I'm pretty much the exact right age to mourn the passing of Mr Hughes: I was a teenager when he was making movies for teenagers, and I still feel a great affection for his work. (Though sitting down with a friend recently to watch my personal favorite of his films, Some Kind of Wonderful, we agreed that it was a very good thing that we were no longer teenagers and so emotionally raw.)
I remember some critics at the time dismissing Hughes as just telling teenagers what they wanted to hear: you're smart and adults are stupid. Those critics are half-right: Hughes did tell teenagers what they wanted to hear, but he had a much less cynical, and more correct, understanding of what that was. Reviewing Hughes' career, Roger Ebert quotes him:
Kids are smart enough to know that most teenage movies are just exploiting them .... People forget that when you’re 16, you’re probably more serious than you’ll ever be again.
Hughes says yeah, parents and schoolteachers and other adults are usually foolish and always uncool, but most of them actually love their teenage charges and are trying to do right by them. Sex is a powerful force, but love is more important. Not everyone you love will return your love, but love is still worth pursuing because if you seek it out you will find it ... most importantly with your friends. And the English language is the greatest toy in the world.
It turns out that these things are not only what I wanted to hear when I was a teenager, they're what I've found to be true as an adult. Nice work.
Update: Twitter informs me about an astonishing and moving blog post about a teenager's correspondence with Mr Hughes.