Reactions to St. Elmo’s Fire when viewed at 38 rather than 14

The fact that I saw “St. Elmo’s Fire” at the Northtown Theater is firmly enshrined in my memory. But IMDB has me doubting my memory. If the rated R movie came out the summer of 1985 when I was thirteen, would I have really gone to see it? Maybe Jenni’s mom took us. Or maybe I saw it in the summer of 1986 when I was fourteen and it had been released on VHS.

I doubt the R rating would have caused my parents any concern. They did not hide nudity or violence from us at all, which is why I saw all the Porky’s movies before I finished Junior High.

Regardless, there were many, many viewings of “St. Elmo’s Fire” in my early teenage hood. The movie was very influential to the girls in my neighborhood. So influential that we spent a lot of time making hairspray fires in Jenni’s garage. Did I mention we were stupid and not watched very closely? Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that’s the same summer we’d play “Machete” which involved Jenni’s older brother Jeff chasing us around the yard with an actual Machete, and to be safe one would have to dive into the garage as the garage door came down. This was made even more exciting by the fact that garage doors didn’t have those object/motion sensor things back in the 80s. I’m amazed we made it out of childhood alive.

But, like I said, “St. Elmo’s Fire” was very influential and was, what I thought, a very accurate reflection of what adulthood would be like. I was wrong. Obviously. Watching the movie yesterday I was surprised by just how wrong I was and how the movie is rather absurd. I wonder if it was absurd even in the 80s. Here’s some of the thoughts I had while watching it:

  • Kirby (Emillio Estevez) ought to be tossed in the clink for stalking.
  • Why didn’t Alec (Judd Nelson) just go into business if he was going to so easily flip-flop by volunteering for that Republican senator allegedly to make more money? Also, doesn’t volunteering imply that there is no pay? Also, since when do 22-year-old senate aides make so damn much money? They have a fine, fine apartment.
  • Leslie (Ally Sheedy) wants to take time off of dating to focus on her career. I have no idea what she does.
  • Woah, Jules (Demi Moore) is smoking in the office.
  • Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) seems to be the only one living a realistic post-college experience — shitty, entry-level job and a shitty apartment with a roommate.
  • Billy’s (Rob Lowe) habit of humiliating and sexually assaulting his friends is really not cool.
  • Can you really get an advance on your pay? Is that something that can actually happen in real-life corporate America or is that something the movies and TV invented?
  • How come Leslie and Wendy (Mare Winningham) dress like grandmas?
  • I bet saxophone players look back at the 80s as the golden era.
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11 Comments

  1. phantomxii 06.Dec.10 at 9:56 pm

    I always thought it was completely asinine the way Rob Lowe’s character headed off for The Big Time with his sax slung over his shoulder. What kind of idiot travels without his case? (Please tell me I’m remembering the scene correctly.)

    Reply
  2. Jodi 06.Dec.10 at 9:58 pm

    You are remembering it correctly. I would have never just slung my sax on my back (and make no mistake I did have a sax) and hopped on a bus.

    And really, since we’re talking about it, are there any sexy sax players? No. Billy has trumpet written all over him.

    Reply
  3. Rich 06.Dec.10 at 10:11 pm

    I love 80s sax. Good, bad, indifferent… don’t care. I love it all. The longest playlist in my iTunes (this isn’t saying much) is my ‘Egregious 80s Sax’ playlist.

    See also (this brought me to tears when first discovered): http://imacomputa.org/sax/

    Reply
  4. Jodi 06.Dec.10 at 10:15 pm

    Rich, I was watching Family Ties tonight (apparently I can only view entertainments that are 20 years old or more) and there was a nice solo sax version of Billy Vera & The Beater’s “At this Moment.” Which is what made me think of the 80s + the sax.

    Reply
  5. Christa 07.Dec.10 at 1:53 am

    Now we’re talking good sax. That is one of my favorite moments of “Family Ties” ever. I can’t hear that song without thinking of Alex P. Keaton and his girlfriend.

    Reply
  6. Edge 07.Dec.10 at 2:30 am

    As a sax player, I can attest to the fact that the 80’s were indeed the heyday of our beloved saxophone. I now play bass.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Fenton 07.Dec.10 at 8:31 am

    Egregious 80s sax is the best playlist name ever.

    Reply
  8. Melissa 07.Dec.10 at 10:01 am

    This post cracked me up. There are quite a few 80s movies that I’ve rewatched as an adult and found very amusing. Everything made sense when I first watched it. It was all so believable and romantic. As an adult I keep thinking things like, they could never afford that apt!

    Reply
  9. bakiwop 07.Dec.10 at 12:36 pm

    all excellent points! i remember sometime in the 90s there was a tv superhero (who was ‘tuned to the frequency of evil’ or somesuch) who played the sax in clubs at night – ah, the saxophone. i was a tenor sax man, myself.

    Reply
  10. NBFB 07.Dec.10 at 1:44 pm

    I couldn’t resist noting here that I have never seen the film in question.

    Now if you want to talk about ‘Red Dawn,’ I’m all over that. I own the DVD.

    Reply
  11. shelaka 07.Dec.10 at 3:11 pm

    I watched the movie again myself a few years ago (I was 20 when I first saw it – you’re right, it was a big deal back then), and just laughed, too. Talk about maudlin drama – it was almost like those Spanish soaps, in English! Love the part at the end, where our “world-wise” cast of characters decide they’re too tired or busy to go back to their favorite bar… “Ah, to be 22 again, now that we’re mature 24 year olds…” (Wistful smiles…)

    Reply

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