Monday, November 22, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: John Hughes and a Thanksgiving Tradition

John Hughes is Stuff Black People Don't Like's favorite director. In 2009 we published an article on him and then, sadly, not a month later he passed away.

Start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year
Like Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Hughes' movies glorify a country that doesn't exist anymore and each successive generation that views his films will wonder where all the glorious diversity is to be found among the 80s angst. Hughes had this to say when questioned why Black people where absent from his films:
Certainly any criticism of Hughes's work so far has to include the point that his everyman characters have rather narrow profiles. They are usually young, usually from the kind of upper-middle-class neighborhood where no one worries about paying the electric bill, usually estranged from their parents -- and always white. There has never been a significant black character in any Hughes film. "I'm not going to pretend I know the black experience," Hughes says, though when he's confronted with the fact that there have been almost no black characters in his films, even in roles that would be race neutral, he concedes that the charge is "an entirely proper argument." "Maybe I've been wrong," he says, "through shortsightedness or whatever. But I'll get there."
Hughes never had the opportunity to get there; he stopped making films abruptly in the early 1990s instead of trying to fake the Black experience on film. Repeat: The enigmatic Hughes quit film-making instead of being forced into creating a poor cinematic facsimile of the Black experience he admittedly didn't begin to understand.

This Thanksgiving, SBPDL recommends a new tradition for you and your family: watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

A veritable masterpiece, Hughes created a movie that captures the essence of what Pre-Obama America was all about. Steve Martin and John Candy had a chemistry on screen that few replicated prior to the film and none since:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a 1987 American comedy film released by Paramount Pictures. It was written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung advertising executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, a cheerful, overly talkative and well-meaning, but accident-prone shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules.
Is there even a Black character that has a speaking part in Planes, Trains and Automobiles?

This Thanksgiving, start a new tradition with you and your family: watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Perhaps the greatest comedy of all-time the movie stands as Hughes' fitting cinematic canonization of a country that no longer exists, a reminder of all that is lost.

There is a tremendous scene - that can found below - where John Candy's character states this:
Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I'm an easy target. Yeah, you're right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you... but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I'm not changing. I like... I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get.
That's what Stuff Black People Don't Like is, the real article. Some days we might be irreverent, others serious. But we'll never compromise. We hope you have enjoyed the Web site over the past 17 months its been online; pretty soon a deadwood edition will be added to the family (just in time for Christmas).

So if you haven't seen the movie, go out and get it today. If you have, watch it again and count the number of Black characters that have a speaking part. Or, just get lost in what was Pre-Obama America's finest comedy.


Anonymous said...

You can download the entire movie here

Fantastic film!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alticor said...

It's a decent movie....but no 'Some Like it Hot'.

Anonymous said...


I have to disagree with you on this post, because art, literature, and entertainment exsits on a much higher plane than you are placing it.

John Hughes was hands down one of this nation's best directors. His movies are classics that are still enjoyed by everyone. Like it or not.

His answer about why there was an overall lack of black characters in his movies, was honest, truthful and above all sane and thoughtful. He created movies about what he knew and his world. That world was majority white. Above all he did what would make money.

There are around 400 channels on cable and TCM is one of the few good ones so no complaints from anyone I know about that.

I remember watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles around Thanksgiving with the family four years ago. That was long before Barry the half breed and this site. How ironic!

-Black guy

Hirsch said...


I think the reason Hughes fizzled out in the 90s had less to do with black people and more to do with having passed his peak. If you look at his main offering in the 90s, "Dutch," it was basically a recycled version of his superior, earlier road movie. Anyone whose identity was entirely tied to that decade was bound to suffer as the times changed. Just consider him the cinematic equivalent of glam rock.

Plenty of auteurs who use mainly white actors have gone on to produce work well into the 2000s. Hell, Scorcese's "The Departed," starts out with a Jack Nicholson dropping an "n-bomb"; Stanley Kubrick worked until his death in the late 90s, and with the exception of "The Shining," and "Full Metal Jacket," most of his movies are filled only with whites. Watch "Eyes Wide Shut," "2001" or "Barry Lyndon" and let me know how many black people you spot.

Post Suicide said...

How many Black characters have a speaking part? None, nada, zip.

Who cares If Black people where absent in films.

In the films I have seen over the past 25 years, blacks are depicted as wise, heroic or compassionate figures who help whites, however racist. Rarely has a black been depicted as being on welfare, burning down Korean businesses, smoking crack and committing hate crimes against whites. Better yet, when was the last time you saw a film in which the military man was not a bloodthirsty fascist, the priest a sexual pervert, the businessman a crook, the CIA and FBI chiefs secretly plotting to take over the country — any country — while the black is portrayed as positively beyond reproach?

