So, I’ve got an unpopular opinion: I dislike The Breakfast club. I watched it a while ago because I’d seen it referenced everywhere, from other movies to cartoons, to art. I also saw it in every “best 80s movies lists” or “greatest movie lists” from sites like the ‘Rolling Stone’, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes. And I love a good movie, so naturally – with a pinch of FOMO – I watched it. I saw how embedded it was in pop culture before watching it but was hugely disappointed when I did.
The film was directed by John Hughes and released in 1985. It follows 5 teenage archetypes, a sporto, basket case, criminal, brain and princess going to detention for an entire Saturday. Their task for their detention is to write an essay on who they thought they were. They sit in a room and talk. That’s it. The breakfast club is beloved by critics and plebs alike and it genuinely baffles me why it’s so highly praised. Am I missing something here? Why do they like it?
Firstly, I wanted to talk about characterisation. Fanatics usually screech with pride at the complex and insightful characters John Hudges presents. All the characters are meant to be stereotypes in high school and supposed to showcase their struggles and problems, but I think there’s a problem if you claim stereotypes to be authentic and insightful. For example, who would have guessed Brian the “brain” had overbearing parents, or Claire the “princess” is spoilt and a child of divorce or even that Bender the “criminal” lashes out because he’s abused at home.
All characters just don’t seem convincing; there only seem to be two aspects to them: their relationship with their parents and pressures of their cliques. But there’s so much more to people than that! What’s ironic is the whole thesis of the film is that people are more than their stereotypes, so what? They’re their relationship with their parents too? Incredible!
Many teens can take solace in characters such as these and relate to their identity struggles or problems with parents. But because The Breakfast Club was so popular, due to the brat pack and director, it reinforces and aggressively stoked the flames of modern teenage stereotypes. It engages in the archetypes it wanted to deconstruct which just stereotyped kids more. I feel like this completely ruins the film’s message and sentiment.
There’s also a lot of hype around the film’s realism and sensitivity in the character’s problems. But take Brian for example, he is overworked, overstressed and has an intense amount of pressure on him, so much so he got landed in detention because he tried to kill himself. But when he tells the group he tried shooting himself with a flare gun they laugh and brush it off. The matter is overlooked by the characters and not mentioned ever again, it’s ridiculous how insensitive it actually is. Allison, the basket case, also didn’t even need to come to detention, she just came because “she had nothing better to do”.
She’s sad, gets a makeover from the princess and then the sporto then takes an interest in her, like looking pretty and a boyfriend will solve all her problems.
The plot of the movie is also completely worthless. For a full half hour (one third of the movie) they do nothing, they basically come into the detention room and sneer at each other. I understand a teen movie isn’t as action packed as anything Vin Diesel stars in, but they could at least do something. It is unexciting, uninspiring and just plain dull. But at least this part of the film is realistic, if I was put into a situation like that, I probably would just act above it and write my damn essay.
The rest of the movie where they bond and talk (and smoke weed?) is just unfeasible given how they all hate each other, Bender actually calls all of them out one by one and says he detests them, it makes no sense. The film I feel ends poorly, as they try to have it both ways, and ends with Brian’s voice over saying, “we found we are each a basket case, criminal, princess…”. They all realise they are more than cliques but then go on to say that’s not how life works as they know they won’t greet each other in the halls on Monday or talk ever again. It’s lazy writing as you try to pander to everyone’s perfect ending, but it just ends up being confusing. I think whether or not a movie is satisfying is important, and the breakfast club’s ending just isn’t.
And when there is action in the movie it’s uncomfortable, sexist, and homophobic. Andy calls bender a “fag” and Bender is incredible rape-y towards Claire. There’re shots up her skirt implying he harassed her and also gems like: “let’s get this prom queer impregnated”. How can this movie still survive in the age of #metoo? People are willing to overlook this because they love the movie but why? The Breakfast Club isn’t even as appropriate as it thinks it is.
It is aimed at fellow teenagers (being the quintessential teen movie) but glamourizes this kind of behaviour by exhibiting it through the ‘cooler’ archetypes. It’s not something we should keep celebrating years on and placing on a pedestal just because it’s a classic. Media like this can be downright harmful.
A reason why older people could like it is nostalgia. The breakfast club includes many 80s tropes such as music, hairstyles, fashion and casual sexism. This might make it appealing to people who were teens in the 80s to reflect on their time in high school through the breakfast club. It’s not such a horrible thing but it shouldn’t be classed as a great movie just because of nostalgia, and the rest of the breakfast cult may be blindly following their 80s leaders, wanting to be a part of the craze just as many love the 90s babies nowadays. I’ve found in real life and other media, girls especially, will like The Breakfast Club just to make themselves stand out and be interesting because they like old things. This genuinely enrages me especially as it could be fuelling The Breakfast Club’s popularity.
I don’t think this movie’s as good as it’s hyped up to be. It’s not as insightful, appropriate or satisfying as it thinks it is. But its followers are too far gone. The plague has spread, and it’s probably going to keep tormenting me in those best movie lists for many years to come. I just hope I can get out alive.
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