Good Thursday to you all. This week’s throwback is to the 80s Brat Pack classic – The Breakfast Club. Settle yourselves down, grab a biscuit and let us all go delving into the stress and turbulence of being a teenager, shall we?As usual, spoilers abound…
For the uninitiated (where have you been? You’re missing out!), The Breakfast Club is the story of five disparate teenagers, who appear to have nothing in common aside from the fact that they all attend the same school and have all been given Saturday detention. They describe themselves to their teacher thus: “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. 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”. Over the course of the day, united by frustration at being there and loathing for their teacher/gaoler, these five kids begin to open up to each other.
The film was penned and directed by teenage-moviedom king, John Hughes and stars two of his regular casting choices: Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. Rounding out the rest of the group are certified Brat Pack members: Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez, who later reunited for St Elmo’s Fire (incidentally, that’s a film I really hate – sorry, guys). These five kids discuss all manner of topics including sex, parents, fitting in, drugs and academics. Over the course of the day they all reveal their reasons for being in detention, helping each other to deal with what they’ve done.
The Breakfast Club entered popular culture and remains an iconic film about teenagers and an interesting study of what happens when people are trapped together. The film’s repeated appearance in popular culture shows how it’s endured over the last 30 years, showing that it remains relevant today. Its set up has been parodied and imitated many times over the years, including by my perennial favourite Dawson’s Creek. I love this example from Community:
You have a five young, attractive people all (supposedly) poised for stardom playing characters whose issues most teenagers can relate to in some way. (Full disclosure: looking at it from a contemporary point of view, it is a fairly narrow set of viewpoints and voices portrayed in the film but the underlying ‘teen issues’ are mostly universal).
I came to The Breakfast Club late, at 20. Though no longer a teenager, that period of my life was still recent enough that I could vividly recall it. Plus, starting university can sometimes feel like school – no inbuilt pack of friends and a need to feel like you fit in still lingers. I remember watching it and being blown away by how much I liked it. These characters felt recognisable to me; I understood them. Besides feeling like these characters represented something true about being a teenager, The Breakfast Club has practically everything you could want in a movie. There are tricks with lipstick:
And a really excellent triumphant closing song
The way these kids battle and later relate to each other may be seen as idealistic by some, but holds true to much of my own experience at school. As a drama student, I developed connections with many students very different to my own circle of friends and in working together on a performance we formed bonds that were unlikely to have existed otherwise. The central principle behind the film: that however different we may seem, we all have things to share and threads that link us together, is something I like to believe is true and one of my favourite things about The Breakfast Club is its celebration of that ideal. Yes, we can probably all agree that come Monday, things will revert back to normal, as Claire suggests. However, we the audience know that even if they aren’t suddenly obvious friends, the connection they’ve all forged together may still endure and that whatever happens they understand each other – and maybe other kids, too – a bit better now.