Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I AM DUCKIE.



(This essay is in celebration of tomorrow night's screening of Pretty In Pink (featuring Jon Cryer!!) at the New Beverly Cinema as part of the Mondo Diablo film festival.)

When I saw Pretty In Pink for the first time, it was like the fucking scales fell off my eyes. Prior to this, I'd always assumed that the reason I couldn't score with the ladies -- like, ever -- was because I was ugly. I mean, you guys see what I look like, right? I'm not hideous. I'm smart and funny and sorta charming and I dress interestingly, what's not to like? So I just assumed I was looking at myself with over-familiar eyes and figured there must be something I wasn't seeing. Maybe girls didn't like guys with big noses. Maybe I wasn't friggin' blonde enough. Maybe I shoulda been more footbally. I dunno. Something.

But no. The reason was because I was -- and still am -- Duckie.

Its more than just a surface thing, although at the time the movie was released I fucking DRESSED just like Duckie, even before the movie came out. That was a pretty canny portrayal of New Wave Geek Circa 1986, and props to the costume person, because I was wearing that vintage jacket / bolo tie / shirt-with-the-collars-up / hat combo. And I, like Duckie, was kind of nerdy, and smart, and bitter as hell but sweet and kind and friendly and approachable. So I mean, yeah, I was Duckie in that way.

What I mean, though, is that I am always -- always, without fucking fail -- the "best friend" of the protagonist. And despite the protestations of the geeky masses, Molly Ringwald got it fucking right when she insisted the ending be changed so that Andie ended up with BLANE. Sure, every geek in America cried in agony at that moment, but can I have a what-what, fellow Duckies? Does that always happen, or what?

It was my entire high school career. I'd fall madly in love with a girl, and end up being her best buddy in the universe, and we'd hang out 24-7, but the entire time she'd swoon for some big ol' hunk. The worst example of that was a girl named Jenni Adams. Boy, did I have it for her. And you'd figure she'd have it for me, too. We had everything in common -- same musical taste, same dress sense, same artistic leanings, same sensitive demeanor. We spent every possible moment together, too. Hung out, played music, went to museums. And yet she was in love with this hunky, dreamy actor type named Tom virtually the entire time we knew each other. Broke my heart.

It didn't end there, though. It continued for the rest of my life. I could list at least ten other instances over the years when I ended up falling for someone and playing the Duckie role in their life while they fell for fucking BLANE. It never fails.

I keep trying to analyze it. There's a huge part of me that thinks its the "nice guy" vs. "bad boy" syndrome -- you know it well, folks, the notion that people fall for folks they know are ba-a-a-a-a-a-d for them because they're exciting! and thrilling! and dangerous! and the nice guy -- me, usually -- gets left in the dust because they're safe and boring and drab. I think that's part of it. There's another part of me that wonders whether there are some guys that are "GUYS' GUYS" and some guys that are "girls' guys." And girls love hanging out with girls' guys, because girls' guys are the type of dudes who get along best with girls and kind of understand the female temperament and mindset more than the typical male one, but when it comes to the primal, hormonal mating instinct they're naturally drawn more to GUYS' GUYS because, well, they are REAL MEN. And some people fight that instinct as hard as they can because they know that Andie was meant to be with Duckie but they just can't fight the allure of BLANE.

And, well, part of it is undoubtedly that people can sense desperation from folks of either sex, and it is, as they say in Super Troopers, a stinky cologne.

But no, I think its more psychological than that. Check out how Duckie woos Andie. He sings "Try A Little Tenderness." He follows her around like a puppy dog. He pumps her up when she's down. He listens to her. He talks to her. He loves her. But is Duckie romantic? Duckie is not. I mean, he is in a really non-traditional sense, I guess, but then check out BLANE. How effortless it all is for him. He just swoops in there, makes those eyes at her, looks at her smolderingly, and ups the fucking ante on the pure chemistry. I think what Duckie lacks is that. And I fear -- I fear -- that my lack of that is what has made me a lifelong Duckie. For me, that requires effort. All the Duckie stuff, the singing, the romantic empty gestures, the talking, the listening -- no problem. Its that fucking BLANE smolder I ain't got. And that is why Duckie is so fucking bitter and angry at BLANE in the movie. He knows he ain't got that, and never will, really. Poor Duckie.

(I'm editing this last graf because of something Trix suggested, and I think she's right) I think the reason my current relationship has so much hope is that I'm shifting the paradigm -- instead of going for the Andie, I've finally found the person Duckie SHOULD have been after all along, Annie Potts' character Iona (well, age difference aside, har har!). That's the one *I* was *actually* hot for when I saw the film, even though I had kind of a Ringwald fetish at the time. Iona was the cool record store clerk with the awesome clothes and the cool hair and -- well, she was actually cool. I think she wants what Duckie has to offer -- charm, wit, verve, stylishness, kindness, love, stability, belief. There's people out there who want that, and those are the people who end up with Duckie in the end.

So, y'know, fuck BLANE. Duckie's my man.

18 comments:

Beques said...

Here, here is a what-what from a fellow Duckette, if I can have permission to coin such a term.

