To many teenagers in the 21st century, a movie about five kids being stuck together on a Saturday detention may not seem all the rave. However, to others including me, it serves as an entertaining reminder that even back in the ‘80s, teenagers were faced with the same angst and apprehension that some of us may feel even today. It uses more of an amusing direction to discuss deeper and meaningful truths that many teenagers and adults may always struggle with. From the opening and closing music (Don’t You (Forget About Me) by ‘Simple Minds’ to the baggy clothing and frizzy hairstyles, The Breakfast Club, written and directed by the iconic John Hughes, is an ideal representation of ‘80s culture. The movie itself, is filled with characters with various identities; the geek, the jock, the outcast, the popular girl, and the rebel, all of which are portrayals of teenage stereotypes. As five Shermer High School students come together in their school’s library for the eight hours that they must all serve for detention with their school principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleanson).
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They are given an assignment to write an essay of who they think they are, which by no surprise, the students find ridiculous. It is not until Mr. Vernon leaves them to fend for themselves when time begins to drag by. However, it also starts to dismantle the labels that have been placed on them by their peers, the students begin to share their stories, and for throughout those eight hours, they begin to bond and discover new perspectives on each other. Hughes’s clever strategy of isolating a group of teenagers in one room for hours is inevitable to cause some sort of tension between the personalities. In this case, the rebel, John Bender (Judd Nelson) begins to antagonize his peers from the very start. He storms into the library and is quick to provoke Mr. Vernon leaving a bad impression on his fellow detention buddies. His long hair, earrings, and his leather combat boots are all part of his façade Bender uses to guard himself. Hughes portrays Bender as the typical bad boy, when he’s just like many other teenagers. He struggles with his parents and their constant abuse, which leaves Bender in the beginning envying characters like the popular girl, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and the jock, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez). From an outsider looking in like many teenagers do, many of us interpret not how people are but how they seem, and for Bender, Claire and Andrew seemed to have their entire lives mapped out for them. It’s obvious how important it was for Hughes to incorporate a character that was not only unwanted at school but also at home. As difficult as it is to watch Bender share his story, it’s powerful.
Bender is a damaged soul and his unraveling transformation from beginning to end is a true moving experience to watch. Unlike Claire and Andrew, just like in the reality of high school, there are those who may not always fit in, and they are labeled the outcast and the geek. In the film the outcast Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) and the outcast Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) who also played the “geek” in Hughes’s film ‘Sixteen Candles’. Allison and Brian are more reserved in the beginning of the film. Allison not even having a line to speak until thirty minutes into the film, she is immediately labeled “The Basket-Case”. However, unlike the other students, Allison is detention by choice. “My parents ignore me” she admits. Dressing in black from head to toe with smudged eyeliner, it is evident that Hughes wanted Allison’s appearance to be a cry for help. She was desperate for somebody to listen to her and intrigues Andrew, the jock, ironically the two have undeniable chemistry which is predictable coming from Hughes, but it is not until Allison’s cheesy make-over scene when we see her in a different light. Brian, the geek, had a rough start along with Claire, Bender seemed to find them the more intriguing of the group and constantly badgered them until Claire finally cracked under pressure when questioned about her more personal life and Brian revealed his true reason for serving the Saturday detention.
The constant pressure that is put upon teenagers by their parents and even teachers to do well academically is often extreme, and Brian serves as the prime example of that situation. It occurs in the scene when all five students are gathered together in the library discussing why they all had to attend the Saturday detention. Claire mentions the expectations and pressure that is put on students like her and Andrew the “popular kids”. That is when the students soon learned that Brian was in detention for bringing a flare gun to school with suicidal intent. “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 responds to his peers when asked why he brought the gun to school. It is a but unsettling to see all five students at their most vulnerable states, but it is the rawest. Many students could relate to the film, maybe not as dramatically, but it could give them some sort of reassurance that what their feeling is completely valid. Throughout the movie the five students’ bond over teasing Mr. Vernon, smoking marijuana, and blasting rock’n’roll in the library. Towards the end there is a sort of melancholy feeling that after they left through those doors, everything would go back to how it was before. The essay that was left for Mr. Vernon at the very end serves as a very important piece in the film. It easily describes to those watching the transformation of each character and how regardless of how we may think of ourselves, there will always be others who may perceive us in a different way.
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