nothing more than to one day be like him, to have his job, his opportunities. For different reasons, I also admired Andrew McCarthy’s character Kevin, the sullen writer with an uncorrupted heart and cynical thoughts. I thought he was an artist, a free spirit who created beauty and experienced pain. Then, Ally Sheedy’s character Leslie inspired me. She was a young girl who had applied herself, had studied hard and made her own way in life. Emilio Estevez’s character, Kirby, was a true romantic. He knew he loved a girl, and never gave up on his attempts to win her.
Recently, I sat down to watch the movie once more. I was surprised — disappointed, even — when I realized how much I had glorified these characters in my mind. They weren’t admirable, real life heroes, but rather a bunch of clueless, insensitive kids with too many problems for their own good. I was angry and upset. This sweet childhood memory had been shattered into a million pieces. I said some very exasperated, not-very-lady-like things about John Hughes.
After having settled down, I realized something. Maybe that sort of reaction was precisely what Mr. Hughes had intended. These characters weren’t perfect. They were just a bunch of young kids, lost and unsure of their futures. They made mistakes and said the wrong things and did the wrong things and hurt others and hurt themselves. They were real, raw. They were human.
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I saw myself in them. I shared their flaws, shared their strengths. I’m indecisive like Leslie, shy and quiet like Wendy, impatient like Alec, and a bit nuts like Jules. But I’m also kind and caring, again like Wendy. I’m thoughtful like Kevin, perseverant like Kirby, because those little things make us human: the balance of the good and the bad, the imperfections mixed with the values. Just like the characters in this movie, I learn from my mistakes. I better myself, and work hard to accomplish my goals. And that might just be the best movie ending of all.
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