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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

Planes, trains & advertising: The John Hughes School of Craft

weirdscienceJohn Hughes means a lot to everyone who grew up on his films. But if you’re from Chicago, he means a little bit more.

John Hughes reinvented Chicago. The suburbs around Chicago are fine, safe places to grow up, but they lack anything in the way of personality. When Hughes introduced us to the good people of Shermer, Illinois, teenagers of the greater Chicagoland area took a collective gasp. Here was someone who understood the mind-numbing sameness, the bland days that rolled into each other, the long flat streets that never went anywhere no matter how long you walked. No one saw cinema in this but him.

What Hughes did was to take Chicago and make it universal. For a stretch of the 1980’s, Shermer stood in for everything that was right and wrong about growing up in America. The trapped claustrophobia of The Breakfast Club. The giddy feeling of freedom from tedium in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. The geeky, insular, Dungeons-and-Dragons-in-the-basement world of Weird Science. These were more than iconic moments in film. These were our lives. No matter how universal the themes of his films, there was still something in them that was uniquely, relentlessly Chicago.

Hughes did all of this, of course, after putting in his time working at Leo Burnett and busting out of there to do great things. As former Burnetters ourselves, we know the talent that flows through that place, and the heights to which our former colleagues have and will soar. Hughes was special. And if we can create a small echo of his work here at Super-Genius by overturning old stories and making them feel relevant, fresh, and universal — by making our own Shermer, so to speak — then we have accomplished a great, true thing.

Hughes made a generation of Chicagoans proud of who we were. For that and a million other reasons, we are grateful. Because life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

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