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Mainstream Maverick

Mainstream Maverick
John Hughes and New Hollywood Cinema

The first scholarly book on John Hughes examines Hollywood's complex relationship with genre, the role of the auteur in commercial cinema, and the legacy of favorites such as Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

September 2020
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284 pages | 6 x 9 | 18 b&w photos, 9 b&w illus. |

In the 1980s and 1990s, John Hughes was one of Hollywood's most reliable hitmakers, churning out beloved teen comedies and family films such as The Breakfast Club and Home Alone, respectively. But was he an artist? Hughes, an adamantly commercial filmmaker who was dismissed by critics, might have laughed at the question. Since his death in 2009, though, he has been memorialized on Oscar night as a key voice of his time. Now the critics lionize him as a stylistic original.

Holly Chard traces Hughes's evolution from entertainer to auteur. Studios recognized Hughes's distinctiveness and responded by nurturing his brand. He is therefore a case study in Hollywood's production not only of movies but also of genre and of authorship itself. The films of John Hughes, Chard shows, also owed their success to the marketers who sold them and the audiences who watched. Careful readings of Hughes's cinema reveal both the sources of his iconic status and the imprint on his films of the social, political, economic, and media contexts in which he operated.

The first serious treatment of Hughes, Mainstream Maverick elucidates the priorities of the American movie industry in the New Hollywood era and explores how artists not only create but are themselves created.


Finalist, Best First Monograph, British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Making of “John Hughes”
  • 1. Building a Brand: Universal (1984–1985)
  • 2. Realities and Fantasies of Suburban Adolescence
  • 3. The Creative Producer: Paramount (1985–1987)
  • 4. Gender, Generation, and Coming-of-Age in 1980s America
  • 5. Solid Family Fare: Universal (1988–1990) and Warner Bros. (1987–1993)
  • 6. Pressures of Parenthood and Fantasies of Childhood
  • 7. Family Film Franchises: 20th Century Fox( 1989–1997)
  • 8. Slapstick, Sentimentality, and the American Family
  • Conclusion: Mainstream Maverick?
  • Notes
  • Index

Holly Chard is a senior lecturer in contemporary screen media at the University of Brighton. She holds a PhD from the University of Sussex.


“A creditable and insightful argument for why Hughes is worth studying...readers interested in a serious study of Hughes and 1980s cinema will enjoy this engaging book.”
Library Journal

“More than just a conventional auteur study of a popular director, Mainstream Maverick offers an illuminating discussion of the historical and theoretical questions that surround these films, questions about changing 'creative production' structures, auteurist 'branding' strategies, modern generic shifts in the New Hollywood, and the reconfiguration of contemporary audiences. Above all, this book details the places where some of the larger and more resonant theoretical debates about popular cinema or contemporary film culture play out in Hughes’s films. Especially impressive is Chard’s careful examination of primary research as a way of complicating and evaluating the rich commercial foundations from which Hughes created many of the most popular and influential films of the last few decades.”
Timothy Corrigan, author of The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker

“With Mainstream Maverick, Holly Chard gives us a model of careful industry research on US studios and production across the 1980s and 1990s.  In addition to offering this illuminating industry analysis, Chard provides deft textual critiques, particularly around gender and family roles. Lucid, engaging, and never condescending to its subject, Mainstream Maverick offers bountiful insight into the formative years of the New New Hollywood.”
Mark Gallagher, author of Another Steven Soderbergh Experience: Authorship and Contemporary Hollywood


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