Why The Breakfast Club Is Still Relevant

Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?

- John Bender to Richard Vernon

It’s hard to believe that The Breakfast Club is 28 years old.  Yep, 28 years.  Funny how a movie that was released when I was 16 years old, in the middle of my junior year of high school, remains relevant when a large crop of 1980s movies, while highly enjoyable and fun, do not.

You’re a neo maxi zoom dweebie.  What would you be doing if you weren’t out making yourself a better citizen?

- John Bender

What was it, and is it, about this relatively simple film that resonated with the youth of the excessive 80s and continues to resonate with youth and adults today?  Sure, it starred the infamous Brat Pack, those actors and actresses who were everywhere in the mid to late 1980s, whose extracurricular exploits mirrored or exceeded those of the characters they portrayed.  St. Elmo’s Fire, released the year after The Breakfast Club, starred many of the Brat Pack-ers and it seemed as though it would be a Breakfast Club after high school.  It wasn’t upon release and it’s not today; there are a few funny moments but it’s missing the reality of Club and it ends up falling flat for me.

We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.

- Andrew Clark

The Breakfast Club worked for me back in 1985 and works for me now because I can relate.  And I bet you can, too.  Each of the five characters sent to Saturday morning detention are stereotypical:  self-titled brain, athlete, basket case, princess and criminal.  These people still exist today.  Go into any high school and you’ll see the popular kids, the jocks, the nerds and the weirdos and they are each basically staying within their own social circle.  Time doesn’t change that.   What does change is Saturday morning detention.  Or just detention.  Do schools even have detention these days?  From what I’ve seen the teachers beat it out of the schools as soon as the last bell has rung.  I’m not knocking teachers – - I’ve heard they are told to leave nowadays.  I’ll bet there is no detention because teachers and the principal and the school district are likely to be sued for one reason or another because God knows we can’t possibly harm little Johnny’s self-esteem or discriminate against Janie by actually punishing either of them.  And if there was detention we wouldn’t see the kids being taken there and dropped off by their parents.  They would probably be driving their own new cars.  But I digress.

So it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?

- John Bender

Nearly as incredible as the fact that The Breakfast Club is 28 years old (and making me feel ancient) is that John Hughes, the mastermind who wrote and directed this brilliant gem, was 34 years old at the time.  Incredible because he wrote a movie, with sparkling and witty dialogue (some of the scenes are just too damn funny for words), about teens and he did so at twice their age.  I’m a writer and the thought of writing something with teenagers as the main characters, about them and for them, scares me like a sobriety check would scare a Lohan.  I have a 17-year-old and I find it hard to relate sometimes.  But this is where John Hughes was undeniably brilliant.  Watch Sixteen Candles for proof.  He wrote that movie about a 16-year-old girl whose family forgot that milestone birthday due to her older sister’s overshadowing wedding and who had a seemingly unrequited crush on a senior named (insert wistful sigh) Jake Ryan.  It’s hard to grasp that a man over 30 could write such perfection about a teenage girl, from the horror of grandparents noticing that she “got her boobies”, to feeling utterly let down over what was supposed to be a monumental day, to the nerdy freshman who was following her around to running off and saying absolutely nothing to (insert wistful sigh) Jake Ryan when he said hello to her and then wanting to die afterwards.  If you were a teenage girl, you can identify with all of this.   John Hughes obviously was not and yet he got it exactly right.

When you grow up, your heart dies.

- Allison Reynolds

Just as he did with The Breakfast Club.  And this is why it’s still relevant today.  It’s timeless.  John, Claire, Andy, Brian and Allison could be sitting around as adults today, have the same, yet slightly modified, conversation.  They spoke of real problems – - pressures from their parents, pressures from friends, problems at home, parents who ignored them, feeling inadequate.  Don’t we face many of the same problems as adults that we did as teens?   As adults we can be encouraged to talk about it and work it out but real teen angst was swept under the rug until The Breakfast Club.   Hughes showed us that maybe, just maybe, kids see themselves as adults have projected them to.   After all, if the principal of their school boxes them into certain stereotypes and labels them, why shouldn’t they do the same to each other?

