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The Breakfast Club (Movie Analysis) and Teen Stereotypes - Judith Andre
As soon as the song “Don’t You Forget About Me” is played, people who have seen The Breakfast Club (1985) instantly think of scenes from the classic film. When this song was paired with the movie, it stayed on the minds of a generation. Directed by John Hughes, The Breakfast Club takes viewers on a comedic ride through the good and bad parts of adolescence. Despite its 1980’s feel, the cast of stars play off each others’ characters well enough to make the film a timeless classic with a few underlying morals. It delves deeper into the role of the stereotype commonly seen in “teen comedies” while still managing to portray a deeper meaning.
Anyone who has attended high school can relate in some way to the characters of the film. Principle Richard Vernon requests that five students, all in trouble for various reasons, spend a Saturday in detention together writing an essay explaining who they are. As the day goes on, the teenagers find out more about themselves while facing some harsh realities of life. Even though all five characters grow bonds with each other through this eight hour detention, they each know that come Monday they will end up going back to their own group or clique.
The beginning of the film introduces all of the characters. John Hughes separated his characters into five different categories: the jock, the braniac, the spoiled princess, the criminal, and the misfit. This made it easier for the audience to relate themselves to the characters in the movie. Andy, the jock, appears to be a man on the outside, however, as the film progresses, he can be seen as a more emotional character. He is bullied by his father who is a great example of a character that truly believes in the masculinity stereotype. Andy is portrayed as an athlete that is afraid of disappointing his father. Ironically, he is in detention for bullying another peer. Brian, the brain, fears failure and is stressed out by his mother worrying about what college he gets in to. Brian is a sad character, and it can clearly be seen that he is not happy with who he is. Claire, the spoiled princess, is the typical high school drama queen, or so it seems. She thinks that her father should have paid her way out of detention. Instead, her father offers her a shopping spree in return for eight hours in detention. Bender, the criminal, is an average high school stoner. He seems to have no interest in his school work or life in general for that matter. He arrives at the school by himself, which shows the lack of concern his parents have for his well being. As the film continues, the audience learns that his parents don’t share the same love for him that they do with their other children. Allison, the misfit, is a gloomy character. She is dropped off by her father, who seems to speed away without saying goodbye. Not fitting in with any other group, Allison is more of a loner.
Throughout the entire film all of these characters get on each other’s nerves. However, as the day continues, they begin to trust one another and learn life lessons in the process. Each of these five characters has an unleashing of emotions at some point in the film, which reveals to the viewers that they each are not who they seem to be. Every character adds their own perspective on the typical high school student’s life. These specific groups of people are common to most, if not all high schools in the United States.
The Breakfast Club
In the beginning of the movie, these five types hardly had any contact with each other at all, and if they did, it was usually negative. High school cliques don’t mix. When these five characters are forced to spend a Saturday in detention together, they begin to realize that maybe they aren’t that much different from each other after all. Being in the school library all day forces them to spend time with people they would have otherwise not even talked to. Claire and Andy were the only two students that knew each other simply because of the cliques they are associated with in high school. Towards the start of the movie they talk to each other about a party that they both were invited to. The five spend time relating to one another and by the end of the film they realize that on the inside they are not that different from each other. Simply looking past another’s differences can ultimately reveal a person who is not much different than your own self.
Judith Andre, in her stereotypes article, stresses that it is important to not only portray the truth, but portray the entire truth. The Breakfast Club did a good job of portraying the whole truth by delving into the many hardships that teenagers face at high school, and at home. In the article, Judith Andre stated that:
“An unwillingness to face something is a form of self-deception; it results from a sense of danger to oneself: a fear that the unfaced fact itself will turn out to be unpleasant, or at least that the facing of it will be. Thinking is work; an unpredictable world is frightening. Stereotypes, like other generalizations, protect us from both effort and fear. But stereotypes differ from other generalizations in their greater immunity to revision; they are not just handy but disposable rules of thumb.” (Andre 42).
Hughes was trying to convey to viewers that if people would take the time to look past the labels associated with their peers, then they will in-turn understand and appreciate their peers more. Society in general is far too often prejudiced and The Breakfast Club allows viewers to relate to the pain felt by each of these characters. A common issue that most teenagers can relate to is that of being a virgin. In high school, it is shameful to be considered a virgin. Claire and Allison are both virgins in the movie, and they are both afraid of what their classmates may think of them for being virgins. All teenagers are looking for is acceptance.
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It was about this time in U.S. history when metal detectors started being placed in high schools all across the country. Early viewers of The Breakfast Club thought that John Hughes was insane to think that high school teenagers are progressively becoming worse individuals. Considering the many school shootings taking place recently, such as Columbine and Virginia Tech, one might be able to commend Hughes for this interesting foreshadowing. There may not be many schools that have Saturday detention anymore, but there will always be labels associated with high school students, as well as just about every other human being. All humans are different, but on the inside we are more alike than not. We all have fears and emotions. We all love and hate. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Deep within all of us lives a jock, braniac, princess, criminal, and misfit. Humans need to find a way to reach within and relate to each other. The film is full of details, and viewers can almost get a whiff of Vernon’s aftershave. Hughes masterfully picked the music to go along with the film, and the characters, which were played by stars at the time, did a wonderful job of expressing teenage behavior. Hughes also illustrated the teenagers as goofballs uniting together for the common goal of pissing off Principal Vernon. Each character releases a certain part of his or her ego for the benefit of the group. They go about the day getting high, eating lunch, giving makeovers, and basically screwing around in the library as well as the rest of the school. The actors Ringwald, Estevez, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy gave a new type of group performance while at the same time becoming “individual stars performing in vehicles designed especially for them” (Belton 381).
The closing act, when each of the five students work out their differences and come to grips with their own personas, is the most important scene. Hughes inserted this confessional moment and filled it with high school stories of psychological trauma, so even if one could not identify with a character of the movie, the acting in this scene was enough to get the message across. This display of emotional purging was unheard of in similar movies of the teen genre up until The Breakfast Club.
Viewers of The Breakfast Club often overlook the concern for future teens portrayed in the movie. It is a tale of communication and friendship; however, it can also be a lesson on life and what Hughes thinks is a problem in our society. He masterfully portrays his own discontent with life labels through each of the characters in the movie and allows viewers to contemplate their own emotions while watching the film.
According to Judith Andre, “Stereotypes are avoidable.” People need to stop being afraid of telling the truth. If Allison and Claire weren’t afraid of how they might be treated for classifying themselves as virgins, then they would have had a chance at being friends long before the Saturday detention. This goes for all five of the students. The time spent together alone in the school library allowed them to look past the masks that they each wear. Through this, they discovered that they all share similar feelings and attitudes. For one special Saturday afternoon, the five are able to be themselves, letting go of stereotypes and speaking on behalf of their own friends who fall into the same groups as them. If one of the millions of people that viewed this film had a change of heart, or decided to look at someone in a new light, then Hughes served his purpose. The Breakfast Club will continue to be an enlightening movie through the ages for all those who view it.
Andre, Judith. "Stereotypes: Conceptual and Normative Considerations." Multicultural Film: An
Anthology. (2010): 41-45. Print.
Belton, John. American Cinema American Culture. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2009.
Orndorf, Brian. "John Hughes: The High School flashback collection." DVDTalk. DVDTalk, 4
Sep 2008. Web. 19 Apr 2010. <http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/34539/john-hughes-the-high-school-flashback-collection-sixteen-candles-the-breakfast-club-and-weird-science/?___rd=1>.
"The Breakfast Club (1985)." IMDB. Amazon, n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2010.