In Praise of Jake Ryan

Speaking of crushes!

I give to you, first of all, a wee Jake Ryan montage (it’s tough to leave out the hottie pictures of Schoeffling in Vision Quest – but this is about JAKE RYAN AND JAKE RYAN ONLY) – and then I give to you (to quote my dear friend Allison) a “veritable dissertation” on what Jake Ryan means to women of a certain age.

Jake Ryan. The hot high school guy who dumped his girlfriend (you know, the girlfriend who had sex with him, the girlfriend who had a perfect body, the girlfriend who was really sweet as well) – dumped her – to go out with the goofy unpopular nearly invisible high school sophomore. Yeah. Like that would ever happen.

But the fact that it did in 16 Candles was important. To a generation of women.

Please read this glorious essay. I laughed out loud reading it – but I also got strangely choked up at parts. Memories of hopeful days. For example:

The second way of talking through Jake-related issues is harder. It’s about an ache, a loss. It’s about the imperfection of life. In the movie, Ringwald’s character muses on what a 16th birthday is supposed to be like: “A big Trans-Am in the driveway with a ribbon on it and some incredibly gorgeous guy you meet in France and you do it on a cloud without getting pregnant or herpes.” In this way she is asking for a miracle and Jake is Christ, redeeming the evil sins of high school. Jake as the ideal. Jake as the eternal belief in something better. (Jake on the phone, leaving a message Samantha is temporarily fated not to receive: “Would it be possible for you to tell me if there is a Samantha Baker there, and if so, may I converse with her briefly?”)

hahaha I love that moment.

The essay really is a wonderful deconstruction of that entire … cultural moment. Too funny.

I loved this part too:

But Jake stands the test of time, even in his good looks. His wardrobe — cargo pants, plaid shirt — portends an Abercrombie vibe years before it came. His haircut requires only minor tweaking in a mental update of the fantasy. “He’s timeless. He doesn’t have a Flock of Seagulls hairstyle or anything,” says Rick Sayre, 30, a bookstore employee in Miami who started a Web page devoted not only to the Jake Ryan ideal but to locating Schoeffling.

hahahaha Yes. He’s kinda timeless.

I have to say – I did love Jake Ryan, and I loved what he represented. (Also, how perfect is it that Michael Schoeffling, the actor, chose to retire. He is now a furniture maker somewhere in Pennsylvania, with a couple kids. There are websites devoted to him: What happened to Michael Schoeffling? and The Search for Michael Schoeffling. It’s perfect because we – the audience – didn’t have to suffer through watching him fail, become diminished, grow old. He was our youth. He disappeared while his memory was still fresh – and he is caught that way, in my mind, forever. Jake Ryan – forever young.)

I also loved Michael Schoeffling – his general kind of wry and intelligent vibe. I totally believed that he was the kind of popular hot guy who was also nice and not cocky. It seemed real. But, to be honest, he wasn’t really my type. Han Solo was my fantasy type, still is – even though Han probably NEVER would have dumped his hot girlfriend for goofy freckled me. Han would have given me an apologetic grin, growled, “Sorry, sweetheart”, and he would have stuck with the hottie.

But … but …

the sexiness …

the sexiness of Han Solo …

It was a mere precursor to Bud White, 20 years later … but it was all in the same vein. That devastating is-he-bad-or-is-he-good vein. Jake Ryan was awesome – but he wasn’t THAT. Or who knows … maybe he was. Maybe his ambivalence about his nice hot girlfriend, his ambivalence about his own wealth …. was also in the same vein. We all like people who are independent thinkers, who go their own route. Or hell. I can only speak for myself. I respond to independent thinkers, who make up their own mind about things. Jake was certainly that – and independence like that was devastatingly attractive when you are trapped in the conformist suffocation of high school.

Please, ladies – or please anyone – any of you who loved that movie, and who loved Jake Ryan in paritcular – who remembers what it feels like to latch on to a fictional character, as hope that things might work out someday, that sometimes the good people DO win … you gotta read this. Beautiful.

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35 Responses to In Praise of Jake Ryan

  1. Lisa says:

    Hayden has a friend named Jake Ryan S., and the first time I met him and his mom, Hayden said, “Mom, this is Jake Ryan (he goes by both names),” and the look on my face made his mom laugh and shrug, “I just loved that movie.”


    Molly Ringwald saying, “He’s beautiful. . .and perfect. . .” always makes me smile.

  2. Marisa says:

    My friend Josh has this whole philosophy about the futility of relationships for our generation which essentially boils down to his belief that John Hughes ruined us by teaching us that wanting someone badly enough will make them want you back.

    Thanks for the link!

  3. mitchell says:

    also Micheal had a small lovely role in Longtime Companion…Jake Ryan had the balls to play gay in the 80’s…i think thats pretty cool.

