“And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations—they’re quite aware of what they’re going through”—David Bowie
When I was in 10th grade, I laid out a loudmouthed agitator in the school cafeteria with a fury of lefts and rights. I am by no means a fighting man (I’m generally a happy go lucky guy) as I only had three skirmishes with tyrants while growing up. This showdown (cue Morricone theme) was coming for a month as he kept running his mouth until I finally responded. It was over quickly, I prevailed and was content with the fact of knowing this bully would cease from interfering with my “Chi” furthermore. Good news was that he never bothered me again. Bad news, I was “sentenced” with two 5 hour Saturday morning detentions by the administration.
These early morning prison terms, which made me feel like The Count of Monte Cristo, were absolutely silent; the fellow inmates and I were to complete any school assignments we had. Though I do not regret standing up for myself, I hate fighting; I do value my time in isolation stewing in the slammer of the school prison system twenty years ago. It allowed me to read and practice on my craft of writing. Approximately 10 years prior to my academic incarceration, this story had already been told to widespread acclaim. On a cold Saturday March 24th, 1984 before 7 am, five Chicago teenagers reluctantly shuffled into the Shermer High School library for nine hours of detention to share their stories in The Breakfast Club (1985).
The five, while not strangers, are merely nothing more than just faces in a crowd to each other as they quietly file into a library to commence their detention. The five are not alike in demeanor or dress and coming from various social circles that are identifiable to us with from our journeys through the hallways of an American public high school. Stemming from different cliques, economic backgrounds and varying social ideologies, we find introduced to: the privileged snob Claire, Molly Ringwald of Pretty in Pink (1986), insecure jock Andy, Emilio Estevez of Repo Man (1984), geek Brian, Anthony Michael Hall of Edward Scissorhands (1990), neurotic outcast Allison, Ally Sheedy of Short Circuit (1986) and delinquent John, Judd Nelson of Airheads (1994).
While serving out their time, the students, under the watchful eye of assistant principal, Dick Vernon, the late Paul Gleason of Die Hard (1988), serves as the stereotypical 80’s Reaganesque authority figure looming over our young protagonists. Vernon informs the students, like a hardnosed mentor at a juvenile detention center, movement is restricted to their chairs, they are forbidden to sleep, or socialize for the duration of their stay. Instead of being allowed to listlessly sit daydreaming, Vernon assigns the penta-prosecuted pupils a 1,000-word themed essay, describing “who you think you are.”
Left to their own devices as Vernon “works” in his office when not snooping through the school, the students pass the hours by talking, arguing, troublemaking, and sharing with each other their insecurities exposing their true personalities. As the day goes by, the group transitions through the forming-storming-norming stages of the group dynamics ladder. The group arrives at the realization that despite personal differences and environmental circumstances, they have more in common than originally perceived.
The Breakfast Club was directed by 80’s Hollywood’s notably consistent “uberkind,” the highly profitable writer/director John Hughes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Written in just two days, Breakfast was a huge success for Hughes during the mid-80’s and would showcase his ensemble of young, upcoming actors, “The Brat Pack” like a troupe from the 70’s independent film scene or successful stage production. This formula appeal and profit would keep Hughes gainfully employed for a decade on his own movies that generally focused about youth or family situations in or around the Chicago area.
Breakfast is an honest comedy/drama that dives deep to the core of adolescent angst, while it examines the relationships we have with authority, environments, each other, and ourselves. Like most teenagers, the characters are ignorant to the fact that others around them, though physically different, may in fact be very similar and share the same personal insecurities and questions about the fast, cold world approaching with an uncertain future to follow. Though Breakfast is dated by its music, clothing, or 80’s colloquial (totally!), but still stands the test of time with a message that is relevant today as it was back then. Breakfast does accurately create characters and situations that are plausible and instills a good lesson to viewers rather than beating the dead horse of 50’s values that seemed to flood mainstream cinemas for years up till that date. Luckily, Breakfast did not become a franchise like originally envisioned to where the sequels would revisit characters throughout adulthood. This would have been a disastrous gimmick and failed the original source material by failing with unneeded sequels to Police Academy (1984), The Revenge of the Nerds (1985) or the lackluster entry, More American Graffiti (1979). Attention Hollywood: NOT EVERY MOVIE NEEDS A SEQUEL! Stop trying to cash in on nostalgia, PRESS ON, and make something original.
The Breakfast Club has become a nostalgic piece of American film history and pop culture. Every year since its release, dialogue, scenes, character references, and even poster art (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), TV, film, and music have paid homage, spoofed, or borrowed from Breakfast. Yes, overall Breakfast is still an enjoyable, important film after all these years. So, if you get a chance, revisit The Breakfast Club and if it’s your first time, enjoy its message. For a limited time from March 26-31 in celebration of its 30th anniversary, The Breakfast Club will be screened in select 430 theaters across the country. Check your local listings.
Just remember to take time for each other and take a minute to stop being self-absorbed in our own little worlds. “In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions— each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” (I walk away from my keyboard and raise my hand triumphantly, FADE TO BLACK.)