Rendering: Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink (1986) is a cult classic 80s teen film by director John Hughes about love, friendship and social cliques in High School.
The film follows the beginning of romance between unpopular-but-intelligent Andie and nice-rich-kid Blane, who find themselves attracted to each other despite their differing social status and the disapproval of their friends. The plot is thickened by the fact that Andie’s best friend and supporter, Duckie, is in love with her.
Though the movie is about love and friendship, it has an underlying narrative about the struggle of social classes and growing up in a low income home. It is revealed that Andie’s mother left the family, causing her father to become depressed and lose his job. Andie assumes the role of a parent to her father, which causes strain in their relationship.
In "Adolescent Development" Annual Review of Psychology, authors Steinberg and Sheffield reveal that “research indicates that adolescents’ relationships with their parents influence their interactions with peers" (p.92). Already, Andie’s social status at school is impacted by her socio-economic situation. Andie never asks her father for anything, works an after-school job and must be creative with her fashion choices for the sake of frugality. Her low SE status is glaring, and does not go over well with her peers. Benny, a snobby popular girl, sneers at Andie’s appearance in class and accuses her of getting her clothes at the "five-and-dime". The bullying continues each time Andie is confronted with Benny.
In their findings, Steinberg and Sheffield discovered that “Not surprisingly, peer victimization leads to the development of poor self conceptions as well as internalizing and externalizing problems…” (pg 94). As Andie’s and Blane’s relationship flourishes, the stressors of Andie’s situation begin to cause problems. She refuses to let Blane drive her home, because she doesn’t want him to see her house—this results in an argument. After accompanying Blane to a party with the “richies”, she becomes emotional after people act incredulous at the sight of her and mock her for wearing pearls. Another argument ensues. Andie seeks solace in her friendship with Duckie, a pattern that Steinberg’s and Sheffield’s mention in their article: “although adolescents who are victimized tend to have few friends... having a best friend or a friend who is strong and protective weakens the effects of victimization (p 94). Andie becomes empowered by her friendship and self-confidence, enough to tell confront Blane when he becomes ashamed of their relationship and rescinds his offer to take her to prom. (See the clip here.)
Though the film exaggerates the caricatures of its characters, it firmly highlights issues related to class and the gritty reality of individuals experiencing poverty. Because of her poverty, Andie experiences stressors, social stigma, and limited opportunities, which inhibits her identity growth and causes emotional burden. The film’s commentary on how class informs—and sometimes dictates—every aspect of a person’s life, is a reality that endures today.
Steinberg, L., Sheffield Morris, A. (2001) "Adolescent Development" Annual Review of Psychology.. 52:83–110