Pretty in Pink (1986):"Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding
Visual communication is much more effective when a mood is set by music. Most of the time people don’t recognize that the emotions they are feeling while watching a film are responses to the music along with the film. The underlying music toys with the audiences emotions. In Pretty in Pink (1986), John Hughes, the director, plays with the idea of music effecting the audience by bringing it forward into the plot by having Duckie interact with the song,"Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding.
The song carries emotional weight for all three characters in the scene that relates to the audience. Iona originally put the record on because she was mentally preparing for another love disaster. Adults and teens easily relate to the ups and downs of love through their own past experiences. Recalling past feeling, the audience uses logos to sympathize with Iona. The record begins. Iona dances along and Andie appears lost in her thoughts as Duckie slides into the store to the beat of the music, starts lip-syncing, and dances to the song. The audience reaction aligns with Iona’s and Andie’s who are surprised by the dramatic entrance. The emotion of surprise relates to pathos and ethos. Many times emotions drive our reactions. The song had no intention of being surprising or dramatic from the tone. It’s a somber, soulful beginning that becomes a fun-filled scene. Having Duckie connect to the song gives it character. The song itself is about how to treat a woman right, “squeeze her/don't tease her/never leave her/get to her/got got got/to try a little tenderness.” People listen and pay attention to the lyrics because Duckie knows the song. When someone in a film knows a song, people immediately also want to know the song. The song also reveals more of Duckie. Giannetti in Understanding Movies writes, “Characterization can be suggested through musical motifs” (216). Duckie is a lovable character. While a bit cheesy, Duckie has the audience’s hearts from the moment they find out Duckie is in love with Andie a bit earlier in the film. The song just draws on his character.
The "Try a Little Tenderness" musical number also adds to the film as a whole. Without the song, Duckie would have just walked into the shop. Andie would have been instantly annoyed. But since Duckie randomly appears knowing the song, everyone’s attitude changes from anxious to entertained for a brief moment. Andie is momentarily distracted from wondering if her date will show. The audience is also entertained. The emotional connect to the song. "Try a Little Tenderness" was two decades old when this film was released, so many people, especially adults, knew the song. It’s a catchy tune that people will remember. They also will remember it since Duckie did a fantastic job incorporating a dance to it. The lightheartedness of this song in the middle of the movie sets the tone for the end. The audience knows that if Andie doesn’t end up with Blane, she still has an unbelievably amazing friend in Duckie. They are assured through the song that Andie will be happy no matter the outcome.
In Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford, she describes using humor for argument because, “people suspend their judgment and even their prejudices, perhaps because surprise and naughtiness of wit are combustive: they provoke laughter or smiles, not reflection” (38). That is exactly what this song provokes. The audience laughs and smiles as the scene progresses. It provides the best medicine: laughter.
I rate this song 2 out of 3 tickets.