Movie Monday! The Breakfast Club

I’d never seen this movie.

Nor had I seen any of the John Hughes "Brat Pack" films. When I mentioned that to my wife, she seemed shocked, and suggested we watch them all. When I mentioned it to the clerk at the video store, he asked what rock I’d been hiding under. I said "Minnesota," which seemed to work for him. I’m not quite sure what or exactly why the mystique is around these films but, looking at it from a historical perspective, I can see how they completely changed the game of adolescent cinema. Unlike the early game changers of the Hollywood musical, like South Pacific, movies like The Breakfast Club still retain their poignancy and importance, if only because of the numerous pastiches, parodies, homages, and half-assed cash-in attempts. In an odd case, all of those seem to make the legend stronger, the meaning more important, rather than diluting it. Still, as a person who didn’t see "Animal House" until he was already in college and just saw "The Breakfast Club" at twenty-five, I can see exactly what makes movies like this great…and what makes them not so great.

I once had a roommate who actually did the "I’m a zit" sequence from "Animal House," in a college cafeteria, with real mashed potatoes. Everyone called him an idiot for it. Yet, as far as he knew, it was something crazy awesome that a wacky college guy did in a wacky college movie, so for the requisite wacky college experience, it had to be done. No doubt a similar amount of school skipping, library pot smoking, and store closet hanky-panky was perpetrated in the name of having an experience like The Breakfast Club, because that truly must be what a memorable high school experience was. To be completely honest, I like the premise, and I love the way it’s carried out. Schools are still as fiercely divided as they were in the 1980s, so it’s still a relevant movie, if an incredibly idealistic one. You see, the main trouble with movies like The Breakfast Club or Animal House isn’t that they exist. They are fine, entertaining movies… and therein lies the problem. They are MOVIES. And yet, millions of young humans have gotten ideas into their heads that "all high school must be like The Breakfast Club!" or "College must be like Animal House!" and as such we get people attempting to live their lives by fiction, which is by its very design supposed to be an exaggeration of reality. This lapse in consciousness and misguided generational cannibalism lead to nothing but more confusion and more problems when these kids have to realize that life isn’t a movie.


Still, they are good movies. The Breakfast Club is wonderfully entertaining and a succulent high school fantasy fairy tale. Unfortunately, it will never happen. I would go so far to say that fairies, dragons, and magic have a better chance of appearing in the world we know than the events of The Breakfast Club. The biggest issue, of course, is in the catalyst of John Bender. In reality, such a character would not exist, or at the very least not be present in that library on that day. I find it hard to believe that a squid like Mr. Bender would take time to serve a detention (or eight) if he truly was as bad as the movie makes him out to be. Furthermore, it’s hard to see him realistically as the chessmaster who manages to get each of the kids to start being palsy-walsy, because most tough guys I know just don’t care. They’ve had all the care beaten out of them, and they care only for themselves. The characters are spot on, and the interactions are great, but the sad truth of the matter is that there really are no John Benders, there are no Blutos, and life is not a movie. The events of The Breakfast Club will probably never happen, and that… well, it just adds to the movie’s appeal.
I’m guessing John Hughes was a lot like yours truly in high school. He saw the cliques and the groups and the inanity of it all, but lacked the real stones to be like Bender and flay each clique raw to the bone, until they realized their similarities. Instead, he did what any good, Midwestern nerd does: he writes about it. And he wrote well. It’s obvious that Mr. Hughes knew how high school kids acted, and there’s only a few times that seem a little weird (Neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie?). The closest the film gets to a physical villain is even rather ambiguous to this former teacher, as he can remember being in a similar situation, and some of the questions asked by the even MORE ambiguous janitor to the teacher left me asking the same questions of myself, and that’s the mark of a good movie. The movie, in and of itself, is fantastic: the acting is good, the story is good, and it had aged well… dubious fashion and music aside. In fact, I think the main reason I didn’t watch this movie for 25 years is because I grew up in a stolidly anti-80s household, with two older brothers and an older sister who lived through the Hell of stirrup pants and Thompson Twins, and forbade me from observing, and certainly enjoying, anything from the decade of my own birth. So far, it’s been advice that’s served me well, but there’s always a few diamonds to dig out of the hypercolor cesspool now and again, and this is one of them. It’s just a little heartbreaking to know that a situation like this will probably never happen, and yet that is all that is missing from really making some progress in the segregated and vicious teen world of high school. I guess part of me is still that lonesome little geek, seeing the madness of the situation but still not able to bring about lasting change. There may be no John Bender, but there was a John Hughes, and for a little while on a Saturday night, I did believe it could actually happen in a high school somewhere. Well done.


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