John Hughes, Chicago, Screenplay, Don't You Forget About Me, The Breakfast Club, 80s, 80s Movies
Chicago, John Hughes, Screenplay

Screenplays Don’t Write Themselves


I made a tough decision earlier this week. Well tough for me, probably not so tough for most of you. I’m no longer sharing my screenplay to the blog.

First, I want to clarify that I did not stop sharing because of an essay that Molly Ringwald wrote for The New Yorker. I’ve toyed with this idea for the past month. I sat in my car and cried because I was having one of those really bad weeks that wasn’t getting any better. That is when I first thought of not sharing it any longer.

But read the Molly Ringwald essay because I would love to have a discussion about it with all of you who are interested. There are some points I totally agree with and some I don’t agree with at all. But I am glad that she started the discussion and feel like she is keeping John Hughes relevant although I know that’s not her intention. I like keeping his name out there because although yes, he made some decisions in his writing that I agree weren’t very favorable towards women, at the end of the day he was writing for a generation that wasn’t being represented, writing strong female leads in a time that didn’t and wrote scripts that generally had more depth than most films of my teenage years.

What I am annoyed with are the people who called themselves John Hughes fans who are all of a sudden on a bandwagon that I don’t want to be a part of. I don’t want a witch hunt; I want a lively back and forth discussion. So if you throw out a link on Twitter and leave it there to start a fire, you aren’t someone I want to associate myself with.

By the way Molly, way ahead of you. In writing this screenplay, I am trying to right the wrongs because I HATE that Long Duck Dong was such a racist character; I HATE that there were very few if any black actors in most of his films; I HATE that John Bender was a sexist pig.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Porky’s. Love at First Bite, Revenge of the Nerds, Police Academy.

So many more inappropriate movies that I can’t think of off the top of my head, but that was what Hollywood (white men) thought America wanted to see at that time.

I hate that my best friend Rebecca, who identifies as Filipino (even though she has Japanese, Korean and even Italian blood running through her veins), talks about The Karate Kid with much more fervor than any John Hughes film because of the racist undertone of Sixteen Candles. Her interpretation of his films was tainted as it should be, and that makes me sad. It was a realization that I came to this weekend and part of why I won’t share it on here anymore. I felt sick that my best friend can’t share my love for a director and his movies because her perspective is spoiled by what she might feel is someone who made fun of her background.

There are many other things I could take issue with but that up there was the tip of the iceberg and why I realized I need to work on my screenplay to make it something that at the end of the day, I could be completely proud of.  I am not quitting, I am simply focusing my energy and efforts on making it the best it can be.

Right now, my once-finished screenplay sits broken into ten different pieces with notes like CHANGE MOLLY’S TONE HERE (THINK ANGRY) and MAKE SURE REGINA’S GRANDMA IS ONLY SPEAKING IN JAPANESE etc.. This June, Anna and I are going on a mom/daughter trip to California and I really want a finished version of my screenplay sitting in my bag to pass to someone in a coffee shop or on the TMZ bus and it won’t be ready by then if I keep sharing it on the blog.

So it is well with my soul as the screenplay is concerned but thank you so very much to those who have read along, commented about what their favorite parts are, sent me supportive messages that make me laugh and cry. You are my motivation to keep it going, that it isn’t a stupid idea, and that someday it will be made into something more than words on a page.



20 thoughts on “Screenplays Don’t Write Themselves”

  1. I’m sorry there is any sort of heartache within something that started with love.
    (I haven’t read Molly’s piece yet so will come back to that)
    But I must confess that I stopped reading the screenplay after the first post, not because I didnt like it but because I loved it and wanted to see it all together once it was done. In a time of reboots I think you are 100% on target. I think we can take something we loved when we didnt know better and remake it so that it is something for everyone to love. I love you and I love your heart. I fully understand where you’re coming from on all of it and I doubly support anything that helps you finish it by when you hope to. I can’t wait to see it all, when it’s done whenever and however that happens.


  2. Well done. I enjoyed Molly’s essay very much as a contemporary take on the Hughes films, but I agree with you entirely. It was a different time 35 years ago and he represented teens perfectly. Would he do it differently today? Sure, and in 35 years his writing would be criticized as being non-PC.

    Anyway, keep plugging away at it. You only have two months to June!


  3. Friday the 13th indeed. ? I do understand and look forward to reading your finished product-in the meantime, this popcorn isn’t going to eat itself!
    I did read the Molly article and it made me sad for so many reasons that I didn’t want to be sad about. I felt frustrated that a once simple pleasure couldnt just be that any more.


    1. I didn’t even realize it was the 13th! But Anna was born on a 13th, so I think it’s lucky!

      Thank you for being so absolutely wonderful to me with this screenplay. I will keep sharing it with you in messenger if you’d like. 🙂


  4. I love that you are so passionate about this and you are seeing the whole picture. I read Molly’s piece and it made me think, which was what it was supposed to do. I think everyone is a fully formed, rounded person throughout their life and everyone has things that, in retrospect, they would change. Keep doing you, and we’ll be there 🙂


  5. You have a redemptive opportunity here. I love it. I’m going to go back and read that essay. When you’re in California and hand over your screenplay your daughter will video a clip for us, right? FB LIVE even ?