  4. (And anyone who went to high school in the 1980s understands how difficult it can be to turn away from “Sixteen Candles” or “The Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” no matter how busy they are, how many times they’ve seen it, or how many commercial breaks come along.)

    Gawd…that’s my whole life…

    and there you go Sheila, giving me an opening to talk about my newest (Antipodean) crush…

    but I wont do it…no!…I won’t…even though he WAS in a movie with the lead singer from Men At Work….

    …put down that mouse, Sharon….

  5. red says:

    Sharon – you absolutely must speak about your crush!!! You have crushes like I have crushes. :)

  6. red says:

    I also just loved Michael Schoeffling as the wrestler dude with the mohawk and the Native American blood in Vision Quest. I wonder if that movie is as good as I remember it.

    Mitchell – member our huge Matthew Modine phase???

  7. Erik says:

    I’ve never seen Vision Quest, but the image of Michael Schoeffling as a “wrestler dude with the mohawk” is just, uh, yeah, wow. I must rent it. Now.

    I love Jake Ryan. Love, love, love him. I love that moment when he meets Samantha at the chapel and she looks at her dad across the street and mouths the words “this is him” (or does she say “this is the guy?”) and Paul Dooley gives her the thumbs up. Oh man, Jake Ryan is totally the model I base all of my first dates on. So terrible. Such an impossible standard!

    This is kinda off topic, but speaking of Sixteen Candles, I just remembered that back in the day, I made my own Sixteen Candles soundtrack by sitting in front of the TV and holding a tape recorder up to the speakers and recording all of the songs. How Farmer Ted is that?

  8. red says:

    Erik – I had similar Byzantine experiences with tape recorders held up to televisions. You are not alone.

    And God, yes, when Jake Ryan shows up at the wedding – and there he is – just waiting, with this nice smile … and Molly’s dad, the wonderfully jowly Paul Dooley, is proud and happy … and it is such a cathartic moment.

    Also completely unrealistic.

    But who said fantasies need to be realistic? Whoever did is a big ol’ BORE.

  9. Amanda says:

    He was also the very hot, quiet, mysterious guy that Winona Ryder hooks up with in Mermaids. He was all “Jake Ryan” there too.

  10. red says:

    Oh my God, I totally forgot about that!! That’s right!

  11. Like, I know I’m a lesbian and stuff but I would totally switch teams for Jake Ryan. Oh, and Jordan Catalano. :: swoon ::

    Michael Schoeffling also starred opposite Bernadette Peters in the otherwise forgettable Slaves of New York. I love the off-beat choices he made and how he didn’t coast on his looks. I adore him!!!!

    I imagine that if I saw him (or Molly Ringwald) walking down the street, I would stop dead in my tracks, emit a high-pitched-so-high-it’s-almost-silent scream (think of Mariah Carey “singing”) and then maybe I’d faint. Harrison Ford and the cast of Sesame Street are the only other celebrities that have this effect on me as they have all factored greatly in my development.

  12. red says:

    Curly – ha!!!! He did make off-beat choices, didn’t he? And he was always good, in that quiet understated way. I wonder how long he kept struggling after his last film before he decided: You know what? I’m done. This isn’t me.

  13. Marisa says:

    Jake Ryan was a dream guy but honestly… I was a John Bender girl. Jake Ryan was beautiful, but I’d have picked Bender in a closet over birthday cake on the dining room table with Jake any day.

  14. red says:

    Shivers!!!! I LOOOOOVE that closet moment. shit, girl, you speak the truth.

    And lucky Molly got to have them both.

  15. Lisa says:

    Both? What about Blaine?

  16. red says:

    Lisa – I say this with fear: I always hoped she would pick Ducky. I never forgave Blaine for how he dissed her.

  17. Dave J says:

    Ah, Sixteen Candles…love it. :-)

    CLIFF (Darren Harris): Ted, that’s a Rolls Royce.
    BRYCE (John Cusack): Ted, that’s the Prom Queen.
    CLIFF: You got two girls in one night.
    FARMER TED (Anthony Michael Hall): I told you dudes I was hot.
    BRUCE: Hot? Ted, you’re a legend.
    TED: Will you shut up?! People around here work, alright? I’m breaking like 30 major laws here.

  18. Lisa says:

    Actually, I was more hot for James Spader’s character. He makes smarmy preps sexy.

    Did you know that in the original version, she does pick Ducky? But test audiences booed.

    BOOed. John Cryer.

    It was truly the beginning of the end.

  19. red says:

    Lisa – I freakin; loved James Spader in Pretty in pink. He was like 40 years old and a senior. And he wore WHITE SUITS to school and he just wandered through the halls … he never had to be in class. Hilarious performance. And yeah. Sexy. Bad corrupt boy sexy.