John Hughes was a superb director. He's not the only one pushing up daisies. John Candy is also dead. How I wish for the better days of White Run America.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, John Hughes was an incredible talent. As a public service I submit his wiki entry. Check out his list of movies. I can remember where I was when saw most of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry
For something I didn't do
Lynched somebody
But I don't know who
You blame me for slavery
A hundred years before I was born

Guilty of being white

I'm a convict
Of a racist crime
I've only served
19 years of my time

Guilty of being white

"Guilty of Being White" by Minor Threat

Anonymous said...

I was talking to a DWL about this subject. I also hit on the tea party being too white. His comment was that this world never existed. My comment was, if he thought this world never existed, he was sadly mistaken. I did exist until forced integration. I said that if he never experienced this kind of world, then that was very sad and he was the exception not the rule.
Then, his next comment was that we cannot go back because that would not be progressive. What most 'progressives' fail to realize is in Nazi Germany, the holocaust was a progressive agenda. The earliest progressives in the US advocated sterilizing blacks. Useful idiots I guess. What I left him was, it isn't that it can't change - it must change. Changing and fixing what doesn't need to be change is a form of insanity. When the economy collapses, there will be a wake up call. All this social engineering will collapse - as Maggie Thatcher said: the only problem with socialism is that the society runs out of people to pay for it. Or Churchill: Socialism is shared misery.
Support reparations - back to Africa NOW

Anonymous said...

This really what I consider entertainment. I fail to understand how the disgusting life of an obese child molested by her “family’ (precious) or how the degenerate life of some rapper, is entertainment. These stories were art. They didn’t need special effects, fowl language, or sex scenes to entertain. These stories, like even lyrics in music, stood on their own or told a story without a political agenda or social engineering. This is the time we need real entertainment. The last economic depression, people went to the movies to escape the hardships of what was going on around them. We have none of that today. Even on TV, entertainment is like a circus side show. Most shows could be characterized as circus freak shows, the midgets (little people big world), tattooed lady (LA ink), the bearded lady (Rachel Maddow or Joy Behar). That’s entertainment?
Hugh’s was a genius also for using unknown actors. The chemistry in some of his other movies (sixteen candles, breakfast club, he took a risk with people that were just barely known. I know John Candy and Steve were not unknowns, but in Ferris Bueller, most were unknown and had real talent to improvise. I wish there were movies or even cartoons that just entertained. Let BET continue to produce all black TV shows, movies etc. and let whites do the same. We need a good Hugh’s movie, or EEK the cat, or Calvin and Hobbs, that not only entertained children but entertained adults. I have a theory that this is another divide and conquer technique. Exacerbate the generation gap to further control the young. Have you also noticed that a lot of the old movies on TCM that are before WW2 are not shown any more? Most of the “classic” are some 60’s but mostly 70s movies. Yep that’s the way to do it, cut a people off from their history, culture, myths and religion and you can rewrite history and allow people to think that the decline of our present “civilization” is normal.
Way back in ancient history (1980s) a Hugh's film allowed people to laugh at the situation or with the actor, rather than the new black ghetto comedy where shows like Jerry Springer allow the viewer to laugh at the person.

Percy Kittens Reloaded said...

Why is it that publications and groups (such as The New York Times) who express an interest in living in a color-blind, race-neutral society are ALWAYS the first people to point out race as an issue when someone else is enjoying success and success that came without the help of any black input?

Is it an urban legend that Oprah Winfrey once told the cast of FRIENDS that they 'needed to get a black friend'? I know that Friends and Seinfeld received a lot of criticism for not having a black character on either show, but I think the criticism came mostly because both shows were extremely popular, and I also believe it made some people jealous and bitter to see shows that were super successful not having a token minority character on (whether it be a latino or gay person or handicapped). If you're white/Jewish, straight, and successful, people like The New York Times always want to *qualify* your success. may be successful, but you can't consider yourself truly successful until you've written a show or movie that speaks to the black experience (whatever that is).

Why is it that when John Hughes writes movies about his own experiences his body of work is classified as "everyman" and "narrow", but when a black person writes about their own experiences in film or on paper, they are being "authentic", "genuine", "brave" and "keeping it real"?

Anonymous said...

there were no black characters in Fight Club.

laz said...

"there were no black characters in Fight Club."

There are several black actors in that movie, just not main characters. btw: Strange but, most of the parts played where for cops.

Anonymous said...

White people don't have black friends. It's only logical for movies written by white people to be absent of black characters. It's no big deal!

-Black guy

Anonymous said...

What John Hughes did right Tyler Perry failed. In my opinion he deserves praise not scorn for portraying society the way it really is , from his perspective.

It's funny because it is true.

-Black guy

Silent Running said...

Why is it that publications and groups (such as The New York Times) who express an interest in living in a color-blind, race-neutral society are ALWAYS the first people to point out race as an issue when someone else is enjoying success and success that came without the help of any black input?

Being a modern leftist isn't about being consistent. It's about destroying your enemies with whatever weapon is closest to hand. This is why conservatives bray endlessly about the left's "double standard" and leftists don't even bat an eye. There is one standard: Kill the West. That which hastens the West's demise is true, and that which slows it is false.

there were no black characters in Fight Club.