  6. Hi Kari,
    I read this post and the Ringwald piece earlier in the day. I think what’s happening for you around this might be emblematic of what a lot of people like us (white, middle-ish class, middle-aged) are experiencing about a whole bunch of things. In the past two or so years, I’ve been made very aware of things I previously had little or only superficial awareness of. Sometimes, I really long for my old oblivion. I want to love things I used to love in the way I used to love them. I miss my old world view, as it was much more comfortable for me than the one I now have. At the same time, I don’t really want to be ignorant in the ways that I was.

    I’ve come to think that the way to some peace and joy is to think in terms of both/and rather than either/or. John Hughes was BOTH a voice for an ignored/overlooked generation AND (maybe) a typical example of men of his generation. FWIW, I don’t think Hughes created the sexism and racism of the era so much as he simply reflected it. I didn’t see it then because I was immersed in it. I see it now because we’re living in different time. I don’t think that has to mean that we love what those movies were to us any less. I had a LOT of flaws in the 80s. I’ve grown and changed. (I still have flaws; just different ones–I hope!) When I think of some aspects of myself back then, I cringe. I wish I had been different. But I think I was still worthy of love and that my flaws don’t mean that I didn’t also have strengths. I haven’t kept up with the parts of the screenplay that you shared (life=crazytown for me the past few months), but I think a screenplay that could both grapple with this dilemma and be funny would be amazing.

    Bottom line is that those movies were groundbreaking and important to those of us who came of age caught somewhere between the Boomers and Gen-Xers, just as they were, and nothing can change that. I hope we all cringe now at the racism and sexism and issues with consent–because we’ve grown up. (Also FWIW, I think that’s what Ringwald was trying to say. I don’t think she was repudiating Hughes.)

    Most art that’s worth anything is complicated. Brilliance is sharp, and sharp is cutting. Sharp is controversial. Sharp invariably hurts some people (or, at least, their sensibilities.) Go be brilliant with your screenplay. Some people won’t get it, and that’s OK.


    1. Yes to all of this. You hit it on the head when you said, “I don’t think Hughes created the sexism and racism of the era so much as he simply reflected it”.
      It’s a really hard time we all are living through right now but at the same time, it’s a better time than the decade before, and the decade before that.

      I am glad that I am uncomfortable with Long Duck Dong’s character, I am glad that I cringe when I see no characters of color, I am glad that I detest John Bender sticking his face into Claire’s lap when 30 years ago, it seemed appropriate.

      And that last line of your comment is something I have had to grapple with: some people won’t get it and THAT IS OKAY.

      I had a moment when writing the screenplay where I said, holy shit, I am writing for a certain demographic! and it worried me because I wanted this to reach all ages, all demographics, just everyone. It won’t and that might limit this being made but I was so immersed in a therapeutic writing project that I didn’t even care anymore.

      Thank you for reading along all these months and I do hope it becomes something, anything, but if it doesn’t? That’s okay too.


  7. I wish I had read it. (Your screen play) We have so many problems in This present world I’m not sure why our nation is so intent on digging up the past and making us feel regret and guilt constantly as a society. I feel it does little if any good- unless your the one making the point, you get some perhaps, much needed press.
    “When you know better, you do better.”
    As a nation we are still “growing -up” , learning, moving forward socially. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. Why can’t we celebrate the baby steps instead of continuously trying to rehash the past? Its the past.
    As a Midwesterner -but southerner by birth- I could go in for hours about the betrayal of midwestern and southerners being portrayed as farm bumpkins and / or less than intelligent -Cam’s family on Modern Family, Netflix’s Ozark. Etc)
    Why are those ok ?? Because they are funny !?the make me laugh. I don’t get my panniers in a wad — I think we just need to lighten up .. maybe just laugh at our past mistakes and be grateful we’ve learned and are still learning from them. Or we can just keep continue down this “greater-than- thou” path and see how miserable we can make ourselves.


    1. I grew up in a very rural community in Ohio and when I moved to the Chicago area, occasionally I would get the “hick” comment. And I would laugh because I WAS a “hick”: I was very sheltered, I was scared of everything and NAIVE AS FUCK.

      But I agree with you on all of your points. We do need to lighten up. Lighten the hell up.


  8. OK wow, this is a lot to handle right now. First off I remembered that when you started sharing the screen play you said that you wanted people to think of you when they heard the song, don’t you forget about me. And I have to tell you, I heard it the other day and thought about you and your screenplay.

    Next, Molly’s article is awesome, she writes beautifully. BUT you were way ahead of her on a lot points. You talked about a lot of this stuff in your screenplay. You talked about the racism, the lack of diversity, the sexism. We can’t pretend these things didn’t happen, and we certainly can’t condone them for the sake of enjoying art, but we can talk about them. We can bring them into 2018 and point out where they went wrong. And that doesn’t mean we are crapping on the memory, it means we see it for what it is, and what it was.

    I am glad that you are going to continue writing the screenplay, I genuinely enjoyed it. That being said, (and I hope you don’t mind me saying so) I would also love to see you write a screenplay (or book) that is something completely removed from these actors and the things they’ve done. You have an incredible voice, and you write comedy really well. I’d love to see those features completely untethered!


    1. I love that you thought of me and the screenplay when you heard that song. That made my year.
      So I have another screenplay that I have written in the notes of my phone. I started thinking about it over a year ago but let it kind of slip because of this screenplay. I am going to finish this one then start the other one as soon as I get motivated. The funny thing is when I was sharing it on the blog I was much more motivated because people were actually reading it.


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