  20. red says:

    “Ted, you’re a legend”


  21. Lisa says:

    I’m watching I Love The 80s Strikes Back RIGHT NOW, and they just covered Less Than Zero, the movie that completely scared me away from cocaine, but strangely, not from random sex.

    I think I’d switch teams for Jami Gertz.

  22. red says:

    //but strangely, not from random sex.// bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    I saw Andrew McCarthy on the subway a couple years ago. He looked like shit. Like he was coming off a bender. And he was reading The Iliad. I’m not kidding.

  23. red says:

    I’d switch teams for Joan Jett. Just sayin’.

  24. Dave J says:

    Mmmmmm…Joan Jett.

  25. Lisa says:

    Now they’re doing The Princess Bride.

    Mandy Patinkin, mmmmmmmm.

  26. red says:

    How freakin’ awesome is Mandy Patinkin. Uhm – YENTL??????

    Hot Jewish scholar man, skinny dipping? WHAT???

  27. I once gave a friend a near heart attack with an impromptu impersonation of Mandy Patinkin’s singing style. In short, there was yelping — sudden and very loud yelping. Uh yeah, I was forbidden from resurrecting that act ever again.

    Oh and I too am guilty of the old tape recorder held up to the TV speaker method. The thing is, I knew how sad the whole thing was while I was doing it. It’s not something that I look back on only now and cringe. I was fully aware in the moment that it was a desperate act.

    In case any of you are interested, I’ve taken the liberty of uploading a memorable song from Sixteen Candles. Click here for the mp3. Enjoy!

  28. Marisa says:

    Lisa – I knew that about the original ending and have always felt that the new ending was some sort of horrible betrayal. Ducki sang “Try a Little Tenderness” to her. I LOVE that.

    James Spader as Steff was the penultimate guy you’d want to sleep with – but not have to talk to. Hot but mean.

  29. Erik says:

    Paul Dooley is such a great actor.

    I just watched Pretty in Pink the other day and I love how the credit sequence is a series of fetishistic 80’s close-ups on various body parts as she’s getting dressed–you know what I’m talking about–and then we see Andie and she looks awesome and her outfit is amazing and then her dad is like “did i ever tell you you were beautiful” and she’s like “only every day ever” (and molly ringwald kinda has a really weird way of speaking, like, her inflections are slightly odd, but she’s so real and I love it, and I can’t think of a single other person in movies who has ever talked like she does–do you know what I mean?) and then Andie goes to school and suddenly she’s wearing the worst hat in the world and the worst sweater in the world and the worst glasses in the world.

    And I love the scene where she’s in the computer lab and she gets the IM from Blane and her picture pops up and then his picture pops up. I mean, it’s such a movie computer. Did computer IM’s EVER really look like that in real life?

    I just ate ice cream and i’m on a sugar high. Sorry if I’m rambling about the most random moments in Pretty in Pink.

    IMHO, the John Hughes’ studs order of studliness is 1. Jake Ryan, 2. Ferris Bueller, 3. John Bender, and 4. Steff

    And as far as dorks go, I love ’em in this order: 1. Farmer Ted, 2. Cameron Frye, 3. Brian the Brain, and 4. Duckie. (nothing against Duckie, he’s just got some awesome dorks to contend with.)

    Oh, and Amen to Curly’s love of Jordan Catalano.

  30. Wutzizname says:

    Ok. Note the time of this message, and remember that Family Guy had a brief Joke about Jake Ryan tonight.

    I cannot stop laughing.

    “Jake! No! Not like this!”

  31. tyna says:

    I know I am painfully late commenting on this post – but is it ever too late to talk about darling Jake Ryan? So I was doing a search on Jake images, as you do, and came across the top image of Jake and Samantha all lovey dovey in school outfits? Am I so old already I can’t remember that scene?! I would say it’s an off screen shoot, but it looks so “film-y.”

    Anyway, as a fellow 16 Candles devotee I loved this post and links – thanks!

  32. tnt says:

    So, I always wondered what scene was cut from Sixteen Candles whenever I see that shot of Jake and Samantha walking together with their arms around each other. When was this scene ever done? What scene did I miss in that movie that I’ve watched over 100 times?

  33. Amy says:

    I know I came here a bit (3 years) late but I also can’t stop thinking bout that scene with Jake and Samantha, books in hand, walking casually…whatever happened to that scene in the film? Does ANYONE know if it was in the movie or did they just cut it? It looks like such a cute scene, well the whole movie was too good to be true!
    I heart Jake Ryan, always have, always will!

  34. Amy says:

    I came here 3 years bit too late but I wanna know exactly what you have just written! What ever happened to that cute scene and why was it not in the movie? Can someone pleaseee answer this important question?!

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