Ed Norton get's stomped by a black in one of the basement fights, he speaks with a fry-headed Negro who tells him about Tyler Durden's facial reconstruction surgery, and I think one of the cops who captures Norton was black as well.

Anonymous said...

"Why is it that when John Hughes writes movies about his own experiences his body of work is classified as "everyman" and "narrow", but when a black person writes about their own experiences in film or on paper, they are being "authentic", "genuine", "brave" and "keeping it real"?"

This is because white people have allowed themselves to be bamboozled by the liberal and multiculturalist agenda. We let down our guard, we were too nice, we allowed it to slowly creep in without a fight. Now we have a problem (that can be fixed with a little effort). White men are the targeted and hunted group. This must change.

White people have been called "bland, white-bread, hick, hillbilly, vanilla, narrow-minded, nerdy, boring, racist". Blacks have "pizazz, soul, colorful culture and language, are hip, sassy, sexy, raw, cool". Blacks have been elevated to a preferred status because of their dependence on whites, their demand for validation, and because of our generosity, and our white guilt about slavery. Problem is, blacks are not able to function well in our Western society and do not contribute or build anything. Whites deny their own culture in order to promote blacks. It is a ploy to raise the self-esteem of blacks, but it does not serve whites well.

The white and black culture must be handled as two separate cultures, never to mix. (can I get an Amen Black Guy?).

When we start mixing, all hell breaks loose and we allow shit like this to happen. Whites have to start loving themselves and their rich European history and culture.

Not racist, not hatred, just pro-white.

Because of our intelligence, generosity, and sense of charity, whites have the ability to appreciate other cultures from a distance without actively promoting them.

Percy Kittens Reloaded said...

I go back to the "black experience" comment I made earlier...a lot of white writers, directors, and producers get criticized for not making any attempt at writing a character into a "white show", or even a "race-neutral show", that is authentic and speaks to the "black experience". However, my problem with that position is: what *IS* "the black experience"? It's a phrase that is tossed off like an easy one-liner, as if everyone should know what the black experience is. I mean, is this "experience" something that every "authentic" black person goes through? If you never had "the black experience", does that mean you were accepted into the white man's world and you aren't really, truly black? Not "down with the struggle" like other, real black people are and were?

I mean, we're always told not to think of black people as a monolithic block; that black people are unique individuals, and we shouldn't prejudge a black person based upon the same exact experience we've had with 100 other black people. And yet in the same breath Hollywood gets criticized for being "everyman" and "narrow" because no black people were ever featured in a John Hughes movie in any sort of meaningful role that spoke to their experience(s). How does that make any sense? How can one character or movie or show tell the story of all 30-50 million black Americans living today?

If black Americans aren't a monolithic block, why do 90% of them vote for Democracts in any given election? What was the rationale for 99% of them voting for Barack Obama?

The questions I raise I already know the answer to. DWLs like to put out a bunch of warm, fuzzy, feel-good liberal platitudes about different races in order to hide and obscure some painful truths.

On a side note, Jemele Hill of ESPN wrote an article here: raising the question of whether black quarterbacks are being treated differently than white quarterbacks. It's a horrible article for too many reasons to articulate here, but a couple of points that really stood out were:
#1 she complains that "considering that there are only six black starting quarterbacks in the NFL, there isn't a lot of room for error." --- Seems to me that six teams with starting black quarterbacks out of 32 teams is more than adequate. That's 19% of the league starting with a black quarterback, yet black men make up 6% of the overall U.S. population. And the league as a whole is majority black. What exactly is the real problem she has here?

#2 "The impatience the Raiders have shown with (Jason) Campbell is stunning. They gave up a fourth-round pick to get him, and were convinced he was the answer after things went south with draft bust JaMarcus Russell, another black quarterback." Then where is the racism if one black quarterback is replaced with another black quarterback?

Vince Young is on the "outs" with Tennesssee because he's quick to anger, violent when provoked, has poor anger and emotional management issues, is a quitter, throws his uniform and pads into the stands, mouths off to his coach, has a lazy work ethic, and yet people (and by people I mean black commentators) act stunned and offended when white owners and coaches decide they no longer want these players around.

Too bad there aren't more Tony Dungy's in the world.

Hirsch said...

Regarding "Fight Club," it was made by David Fincher, who made "Seven" with Morgan Freeman, and made his debut with "Alien 3," which featured Charles Dutton, the baldest black actor with the exception of Ving Rhames. He also made "Panic Room," with Forrest Whitaker. I would like to see some organization go after him for supposedly excluding blacks from his movies. His newest one, "Social Network," doesn't have many blacks, but it's about a specifically very white and asian environment.

Hughes went on to be a solid writer, as well. If I'm not mistaken, he penned the first "Home Alone," movie, which was a nice holiday classic.

Anonymous said...

Hirsch, you are right, it was Hughs that created home alone. I should have known there was a reason I loved that movie. Another holiday classic. Happy Thanksgiving or in afroamerican Happy Thanksgiveme