Monday, November 28, 2011

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The Breakfast Club

I can't remember when, exactly, I first saw The Breakfast Clubthe 1985 movie from writer/director John Hughes about five teenagers who walk into Saturday detention as stereotypes and walk out with a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.

I know that it was one of the first movies I ever saw on VHS and that I watched it at my friend, Pasta's* house and I think we may have rented Purple Rain that same day. Depending on when the Breakfast Club video came out, it may have been as early as late 1985 or as late as early 1987. In any case, in the twenty-something years since then, I have seen Purple Rain exactly one other time. The Breakfast Club? I've lost count.

So, let's dispense with all illusions of objectivity here and get right down to it:

Ten Reasons The Breakfast Club Is One of The Top Ten Movies of All Time

1. It opens with this quote from David Bowie: "...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."

2. "You see us as you want to see us--in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions."--Brian, the Brain in the opening and closing narratives, which are excerpts from the "Who Do You Think You Are?" essay they've all been assigned to write.

3. "It's sort of social--demented and sad, but social."--Bender, the Criminal in the conversation about social clubs vs. academic ones.

4. "I wanna be just like you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights." --Bender to Andrew, the Athlete (a wrestler, hence the tights).

5.  "How come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up. It'll be anarchy!" --Bender, when Mr. Vernon tries to enlist Andrew's help in propping open the door.

6. "If I do what my mother tells me not to do it's because my father says it's okay. It's like this whole big monster deal. It's monstrous. It's a total drag."--Claire, the Princess.

7. Bender: "You get along with your parents?"
    Andrew: "Well, if I say yes, I'm an idiot, right?"
    Bender: "You're an idiot anyway, but if you say you get along with your parents, then you're a liar, too."

8. "...Coach thinks I'm a winner. So does my old man. I'm not a winner because I want to be one. I'm a winner because I got strength and speed--kinda like a racehorse. That's about how involved I am in what's happening to me."--Andrew to Allison, the Basket Case

9. "Well, everyone's home life is unsatisfying--if it wasn't, people would live with their parents forever."--Andrew to Brian and Allison

10. "I mean, we're all pretty bizarre--some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."--Andrew 

There's no doubt that I find The Breakfast Club one of the most quotable movies I've ever seen, but it's also so much more than that.

It's an enduring lesson that there is more to all of us than meets the eye--we are more than the roles we play, bigger than the boxes we find ourselves in. No one's path is as straight or as simple as it appears from the outside.

It's also a message in how hard it is to break out of those roles. After laughter, tears, pot smoking, vandalism** and deep conversation, there is a scene in which the five teens discuss what will happen on Monday, when they go back to their regular lives. Will they still be friends? The answer is a brutally honest probably not.

And, of course, the movie ends when detention ends so the question is never resolved. Even if they are utterly absorbed back into their normal lives, though, they take with them a moment of authenticity, a memory of true connection. As an adult, I understand in a way I probably couldn't have as a teen just how truly rare and valuable those moments can be.

Don't You Forget About Me, performed by Simple Minds is the song most people associate with The Breakfast Club, which makes sense both because it was the soundtrack's most successful single and because it captures the feeling that something found might be lost. To me, though, We Are Not Alone, performed by Karla DeVito, played in the dance scene actually captures more of the movie's theme:

"We are not alone
Find out when your cover's blown
There'll be somebody there to break your fall
We are not alone
'Cause when you cut down to the bone
We're really not so different after all
After all
We're not alone."
That's something I think we can all stand to be reminded of from time to time.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Insightful.

*A.k.a. Brunette Best Friend From High School. Pasta is still not her real name, but it was used so often it gave her real name a run for its money.

**The scene where John Bender dismantles a book and maliciously rearranges the card catalog drawer is physically painful for this Library Lunatic to watch.


  1. Yes! I blame my many viewings of that movie in formative years and my deep and abiding crush on Bender for a good many of my late-adolescent, early adulthood indiscretions. You completely put your finger on the pulse of the whole thing, yet again!

  2. "I don't wear tights. I wear the required uniform." "Tights."

    "Ooh, an obscene gesture from such a pristine girl." "I'm not that pristine."

    I absolutely LOVE this movie. Love it. Every bit of it. "I wanna be an airborne ranger ..." I even wrote a little about it here:Just for Fun: Over and Over and Over and ...

  3. This was one of the first 'grown-up' movies that I really understood. I wanted to be Claire, but I'm pretty sure I was more like Allison.

  4. The only other movie to rival The Breakfast Club's quotability was the other John Hughes movie to come out about that same time..."Sixteen Candles".

    I'm fairly certain I can still quote each of them from start to finish.

    "Naw. It was a flare gun. Went off in my locker."

  5. It's great to hear from fellow fans. :)

    SS--Ah, the '80s movie defense...I'm pretty sure given the right jury, we could sell that in a court of law. ;)

    M--The obscene finger gesture bit came up at work last week. Sometimes it's surprising who can quote the movie right along with you--in my case it was a 20-year old resident at the halfway house where I work. He had jokingly flipped off a fellow resident and when I said, "Ooh, an obscene finger gesture from such a pristine guy." He popped right out with, "I'm not that pristine." Hilarious!

    Jewels--It probably goes completely against everything the movie stands for to say I think Allison was a much more interesting person than Claire, huh? :)

    Jane--I just quoted Sixteen Candles over on Jewels's blog a week or so ago. Everyone in my house speaks fluent John Hughes--they kind of have to. :)