It's time for the first "Bethany Watches Movies Everyone Else Has Already Seen" post that I talked about last week. (Here are the general guidelines, in case you missed them.)
I decided to start with The Breakfast Club both because it’s been mentioned on this blog before and because I’ve recently had friends ragging on me about my ignorance of eighties teen movies.
(Do we ever see them eat breakfast? Did Brian get to pick the group name ‘cause everyone else was too lazy to work on the essay?)
Guys, I don’t know how to break this to you. . .The Breakfast Club isn’t a great movie.
Yes, it’s iconic. Yes, it has some great lines. Yes, it is more eighties than a Rubik’s Cube. But it’s got problems.
The first is that for a movie all about how high schoolers don’t fit neatly into little boxes, it sure likes to put all its characters into little boxes.
Were cliques in the eighties really like the caste system in 19th century India?
The minute we met John Bender, my mind went “Abuse. He’s being abused at home.” (Were we supposed to be surprised? Did the “troubled kid” trope not exist before the eighties?)
And all of the other characters fit quite neatly into various tropes: brainy kid feels stress over grades, jock kid feel pressure from his dad, popular princess feels like her parents are using her, neurotic girl feels ignored. It’s not wrong to make use of these types, but when the thesis of your movie is “each of us is a Brain, and an Athlete, and a Basket Case, a Princess, and a Criminal,” I’m kind of relying on the movie to show me that.
To be fair, I’m really not into teen movies, so I’m not the target audience for this film.* I was homeschooled, so maybe I just don’t understand the American high school experience. But was high school ever like this for anyone?
Even with weed introduced to the picture, why are these characters so quick to confess all their insecurities and family issues? I understand that putting a group of people in a confined area and giving them a common enemy (the principal, and more importantly, all adults) is a good way to get them to bond—but they spend most of their time insulting each other. In real life, insults don’t usually encourage sudden outbursts of vulnerability—and those make up so much of the movie that Sudden Outbursts of Angry Vulnerability makes more sense as a title than The Breakfast Club.
It’s like the director said weed and all Emilio Estevez heard was speed.
Part of the problem is that in most other “band of misfits” stories—coughGuardiansoftheGalaxycough—the band eventually finds a task to complete, and it is within the completion of this task that skills, vulnerabilities, and mutual respect emerge. But part of the point of The Breakfast Club is that the characters don’t have a worthwhile task to complete (even though most of the characters are dying for something to do): it’s a metaphor for high school.
|Things this kid needs: a safe home environment, a responsible adult, a lunch, and a pencil. Things he gets: an earring and a girlfriend.|
John’s face destroyed me in the above scene—even if you didn’t feel sympathy for him when he revealed how his father treats him, I don’t know how you couldn’t feel it when he's being threatened by the principal. But “sympathetic character” does not equal “boyfriend material.”
I know teen movies really like to pair up characters, but the Claire/John romance bothered me deeply. One of his first lines is “Let’s close the door and see if we can impregnate the prom queen.” There’s “ooh, angry sexual tension,” and then there’s straight up harassment. Never mind when he tries to stick his head up her skirt while she is lying to protect him. Andrew and Allison actually seem to care about each other’s feelings by the end, but John is an unhappy young man who is looking for someone to bully, and Claire is so insecure about being a virgin that she will accept cruelty in exchange for experience.
John asks her why she started kissing him, and she says, “So you wouldn’t”—which comes across to me as “I figured you were going to try to violate me, so I thought I should beat you to punch line.” Ah, young love.
Also, was there some kind of Reverse-Hays-Code going on in the eighties? High schoolers in eighties movies swear more than high schoolers in movies now. They swear more than high schoolers on Tumblr, and I didn’t think that was possible.
Enough negativity; let’s look at some of the things I liked:
· Molly Ringwold’s clothes,
· Brian wearing sunglasses and doing imitations (be honest—if you were going to be friends with one person in this movie, Brian is the best choice),
· pointless dance break,
· some really good acting, and
· now knowing where Bender from Futurama gets his name.
Rating: Two nicely packed lunches out of five.
Have you seen The Breakfast Club? Did you like it? What do you think I should watch next?
*To be even more fair, I recently finished watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimyka (the television series and the movie), and that’s a high school story that I ended up loving in spite of myself (and it definitely has problematic elements). So maybe if The Breakfast Club had spent more time looking for aliens and time travelers I would have enjoyed it more.