My best-guy-friends ALWAYS went for the skinny white chick who gave blowjobs on the first date, after months of me practically wearing the skin off my fingertips from making them mix tapes and hanging out with them 24-7. Duckiedom crosses genders, no doubt about it.

Jon Hunt said...

Oh, I hear ya, word!

"Some Kind of Wonderful" had a Duckette, and A McC ends up with her, too, but she's a hair -- ahh -- mmm -- masculine? Kind of? Let's just say their relationship wasn't necessarily destined to LAST as it were.

MissTrixi said...

I always had a girl chubby for Duckie. He was just plain CUTER than Blaine. He totally had character that Blaine didn't have. Sure, there's the 'smoulder', but did I not see Blaine give the same look to Steff a few times during the film. Now THERE'S a story line that was not fully explored! I think there was some subplot going on between Steff and Blaine that we just don't know about.

I *heart* that I got my Duckie in the end!

xoxo
trix

Ashley said...

Duckie was hot. And his style was always amazing.

I had the problem in high school where I became that person who guys viewed as a little sister. It still happens to me though.

I've taken a cynics point fo view on love in the last year...you know you get your ass kicked so many times you just kinda throw your arms in the air and go, "that's it, I'm not even gonna try anymore."
But everytime I read about you and Trix it makes me think, "wow, there is hope for people like me."

LAP said...
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LAP said...

To me, the only thing Duckie was lacking was mystery- because I think you need some chemistry to be friends like that. I mean, Andie cares about Duckie, just not the way he hopes for. Back to mystery though, there's that great moment where Duckie is just being silly and singing "Love is Real" and Andie can hear him through the vents, and in that moment you can see that she finds it funny and all, but that she's slightly intrigued..I think it's just the lack of mystery. Also, had he been able to tell Andie what he actually wanted from her, rather than just showing his devotion- that might have been a different story too, because look at the reaction he got when he laid one on Iona.. I sort of hate all the nouveau advice proclaiming "Don't be a Duckie", because honestly, the Duck man is the guy to be. I always empathized with Duckie not Andie as much. Now Samantha Baker, that's a MR role I related to.

Jon Hunt said...

I think the smolder IS the mystery, Laura. And I think I lack mystery in general. I'm kind of a "heart on sleeve" kinda guy, always have been. I'm not much for the mystery.

Nick said...
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Nick said...

I always got the Duckie thing too. Except I got my Molly Ringwald! Ha ha I suck.

Anonymous said...

jon-i was just showing my co-workers some photos of my high school friends and me, as its my 20th reunion next week. i never had date nor kissed a boy until after high school. i was the perpetual "buddy" to the guys. but as we looked over the photos, it was clear i was technically "hotter" and prettier than my two popular girlfriends who all the boys fought over. for the first time even i was like "yeah-what the hell?!" my co-workers couldnt understand why the boys didnt date me? and i really couldnt figure it out now, looking back. i just think, however things get established in like 8th or 9th grade, just stay that way. it gets stuck, in that group or grades collective mind that "shes a hot girl" and "shes a friend-type" and i dont know if theres any more to it? the minute high school was over i had a dozen boyfriends - but in high school? nada. i too am a Ducky. a girl Ducky. sitting here today looking back i just think i knew thats the way it was and there was nothing i could do about it until i got out. but i would go to minneapolis to see all-ages show when i got my license and car at age 16 and all sorts of minneapolis boys would flirt with me, so i knew i was being robbed at home! its just those stupid roles you get trapped in in your small town high school and somehow cant break free of or change. it totally sucked but i sure made up for it triple-fold in college, so theres always that - fellow Ducky's unite! - kelly

Anonymous said...

Jon, you have done very well with women all the time I have known you. And I've known plenty of other women who liked you but never got near enough to you for anything to happen. You have probably had your own Duckies. You are Duckie. But Duckie is awesome. And after high school I bet Duckie did just fine.

Andie and Duckie didn't get together because well, sometimes these things are one sided. It wasn't her fault. Duckie was too much like her. He was an established friend and not someone she would be looking to date. Sorry. I love Duckie too. But...

Over the years I have spent a lot of time deconstructing this. Seriously. I used to give my employees assignments. I would tell these kids who were babies or not born when Pretty in Pink came out to watch it and write a report on why Andie should ditch Blaine and go with Duckie. Usually it came back that Andie did the right thing. Gasp. I know it's a bitter pill, but upon further reflection, they are right, I think.

Molly P said...

I was always the female Duckie. And I STILL am. And it's weird, because I always go for the non-mysterious, heart-on-sleeves types.

jess said...

Blane's a douchebag. I heart the Duckies of the world 4-evah!

xoxo

:-)

Diablo Cody said...

I HOPE you are not implying that I am an "Andie." ;-)

If I am anyone in that film, I'm Spader and you know it!

Chris Hill said...

If you're Spader, then I get to be Harry Dean Stanton.

Jon Hunt said...

I wanna be Dweezil Zappa's character.

Dave Beckner said...

Jon Hunt, to one Duckie to another, thanks for that!

Cybele said...

I totally never got why she was even interested in Blaine. He was an asshole. However, I ended up with the guy who smoldered at me.

He was(is) a well-disguised Duckie, or it never would have lasted.

And now I gotta watch the movie again. In all my "spare" time, dammit.