If you decide to read the book Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Any More), here’s something to keep in mind: author Hadley Freeman may defend movies you hate and ignore movies you love. It is, after all, her book. But that shouldn’t be the reason you love or hate this book. A better reason to feel things about this book is that it forces you to take a closer look at many of the 80s movies you grew up watching, and many of those movies might look completely different upon closer examination.
Allow me to explain.
Life Moves Pretty Fast is made up of thought-provoking essays on select issues from a pretty wide-range of 80s movies. Issues like racism, sexism, and transphobia. If you’ve never looked at your favourite John Hughes movie from this angle, it can be a little jarring. I’m ashamed to admit that I never really paid attention to the whole rape-as-comedy thing in Sixteen Candles, but I’m pretty sure I’ll cringe the next time I watch it. And you know what? That’s totally ok.
Freeman’s book made me appreciate certain 80s movies even more than I already did, especially Dirty Dancing (even though I thought I could never love it more), Baby Boom (I haven’t seen this recently but have a feeling I’ll be rewatching it very soon), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (one of my all-time favourite movies). I won’t give too much away about these essays, but here are some quotes that really stood out to me and made me want to revisit these classic films.
Dirty Dancing & Reproductive Rights
“When I wrote the film, abortion — like feminism — was one of those issues that people thought just wasn’t relevant anymore. A lot of young women thought those battles were won, and talking about it was tiresome. But I thought Roe versus Wade was precarious, and that’s why I put in all that purple language about the ‘dirty knife’ and everything. The film is set in 1963 but came out in 1987 and I wanted young women seeing the film to understand that it wasn’t just that she went to Planned Parenthood and it went wrong.”
– Eleanor Bergstein, writer
Baby Boom & Feminism
“If anyone watching Baby Boom today finds themselves wondering why this film feels still so relevant and why so many of the issues raised in this movie made more than thirty years ago — such as women’s basic rights in the workplace in the first world — are still a problem, here’s at least part of your answer. If even prominent and privileged women and modern TV shows and films made for women feel embarrassed about standing up specifically for women, then it’s hardly a surprise that sexism in male-dominated systems continues to thrive.”
– Hadley Freeman (page 195)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off & Social Class
“Class consciousness was very important to John, and you can see it as he wrote about it so much. He didn’t talk about things like that so much but as time has passed I’ve realized that although he was very conservative politically, I think, he had a real problem with wealth when it was too concentrated. He always writes about it, even in something like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There’s often somebody with money and somebody without. With Ferris, he tried to keep it on a fable level but those elements are definitely still in there.”
– Matthew Broderick, actor