“…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…”
Teen angst has been a selling a point for movies for a very long time. It’s forever immortalized in movies from Rebel Without a Cause to Carrie. Perhaps the most perfect storm of teen angst can be found in the Breakfast Club however. Telling the story of five teens serving detention on a cold day at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois, the Breakfast Club is very much a story told through the lens of youth and a world that doesn’t understand them. To be honest, it’s a world that very much does not want to understand them. It’s the penultimate teenage feeling of us against the world. The moment when a loose collective becomes a unit to fight against the ultimate tyranny of the adult world.
What is it about this particular teen angst film that endures when so many others tarnish with time and growing up? The reason is likely equal parts nostalgia, quotability and just being an all around well done film. It is the rare film that you can watch as an adult and, instead of finding yourself rooting for the adults, you find yourself partially a teenager again, full of hope and existential angst all at the same time. The adults run the gamut from clueless to indifferent to outright antagonistic and there isn’t a positive one in sight. These are not the adults any of us wanted to grow up to be, but had no choice in becoming.
“When you grow up, your heart dies.”
Some days it does feel as if your heart has died. You look at yourself and see missed chances and opportunities. You hear the way you speak to your children or about the next generation and realize that you have become every adult you hated. Sure, you try and fight it. You even tell yourself that maybe your parents and teachers weren’t as bad as you thought (in most cases at least). To be honest, you’re probably right. The Breakfast Club (and movies like it) tap into the way teenagers have always felt and will always feel. It gives you the empathy to understand that what your own teenager hears you say is not at all how you meant it.
Obviously, all impact a film has on someone is completely subjective. All men I’ve dated (including the one I married) have at least a little bit of John Bender in them. He was probably my first full fledged film crush and created a blueprint for what I looked for. Also, for better or worse, I operate under the impression that all of the Midwest is like Shermer, while accepting it’s a pretty flimsy basis for thinking that.
The Breakfast Club put together five archetypes that we can all see ourselves in a bit. I’ve always fancied myself a halfway point between John and Allison, a little rebellious and a little weird at the same time. Much like David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” is my favorite song, Breakfast Club is my favorite 80s movie. It takes one perfect day and lets us live on that edge of hope that these kids are going to be okay and their happy endings are more than a moment waiting to shatter when they walk off screen into their real lives. John Bender’s triumphant fist in the air at the end is all that we need to be left with.
Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
…and an athlete…
…and a basket case…
…and a criminal…
Does that answer your question?
the Breakfast Club