The Breakfast Club (1985)

“You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Directed by John Hughes (16 Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone and Pretty in Pink)
Starring Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson. Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall

Before I start I do want to say that The Breakfast Club has not aged well. It shows sexual assault, LGBTQIA+ slurs, changing yourself to get the boy, and discusses victims lying about rape, and unfortunately, the responses to these events are no longer appropriate. If you are thinking about media to show older teenagers, I highly recommend the TV Show Netflix’s Sex Education.

The Breakfast Club is John Hughes’ most famous teenage-drama film, and is the perfect example of the 1980s teenage genre.

The Breakfast club follows five teenagers that fall into five different stereotypes – a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal – as they sit through detention on a Saturday. Throughout the film, the teenagers transition from their 2D stereotypes into 3 dimensional individuals.

Hughes creates these 3D characters by actually using teenage actors. Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald who were both 17 at the time of filming. This is seen so rarely now in coming of age films, where the main characters are played by actors in their 20s. By using teenage actors, the films feels more authentic and helps it relate to its target audience, teenagers. It is harder to relate to a ‘highschool student’ who is fully developed and has grown out of the awkward stage of puberty.

The authenticity of the film continues by respecting the teenagers as human beings, as young adults, rather than children who do not understand the world around them. This is first seen with the opening quote:

‘…And these children that you spit on as they try to change their woulds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…..’

– David Bowie

Hughes challenges our expectations that the characters are children by Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) having a fake ID, not to buy alcohol or get into bars but so that he vote;

Why do you need a fake ID?

To vote.

Hughes further develops these characters by having them discuss their “adult” problems.

The Breakfast Club creates a sense of community by discussing real life problems such as bullying, peer and parental pressure, attempted suicide, and abuse. The film does not offer solutions to these issues, but it brings them to the surface and reminds its audience that they are not alone. Slut-shaming, where a person is judged by their sexual experience, actual or perceived, is discussed when Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) does not want to talk about her virginity;

Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap.

The other-side of bullying is also discussed when Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) opens up about why he bullied another student

And the bizarre thing is, is that I did it for my old man… I tortured this poor kid, because I wanted him to think that I was cool.

John Bender (Judd Nelson) discusses his own physical abuse from his father;

Do you believe this? Huh? It’s about the size of a cigar… You see, this is what you get in my house when you spill paint in the garage

To only be abused by Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), the teacher who is taking them for detention;

Come on! I’ll give you the first punch, let’s go! Come on, right here, just take the first shot! Please, I’m begging you, take a shot!

Claire also discusses her problems with t peer pressure;

I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say.

Both Brian and Andrew discuss parental pressure in both athletics:

‘Andrew! You’ve got to be number one! I won’t tolerate any losers in this family! Your intensity is for shit! Win! Win! Win!’ You son of a bitch. You know, sometimes I wish my knee would give. And I wouldn’t be able to wrestle anymore. And he could forget all about me.

and grades:

I can’t have an F, I can’t have it and I know my parents can’t have it! Even if I aced the rest of the semester, I’m still only a B. And everything’s ruined for me!

Brian also discusses how all of this pressure has lead him to contemplate suicide;

Know why I’m here today? Do you? I’m here because Mr. Ryan found a gun in the locker…

No solutions are offered by the film for these issues, they are not issues a group of teenagers can fix, but maybe discussing them in the film will allow their teenage audience to discuss these issues with their peers, hopefully leading to them seeking help.

The Breakfast Club has become a staple in pop culture. If you are wondering what all your favourite TV shows such as How I Met your Mother (2005-2014), Community (2009-2015) and Riverdale (2017- ) are doing when they are doing their The Breakfast Club episodes then you really need to watch this film. You will no longer have to fake smiles as everyone around you gets the jokes! There is also speculation that Bart Simpson’s (The Simpsons) catchphrase ‘Eat my shorts!’ comes from this film.

The Breakfast Club is the perfect representation of the 1980s teenage genre, it aims to break down stereotypes and successfully portray teenagers as authentic young adults with both strengths and flaws. The problems discussed are universal and are still an issues for people today, however it is worth noting that many aspects of the film have not aged well and therefore is probably not appropriate for teenage audiences today.

Yours sincerely,
The Breakfast Club.

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