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Stereotypes in the Breakfast Club

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Stereotypes. I am a teenager, so I must be a rebel. I play on the football team; therefore, I am a jock. I excel in school and have straight A’s, so I must be a nerd. I am socially awkward, so I must be the weird kid. I know everyone in school; therefore, I am a popular girl. The classic 1985 film, The Breakfast Club demonstrates the variety of stereotypes that individuals fall into within a school environment. I believe John Hughes’s film, The Breakfast Club, should be shown in Sociology classrooms at Slippery Rock University to display how stereotypes are ingrained within individuals to where it affects interaction among different cliques.

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Saying this, the plot behind the film, The Breakfast Club, is crucial for the audience to visualize how the characters represent a specific stereotype that is being portrayed. This movie follows the story of a criminal, Bender, an athlete, Andrew, a princess, Claire, a geek, Brian, and a basket-case, Allison. These five individuals must spend a full Saturday together in detention as a result of something each of them did. Once everybody arrives at school for detention, they all scatter to different desks throughout the library, typical clique behavior. The main objective of the day is to have the students write an essay saying who they think they are as an individual. Soon after the principal leaves the room, the five students start to display stereotypical behavior like the princess starting to complain about how she should not be in detention, the athlete threatening to get in a fight with the criminal, the basket case hiding in the corner chewing her nails, the brain actually trying to think about how he is going to write the paper and the criminal loudly singing while distracting the others. As the movie continues, the teens start to argue about things such as the lunch they are eating, the clothes they wear, and the clubs they all are a part of. The characters soon learn many different things about one another like the personal aspects in their lives that they may have not shared with anyone else.

With a variety of stereotypes that individuals portray, each character throughout, The Breakfast Club, demonstrates a clear vision of the standard that focuses on them to succeed. Teens are put into a group that represents a specific stereotype from the moment they enter the school on the first day. Saying this, Judd Nelson, who plays the character, Bender, depicts the ‘troublemaker’ of the school through his dominance and leadership abilities in the film. Bender continues as this terrible kid, who everyone views, has black boots and an overcoat on who does not have caring parents that drops him off at detention. His character portrays an aggressive attitude that in one scene during the film raises the blood pressure of the principal by closing the door to the room when it needed to be left open. Bender is an emotionally wounded teen trying to seek any attention by committing these ‘bad boy’ acts. As a college student watching this film and acknowledging these stereotypes, this can develop a new sense of reputation among these types of individuals who act out of the norm to gather acceptance from others. However, because of Bender’s ruthless reputation, characters in the film, such as Claire, who is deemed the popular girl would never even consider being friends with him.

Speaking from a teenager’s perspective, the idea to judge one another is obvious in a school environment. Everyone is wanting to fit in with the norm and essentially prove themselves to mold into this ‘standard’ that is set. Claire, played by Molly Ringwald, is a prime example of this. Her background comes from a wealthy family that acts like they are above everyone else. From an outsider’s perspective, life as a popular girl is perfect. Well, that is not the case. Claire puts on makeup, dresses in fancy clothes, wears jewelry, and must put on a mask to fulfill her status at school. For example, a scene from the film best illustrates this as when Bender teases Claire by asking her if she is a virgin and has ever been kissed by a boy (The Breakfast Club). I think everyone assumes certain scenarios that go on in other’s lives but fail to realize that these stereotypes are the things that make us have those assumptions about others. Claire lied and covered up being a virgin when being asked that question, but later in the film, the audience finds out that Claire, being the popular girl, put on her mask to fit the standard. This film portrays the different categories of expectations individuals live up to which affect the way they interact with each other. In the beginning, no one talked to one another because they all came from different groups. For instance, the scene that best describes how the characters do not connect during the time they are describing the types of clubs and organizations, they are a part of within the school. Bender made a comment saying how Andrew, the wrestler, must be dumb since all he knows how to do is ‘win’. The scene goes on where Claire says she is the President of the Student council and tells Bender that he could never join any clubs because of his ruthless behavior. Brian, the nerd, then chimes in and states how he is a part of the Physics and Math Club, but Claire makes it known that academic clubs and other clubs are not the same, therefore she is not a part of any academic clubs (The Breakfast Club). The point Bender was trying to make is it does not matter what activities, what you own, how many friends you have, etc. that does not define you as an individual. Saying this, the interaction among these characters during this scene impacts the way they view one another and shows how stereotypes influence the outlook on others.

The responsiveness to how accurate these stereotypes have throughout, The Breakfast Club, illustrates how real-life school environments influence the masks individuals put on to fit in with the crowd. This film is essential among college audiences where they can connect and relate to a new perspective. As a college student, I feel The Breakfast Club would be beneficial to students by exposing them to peers they may have never met before along with helping them develop interpersonal skills. Not only does it open the audience’s perspective on the lack of interaction among different types of groups, but the stereotypes throughout this film present the idea of separating society into little boxes that define the personalities and lives of individuals.

After seeing this classic film several times, Bender has always stuck out for his ability to stay true to himself and to bring his fellow detention buddies brutally honest with themselves and how others view them. The scene accurately depicts these characters digging deeper into the person they truly are, without the mask, they all talk about their backgrounds, their fears, the expectations of their parents and realize that they all are similar. For instance, Andrew has this wrestling scholarship that his dad values highly and always want him to win. His father does not tolerate any losers in the family, and Andrew holds all this pressure upon himself to be number one all of the time. In another way, Brian relates to Andrew because his parents expect him to have good grades. He considers himself a failure in his parent’s eyes if he gets an ‘F’ and no one realizes the amount of pressure on his shoulders. These are two examples of how stereotypes dictate the way we view others and assume everyone is living perfect lives all of the time. During this scene, all of the five characters come to an agreement that they do not want to end up like their parents because of the amount of pressure they all have had to live up to without disappointing them. By the end of the film, the characters finally realize that it is beneficial to expand their perspectives on each other and to not let their status come in between interacting with different groups of individuals.

Each person has ideas, feelings, and opinions regarding how they want their lives to end up, despite the hardships that they must persevere through to get there. These characters have shown that with the nine hours spent arguing and letting their stereotypes get in the way of interacting with each other that by the end of the film it forms a new perspective among how others take off their mask and dig deeper into socializing with others. This is beneficial to college students knowing how to break free of these stereotypes to change their lives as well as others for the better as well as forming new friendships they would not know otherwise. The timeframe that the individuals form an unbreakable bond, the question of “What happens on Monday morning when they all see each other again”? They all wonder whether that bond will break the normal respective social groups, or will they just ignore each other like they have all this time before? Individuals can all relate to this situation and it is up to them whether they stick with their given stereotype or if they break free and demonstrate that interaction with outsiders can provide a new norm that will enhance the development of society.

Above all, I highly recommend showing, The Breakfast Club, within Sociology classrooms at Slippery Rock University to acknowledge how stereotypes contradict the outcome of interacting with different groups of people to display how often these types of scenarios happen within the school environment. 

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