Hadley Freeman – 'My mother had basically allowed me to rent hardcore porn'

The Vogue and Guardian writer on her sheltered upbgringing and obsession with 1980s American movies

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Hadley Freeman – 'My mother had basically allowed me to rent hardcore porn'

Vogue and Guardian writer Hadley Freeman is so obsessed with 1980s American movies and all the life lessons held therein that she wrote a book about it. In this extract from the introduction to Life Moves Pretty Fast, she writes about her sheltered upbringing and how it was blown apart by a boy called Ferris...

I was born in New York City in 1978 meaning that, while I did exist in the eighties as more than a zygote, I wasn’t yet a teenager either. Instead, actual teenagehood for myself felt as distant and desirable as the moon. I was a typical older child from a middle-class Jewish family: well-behaved, anxious, bookish, and therefore especially curious about the vaguely imagined freedoms I fancied being a teenager would bring. My little sister and I weren’t allowed to watch television stations that showed commercials – yes, I come from one of those families – meaning that our viewing options were limited to Sesame Street and whatever our mother allowed us to rent from East 86th Street Video. When I was nine years old, she, for the first time, allowed me to rent something that featured neither animation nor starred Gene Kelly: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I couldn’t believe it. How on earth could she – the dorkiest mother EVER, who only ever gave us FRUIT for dessert, I mean I ask you – let me watch such a film? This movie featured BOYS, actual real life BOYS! Kissing girls – with their tongues! Within the extremely limited framework of my life experience on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, my mother had basically allowed me to rent hardcore porn (tongues!).

Ferris proved to be a mere gateway drug, and I became such a heavy user of East 86th Street Video that for my tenth birthday my parents gave me my own membership card. I was soon mainlining the classics: Mannequin, Romancing the Stone, Good Morning Vietnam, The Breakfast Club, Short Circuit, Indiana Jones, E.T., Spaceballs, Coming to America, Three Amigos!, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, anything produced by Touchstone Pictures and absolutely everything featuring the two actors who I assured my little sister were the real talents of our era: Steve Guttenberg and Rick Moranis. My highbrow taste, which has lasted all my life, was forged then.

These movies, which were largely seen as junk when they came out, were deeply formative, and everyone I know in my generation feels exactly the same way. They provided the lifelong template for my perceptions of funniness (Eddie Murphy), coolness (Bill Murray) and sexiness (Kathleen Turner). They also taught me more about life than any library or teacher ever would. My parents could have saved literally thousands of dollars, jacked in the schools and kept the membership to East 86th Street Video and I’d still be essentially the same person today.

Hadley Freeman, Charlotte Square Gardens, 21 Aug, 7.15pm, £12 (£10).

Hadley Freeman

For many, the 80s was a decade that taste didn’t just forget, but totally bypassed. Guardian and Vogue columnist Hadley Freeman does not subscribe to that one bit and is so passionate about 80s American movies that she’s written a book about them. Life Moves Pretty Fast features the classics (Ghostbusters, Back to the…

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