Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Andrew McCarthy Blues

VH-1 Classic recently broadcast Pretty in Pink, the 1986 John Hughes teen flick featuring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and the always-fun James Spader as the evil yuppie, a role he typecast with great zest through the early 90s. Those John Hughes movies from the 80s have not aged well. They weren’t that hot to begin with, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off being the best of the bunch because they were innocuous concepts to begin with, but stuff like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club are just bad melodrama with a teen 80s sheen (that worked at the time). If you’re pining for a John Hughes flick these days, or buying the DVDs, chances are you were a child or early teen circa 1985.

Watching Pretty in Pink reminded me what a pussy Andrew McCarthy was often asked to portray in these 80s flicks. He played roughly the same role in St. Elmo’s Fire: an intelligent, good-looking young guy who was awkward with the ladies, and some may have surmised that he was in the nascent stages of sexual discovery that would lead him to the other side of the plate. He had the same role in Less than Zero, save this time he actually got laid, albeit the sex scene he shares with Jami Gertz has to be one of the most unerotic ever filmed. (Considering how hot Gertz looked at the time, this is the cinematic equivalent of whiffing with two outs and the bases loaded … then again, she must have had a “no nudity” clause in her contract which only added to the fake dry-hump quality of the scene.)

The problem with popular movies that are very much of their time: if you resemble one of the characters in the movie, not so much physically but as an archetype, people will often associate the traits of that character with you. In other words, back in the 80s, I had the Andrew McCarthy Blues. I was a smart kid, reasonably attractive, well kept, sincere and just as awkward as McCarthy was in these movies. McCarthy’s only saving grace in Pretty in Pink was that there was a character who was an even bigger pussy than he was: Jon Cryer as Molly Ringwald’s wacky, new-wave sidekick, who was madly in love with her while she treated him like a eunuch. I guess the Jon Cryer Blues would have been worse to have, save he only played that role once and didn’t get typecast as a potential polesmoker.

What happened to those blues? Well, two things. One, after the deplorable Weekend at Bernie’s flicks, McCarthy faded from A-level view. A quick perusal over at shows that he has worked steadily since then with bit roles on TV series and such, but the guy faded from the cultural limelight. Thus, it wouldn’t occur to anyone to identify a person in their life with a character he played in a movie.

Two, I grew up. That certain kind of “is he/isn’t he” dilemma that haunts so many guys in their teens and early 20s disappeared, save for those wondrous seers who claim to have “gadar” yet could be in a room full of gay guys and not know it. Understand that if you don’t get married, people are always going to waste too much time pondering your sexuality – I think that’s just the herd mentality of our culture.

I honestly think there are a lot of people out there who would have been much happier staying single and not forcing themselves into these machine-like reproductive roles that go along with their predictable game plans. Obviously, with divorce rates well over 50%, and plenty of the still-married minority percentage fucking around regularly, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not sold on the concept of marriage. I think you should do it only if you want kids and are committed to the relationship. I also think if you want to have multiple sex partners, you should, and not make a mess of your family’s lives when the spouse you’ve made a vow to discovers this unfortunate penchant. Then again, after 20 years in New York offices, I can see that the money generated by some folks is such that a guy’s wandering dick is a delicate, tolerated and open secret, lest the financial empire a man and wife have built gets rocked.

People may be amoral, but that doesn’t make them stupid. We live in an age where people want everything and are spoiled enough to think they can have it. That’s the exact kind of thing Andrew McCarthy’s character would have said in one of those John Hughes flicks, muttering the line cynically in a soda shop, while a pretty girl with a symmetrical 80s hair cut and parachute pants nods knowingly and wonders why he hasn’t tried to tear off her blouse yet. The way the Rob Lowe character did at the beer blast last Saturday night.

For me, the Andrew McCarthy Blues have turned into the realization that I’m just in no hurry and feel no pressure in terms of forcing myself into relationships. I surely felt that way for a long time – well into my 30s – but after awhile, I can tell you, if you don’t play the game, you get used to and appreciate the freedom to live your life any way you choose. To the extent that it’s going to be harder for me now to start a relationship for the simple reason that I feel fine without one. (Maintaining one would be no problem – talking myself into one, there’s the rub.) I remember that gnawing suspicion that something had to happen, fast, before “it was too late” or something melodramatic like that. With women, I can see that there is a time factor in terms of fertility, but guys don’t have that biological clock, no matter what shitty articles in self-help and women’s magazines put forth. We have biological cocks that go off with alarming regularity.

According to that page on McCarthy, in 1999 he married his college sweetheart after 20 years (presumably apart and rediscovered?), and they’re still married and have one kid. That seems to be exactly the kind of thing his character in one of those 80s flicks would do.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that however fucked up you think you are, you are rarely that fucked up. Sure, some people are, but they’re usually so far gone that they’re not pausing to ponder their plight. If you’re pausing to ponder, that should be a sign to you that the time and sanity you’re spending to do so are an indication that you’re doing fine. Think you should be married? Or even getting laid more? Maybe you should. Maybe you shouldn’t. Ultimately, it’s not that burning an issue, unless you make it one. And to make it one is to go outside yourself and adopt the stance of a judgmental outsider looking to find fault as a sort of affirmation. People want to believe you’re as fucked up as they are as a form of solidarity: falling back with the Joneses.

Does that make any sense? I know it sounds a bit convoluted, but I’ll let it sit like that as indication of how tangled your thoughts can get when you waste your time on useless things. I guess the root of the Andrew McCarthy Blues, the worthwhile part of the blues, is an odd form of self assurance. You may be a bit of a pussy, but you’re a self-assured pussy. Whatever the world holds in store, you’ll deal with it, and still go on being a bit of a pussy. I recognize a sort of moral toughness in the Andrew McCarthy Blues, a refusal to act how people think you should act to avoid being thought of as somehow unusual. A toughness born of blue balls and Electric Light Orchestra albums, if such a thing is possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You seriously think "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" hasn't aged well?

Fuck you, clown. If there's anything that hasn't aged well, it's your blog post.