High school is admittedly a volatile stage in one’s life. It marks that awkward transition between childhood and adulthood. It doesn’t help that the pressure to succeed in both a social and academic setting is omnipresent—the pressure stemming from one’s family, friends, and society at large.
It is this daunting experience that is depicted in The Breakfast Club (1985). Directed by John Hughes, the witty dialogue and quintessential coming-of-age theme makes the movie a popular cult classic.
The perfect time to watch this movie is in your late teens. Although it doesn’t have explicit themes or scenes, the serious topics discussed in the movie require an audience mature enough to internalize the meaning. I say this because the first time I attempted to watch this movie, I was just entering high school, and out of naivety, I skipped many scenes and never finished the movie. In the end, I concluded that the plot was way too boring. Only now that I’ve gone through the rigours of adolescence can I fully appreciate the plot.
One such theme is the feeling of being misunderstood. Everyone feels misunderstood at some point, and high school is a period in which the mentality of thinking everyone is out to get you is prevalent. Sure enough, the teenage characters in the movie are afflicted with the same kind of mentality.
Students Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), and Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) are not friends. In fact, had they not been serving detention together (all for various reasons), they would never have met each other at all. The reason for their avoidance of one another is due to the social nature of high schools. Just as tacit social hierarchies and ranking systems are ingrained in every high school setting, these students are not exempt from classification.
Each one of them falls into a specific category and social norms tacitly forbid them from interacting with each other. Allison is the basket case, and from the start, she’s portrayed as emotionally unstable and antisocial. Claire is the “good girl”, Andrew is the jock, Brian is the nerd, and Bender is the rebel.
What makes this movie so charming—and almost poignant at times—is the eventual convergence of understanding between members of the group. From the intimate conversations and crazy antics that they undertake with each other, they each learn the truth of the adage “Never judge a book by its cover”.
Like most people, I fell prey to stereotyping and forming shallow judgments on each character simply because of my first impressions of them. I never moved beyond the impression that Bender was a troublemaker, and that maybe there were familial conflicts underlying his behavior. In the end, this is a judgment I deeply regret, because had I not made an effort to understand Bender, I would have dismissed him as the antagonist of the movie.
Everyone goes through their own struggles, and it comes as a shock to the group to realize the number of similarities they share. The Breakfast Club has many parabolic themes, truly making it a timeless cult classic, and it reminds us that we are all more alike than we let ourselves on to be.