||I’ve got to be honest; I am a
total geek when it comes to The Breakfast Club. I know virtually every
line of this film word for word and suffer from withdrawal when I
haven’t seen it for a couple of months. The strange thing is though, I
wasn’t even born when it was originally released, yet when I saw it for
the first time at the age of 16 it became one of the first films that I
could really identify with and relate to.
I was a massive Dawson’s Creek fan growing up. In one particular episode, they spoof the film for an episode called Detention. The four principle characters are stuck in a Saturday detention together and the episode plays out almost exactly like the film. At one point they talk about how the situation is like the film and I was keen to see the resemblances. When the film was on BBC1 late one night, I decided to stay up and watch it and was completely blown away.
We’ve all suffered the pain of high school (or in my case secondary school), so we know there are different cliques that each of us fit into. The Breakfast Club features a criminal, a princess, an athlete, a brain and a basket case. We all know what we were - I guess I was a brain back in the day, some would argue that I still am… Anyway, my point is that we all fit into one of these groups so there is at least one character that we can all relate to. I say at least because I feel like I can relate to all of them.
The Breakfast Club is the kind of film that can never really grow old as, although the fashion and music seems dated, the issues are still the same. Sure, today there would some changes to the dialogue – there would be stronger language, for example – and the cliques may be slightly different and perhaps include chavs, emos, etc, and there would be at least one black kid, but teenagers today are facing the same kind of issues as they were twenty years ago, most notably, problems with their parents.
At the start of the film, we learn who’s who in terms of the stereotypes, but what is significant is that four of the five teens are dropped off by their parents – early on we see the kind of the relationship they have with their family. Not long into the film, Claire discusses how dysfunctional her family is and how her parents both use her to get back at the other. Bender then proceeds to ask Andrew if he gets on with his parents, to which he says, ‘if I say yes, I’m an idiot, right?’ Bender replies, ‘you’re an idiot anyway. If you say you get along with your parents you’re a liar too’.
Andrew’s problem with his parents is that his dad pushes him to be the best wrestler. He feels the need to impress him which is why he is in detention in the first place. Brian’s story is similar in that he has to get an A in everything. It is not just parents though, as towards the end of the film, Claire tells the others that they don’t understand the kind of pressure friends can put on you. There is an emphasis on the lack of control that teenagers have on their own lives.
There is an emotional moment between Allison and Andrew towards the end of the film. After she tips her bag out in front of everyone in the library, she says she thinks about running away because her home life is ‘unsatisfying’. Andrew later asks her why and asks if it’s because of her parents. For a while it looks like her story may be the same as Bender’s (violence) but she tells him ‘they ignore me’. She is only in detention because she has nothing better to do!
It is just as bad to be ignored by your parents as it is to have them beat you up, use you or put too much pressure on you to succeed. Not one of them has a good relationship with their parents and this is what finally unites them. They all dread turning into them and Allison reveals her theory that it is inevitable because ‘when you grow up your heart dies’.
The Breakfast Club is a cult classic. This cannot be said about a lot of high school films, although Heathers, American Pie and Brick are pretty seminal, each of them displaying the various cliques. Mean Girls is another example, receiving box office success as well as critical acclaim. There is only one problem I have with The Breakfast Club and that is Allison’s makeover at the end of the film. Ally Sheedy spoke about this in an interview at the time of the film’s original release and said that in one version of the script, Allison was to wear a lot of black eyeliner, which Claire would then wipe off. In the final cut of the film, however, her hair is pulled away from her face, she is wearing some makeup and dressed in a way that makes her appear more feminine, although Claire does still say ‘you really do look a lot better without all that black shit on your eyes’. The romantic in me likes to think that something would have happened between Andrew and Allison with or without the makeover after their bond over crappy parents but I still think this is a slightly unnecessary sequence.
Each character undergoes a change during the course of the film, some more obvious than others. Bender, for example, arrives at the school wearing lots of layers, which he gradually removes in key moments, indicating that he is reveals more of himself removes the false parts of his image. To me, he is the key character and this is reflected in the final shot, which seems him walk across the school field and triumphantly punch the air.
First thing in the morning, none of the characters see each other beyond their stereotypes. Claire says to Bender, ‘you don’t even know any of us’, yet she doesn’t either. When Bender talks about drugs, Claire tells him ‘only burners like you get high’. Not long later, she becomes such a ‘burner’ and this is where everything begins to change. The drug stash in Bender’s locker is the key part of the film – it is why they leave the library, why Bender winds up in the cupboard and gets threatened by Mr Vernon (even sacrificing himself so the others can get back) and when the others realise they all have a bit of a criminal inside them – Bender says to Claire ‘being bad feels pretty good, huh?’
There are countless moments at the start of the film which become totally reversed by the end. At the start, Bender says ‘do you think I’d speak for you? I don’t even know your language’ and at the end, Brian writes the essay for everyone. They realise that they do indeed speak the same language and are more alike than they first realised. They saw each other the same was as Mr Vernon did at the start of the day but got past their preconceptions and discovered more about each other. Allison, the supposed basket case, is actually quite logical. She tells them ‘we’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all’.
There was talk about a possible sequel when the film came out, but I don’t think we need to know what happened afterwards. One of the film’s taglines is ‘they only met once, but it changed their lives forever’ and I like this idea. During their conversation about ‘what happens Monday morning?’ Andrew, Claire and Bender admit that they wouldn’t change the way they acted towards the others. I think this is the most realistic ending. They have realised they are no different from each other and they are not alone in their fears about the future, but I think this is enough. To have them all become friends at the end of it is too cheesy and would never happen in real life, at least not at my school.
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