We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.
I was a mere toddler when The Breakfast Club first came out in 1985. While I’ve known about the cult classic reputation of John Hughes 1980s teenage comedies, I’ve never really thought to explore them. Based on my experience with this iconic film, maybe I should. After all, I indulged in a bunch of equally cheesy films in the 90s, like She’s All That and Can’t Hardly Wait. I’m hardly “above” this genre in any way.
Perhaps the most striking thing about The Breakfast Club is just how relevant it continues to be some 30+ years later. While the specific circumstances have changed, the archetypes hold up. There’s still the brain, the athlete and the princess. As teenagers and as adults, we yearn for a sense of belonging and identity, even if we feel like a square peg. We try to fit into that round hole, because that’s what we’re expected to do.
The fact of the matter is even the popular kid has insecurities and vulnerabilities. We’re all struggling in one way or another; you just might not see it. Not everyone can embrace their weirdness proudly like Allison (Ally Sheedy), but deep down, we have a lot more in common than we might think.
No, I don’t wear tights! I wear the required uniform.
Then again, we generally don’t want to be seen as some sort of weird outsider either. We want to feel like we belong to something, even if some have said that conformity is the opposite of courage. You lock into step and do what is expected of you, because you don’t want to stand out in a bad sort of way. I’m only doing it because I have to, right?
Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.
The Breakfast Club is a movie about teenagers stuck in Saturday detention. Let’s ignore for a moment that Judd Nelson (Bender) was 27 at the time of the movie’s release, practically a decade older than Molly Ringwald (Claire) and Anthony Michael Hall (Brian). Even though the film is clearly positioned as one about teenagers for teenagers, it also reminded us that these types of personal challenges and hard questions persist throughout adulthood.
The late Paul Gleason played Richard Vernon, the teacher assigned to supervise the five misfits. He very much puts on this facade as the strict disciplinarian, threatening Bender with “the horns” after a smart aleck remark about his wardrobe. But in his private conversations with janitor Carl (played by John Kapelos), we catch a glimpse of a broken man too.
He’s found comfort in a stable job that he doesn’t actually enjoy. Vernon is just fitting a mold and the role has changed who he really is.
Screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place!
You’re right, Bender. The world is imperfect. And truth be told, most of us do have a screw loose most of the time too. Things don’t always go according to plan, and plans don’t always go according to plan. And that’s how you end up in weekend detention, rightly or wrongly.
When you grow up, your heart dies.
The real reason why I finally got around to watching The Breakfast Club was because of a band called Gunship. I’m really into their 80s-inspired synth pop sound. Their latest single borrows heavy inspiration from the movie, as the title of the track is precisely that line uttered by “basket case” Allison Reynolds.
The imagination and innocence of youth, the audacity to challenge the status quo… that’s what it means to be young. That’s how you can choose to look upon this imperfect world before reality pummels you into submission. You’ve got that last dance look in your eyes, but don’t let you heart die. Don’t let it go.