There once was a time in which an electric drum set was the only way to rock out. It was an age in which feathered hair could be considered a good look for a tough guy. When fingerless gloves were not just acceptable, but carried some form of respect. It was a magical age, a short-lived one, and is now a sought after bygone era.
It was the 1980’s, and in the 1980’s, John Hughes was the king.
In the midst of writing and directing many of the biggest movies of the decade, Hughes created what would commonly be considered his masterpiece: The Breakfast Club. In this movie, Hughes masterfully tackled the issue of social oligarchy, mixed with a heavy message about the dangers of an unspoken but understood caste system that had been secretly set in place in American society.
Nah, just kidding it was about a bunch of white kids.
The story focuses on five high school students in an all-day detention. These five students represented five different archetypes found in any given high school, or in society at large. In particular, the film was built upon the premise that they were five strangers: just lonely wandering vagabonds on the road of life with nothing in common with each other. It’s a tale that’s as old as Ancient Greece Memorial High School, and just as stupid as ancient myths because the students pretty much fought for two hours straight and then magically declared themselves to be friends.
The representatives for these high school archetypes are as follows:
The Guy Who Looks Way Too Old To Be In High School
The Breakfast Club was in many ways a defining movie for a generation. There were countless life lessons to be learned from the film. For example, we learned that if you hate everyone you are forced to be around, all you need to do is smoke pot and you’re instantly friends. Also, anything can be turned into an insult if you add the suffix “-oid” (as in Andy calling Bender “Wasteoid”) or sometimes even just “-o” (Allison calling Andy “Sporto” which really just sounds like a bad brand name).
The central message of TBC, however, is clearly that it doesn’t matter who you are or what crowds you run with because high school is just the absolute worst, even for those who work there. Who needs friends when they control your identity? For that matter, who needs friends when you have pot? And who needs authority when authority hates you because you hate authority and so on and so forth? Underneath it all, we’re not so different. Underneath it all, we’re all just fine exactly how we are.
Beneath the obvious anger towards authority as shown by the five students lashing out at and completely disobeying the principal (who has such an endearing relationship with the janitor), we also see a psychological link amongst the protagonists that would make Frued salivate like Pavlov was ringing a bell at him or some other metaphor that go away from me.
Each of the five characters shows us a universal truth: literally every problem you could ever encounter in your life comes from daddy issues because parents just don’t understand. For Bender, it was abuse, expressed by his parents forcing so much denim upon him. With Allison, she was ignored by her parents, but judging by her behavior it’s also likely she murdered them and laughed it off. Brian felt such insane pressure to succeed from his father that he wanted to take his own life, but he only had a flare gun so it was cool for us to all LOL about attempted suicide. Claire’s parents gave her anything and everything she needed and provided fully for her material needs, which is basically hell on earth. And with Andy, he also felt pressure, because apparently Martin Sheen liked to rub his success in his son’s face as often as possible.
At the end of the day, however, it seems as though John Hughes did try to tackle the issue of societal constructs. In the scene where the students all bare their souls to each other, asking whether or not they would be friends when Monday rolled around and laughing at Brian’s desire to end his own life (LOL), we see what really separates these students. It isn’t personality as much as they might have thought, it isn’t activities, and it surprisingly isn’t the availability of pot.
No, what actually separates these five students from being real friends outside of detention is the system as it is established. It really is a system of class, with the popular kids looking down on the nerds and the rebels resisting anything the “in” crowd throws their way. And even if the students wanted to hang out with each other, it would be frowned upon by almost everyone other than the two who want to be friends. Hanging out with somebody outside of their group would disgust their group, the common problem which made breaking down the walls of any caste system seem impossible.
Did the Breakfast Club go on to be actual friends after that day? There’s no way to be sure. But one thing is sure: they weren’t soon to forget about each other (you like, like that song). And if history has told us anything, it’s that almost making huge steps towards social change is likely important or something. Maybe.
The students had learned something that the rest of us can also learn: the system isn’t the final word. Challenging the system is a worthwhile endeavor, and if you want to challenge it, be prepared to have a lot of work ahead of you.
It’s important to do, though, because deep down, it doesn’t matter what type of person others think you are. Criminal. Athlete. Basketcase. Brain. Princess. Aside from all those outward titles, none of us are all that different.