Saturday,March 24th, 1984, Shermer Highschool, Shermer Illinois.
The Breakfast Club is a movie that came out in 1985 about five high school students who are forced to come into school on Saturday for detention. This movie was written and directed by the late, great John Hughes and stars Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez.
When I first saw The Breakfast Club I must have been thirteen or fourteen years old. I was just entering highschool and I connected with this movie on a very personal level and when I go back and watch it now, I still feel the same things that I felt when I watched it for the first time all those years ago.
The five students the film centers on are all stuck in detention for various reasons that are revealed later in the film. But we first see them when they’re all entering the school in the morning for detention. Each character has a moment before entering the school that sort of points towards their social identities that were brought up in the monologue that opens the film; these identities are, respectively, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.
Clair, played by Molly Ringwald is dropped off by her father in a sports car, she complains about having detention and her father promises he will make it up to her. Brian, played by Anthony Michael Hall is dropped off by his mother and kid sister, his mother lectures him about the importance of schoolwork. Andy, played by Emilio Estevez is dropped off by his father and is lectured about the importance of his athletic career. Allison, played by Ally Sheedy is dropped off by an unseen parent and tries to say goodbye after she exits the car but is ignored as her parents drive away. And John Bender, played by Judd Nelson walks into the school alone, without stopping for Allison’s parents to drive past him.
Throughout the movie these social identities are hinted to in many different ways, from the food they pack for lunch to the clothes they wear to the different clubs they’re a part of.
When the students finally get into the library for detention they behave as their well defined social identities would dictate, Bender, the criminal, causes trouble with the principal, Clair and Andy talk about a party they may attend later that night. Brian awkwardly tries to have a conversation with Bender and Allison sits in the back and watches everyone else. It’s not until Bender brings them all to his locker to retrieve his weed that the social identities start to fall away and the students start showing each other who they really are.
After they make it back from Bender’s locker to the library without the principal catching them, Bender taking the bullet for the rest of the students, the students start to relax a bit and just sort of hang out.
After catching Bender in the Gymnasium playing basketball he locks him up in the broom closet for the remaining time he has in detention, but once the principal leaves, Bender sneaks back into the library where the rest of the kids are and asks for his weed back from Brain (whose pants he shoved it before running of to sacrifice himself for the other students.)
After all the students smoke pot we get a some comedic relief in the form of Emilio Estevez dancing around the library.
By the third act (after smoking some pot) all five of the students have their social identities stripped away and they start to bond and confess to each other about how much they hate their lives. This scene shows the audience that in highschool, no matter how unique your problems feel, you’re really not alone because everyone has problems. Even though Brian tried to kill himself, or Andy beat some kid up, or Clair’s parents care more about themselves than they do about her, even though all of those problems are different, each kid is the same because they all have problems.
Overall, this film was important to me because it teaches us that who we are inside is more important than the social identities that are given to us without our control. I think that was a very empowering message to me as a teenager, that who I was on the inside was more important than what other people saw me as, that my opinion of myself, was the most important opinion. Because in highschool everyone wants to tell you who you are, everyone from your parents to your teachers to even your friends want to control your life and this film told me that it was not only okay, but good to take control of my life. And that’s why I won’t forget about this movie.