I wanna be just… like… you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights!

- John Bender to Andrew Clark

John Hughes inspires me, not just because I can watch Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club today and feel as though I’m a teenager again but because, as a writer, he teaches me a valuable lesson.  You can write about children (or teens) without necessarily having to sound like them and by doing so you not only improve your work but you expand your target audience.  Consider Harry Potter.  Surely a children’s book based on the plot but this book crossed the generations because J.K. Rowling wrote about children and children’s fantasies but she wrote it from a more adult perspective.

How about you?  Do you write for children or teens?  Do you find it more challenging than gearing your work toward an adult audience?

And what do you think of The Breakfast Club?  Do you agree that it’s a brilliant, timeless gem or just another 80s flick?

With special thanks to Fogs’ Movie Reviews, without whose phenomenal review of The Breakfast Club, this post would never have been inspired!

http://fogsmoviereviews.com/2011/07/03/movies-that-everyone-should-see-the-breakfast-club/

9 thoughts on “Why The Breakfast Club Is Still Relevant

  1. This movie has been one of my favorite movies of all times. It is so psychological, real, and inspirational. If they make a remake version of the movie, I think it would be a disaster.

    • Hi Noel,
      I absolutely agree with you. A remake of this would be a travesty. And there is no need; the movie holds up perfectly well and the casting was so excellent, there is no way to possibly top it. Really, could we imagine any actors besides Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall playing the Breakfast Club? Absolutely not!

      Thanks for posting!
      ~Lori

  2. I read a review once that said the secret to The Breakfast Club’s success was that it was the first “teen movie” to take teenagers as seriously as they take themselves. And since I basically teach these same kids year after year, I feel comfortable saying he absolutely nailed it.

    Brilliance. Sheer brilliance.

    • Hi christophervalexander,
      I think the review you referenced is correct. I don’t recall any movie prior to The Breakfast Club taking teens’ problems seriously (and yet making them comical as well). Sixteen Candles and Weird Science were more comedies, although they did hit on teen issues. While The Breakfast Club was billed as a comedy, there was a lot of soul searching and a lot of realizations made by teens who saw it.

      Hughes did a brilliant job.

      Happy Friday!

  3. “Do you agree that it’s a brilliant, timeless gem or just another 80s flick?” Oh, brilliant, timeless gem, for sure. :D

    First off, I’m glad you found my post, and glad it was the impetus for you to write. True story, that kind of happened to me too. When I just started blogging, I woke up and caught this on tv one day and had to write about it. It became my very first “Movie That Everyone Should See” :D

    I think you nailed the key to its longevity, and that’s the relatability, Lori. Hughes created five characters representing five different high school archetypes, and I think they’ll always be valid. After, he gave them all great backstories, and great dialogue. It’s just… an awesome movie.

    Glad to have found another fan, and thanks for the linkage!

    • Happy to have found your blog, Fog, and most definitely thrilled to find another movie fan (and an 80s fan at that!).

      I think John Hughes was a gifted moviemaker but more importantly, he was gifted in his characterizations and his dialogue, whether he was writing a 16 year old girl, a 17 year old boy or a late 20s man who was struggling with the responsibilities of marriage and perhaps the loss of a dream (“She’s Having a Baby”). He had a crazy knack for being able to become his characters so when watching his movies you didn’t see them as Molly Ringwald being Samantha Baker or Claire Standish; she WAS Samantha and Claire. (Of course credit is due and goes to Molly R. for her portrayals).

      I’ll be checking out your review of “Back to the Future” next – - another of my absolute faves!

    • Hi Lucas,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and posting. I appreciate your comments and definitely plan to keep up the work – -and the variety!

      Have a great day!
      ~Lori

  4. Hi Lori, I found your blog on Melissa’s nomination list. So here I am to check it out! I love your take on The Breakfast Club. It seems to be popping up constantly in movies nowadays; in my favorite movies no less, such as Easy A and Pitch Perfect. I know, movies that are perhaps too girly for me? Don’t worry, I also like Die Hard and Indiana Jones—before they butchered them, that is.

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