The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

Almost 150 years ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., expressed the following sage but sad observation in his book "The Professor at the Breakfast Table": Society is always trying in some way or other to grind us down to a single flat surface. Unfortunately, this is still true today. Last week I saw the movie "The Breakfast Club" written and directed by John Hughes which expressed a similar theme. Fortunately, youth of every age "are quite aware of what they are going through" and have the ability to break the fast imposed on them by the socialization process which begins in the home and is reinforced at school, not only by students and parents but teachers like Mr. Vernon as well.

In "The Breakfast Club" five disparate personalities, each secure in his identity and yet filled with insecurities, spend a lazy Saturday confined to Detention at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois, for various and sundry school violations. Yet each character has a troubled life as foreshadowed by his very presence in Detention.

Families mold, intentionally or not, their children into little reflections of themselves. School, thru peer pressure, thru the various academic and social clubs, and thru the imaginary audience, serves to enhance the socialization process begun at home.

Students are labeled and are not allowed to change "their worlds". Students hang out only with people who look, dress, and live like themselves.There are nerds, freaks, cholos, etc. There's the Math Club, Prep Club, Latin Club, Physics Club for students who belong.

Mr. Vernon, the teacher in charge of the students, unwittingly assigns an essay with the subject "who am I". Unwittingly because as Carl, the custodian and the "eyes and ears of the institution", reveals that the students haven't changed but that he, the teacher, has changed. Perhaps Mr. Vernon should answer the question himself.

The movie then proceeds to answer the question through the actions and dialogue of the protagonists.

My favorite character (and yours too) is John Bender, the criminal, as portrayed by Judd Nelson, the leader of the notorious Hollywood Brat Pack. John is the main character in the movie and functions as the catalyst or the instigator. One by one, he shocks and exposes each student's insecurities. John is living proof of the creed, "If a child lives with hostility, He learns to ...

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...e plate that reads EMC 2 for energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. And when he gets an F in Shop, his self-image can't accept it. He takes a gun to school intending to shoot himself but gets caught. In the most important environment of a student's life, even one F is not allowed. The school reinforces what the parents expect. Even his little sister echos the mother's sentiments when she admonishes him to find a way to study in Detention. It is from the Brain's point of view that we realize that "you (Mr. Vernon/the school) see us as you want to see us". "We were brainwashed," he writes in the collective essay.

In the end the students, by revealing their fears and expressing their emotions, overcame the limits set by family and school, the ones that "spit on them" . They realized that they are "immunized" to authority and that they can change their worlds, that they have multi-faceted personalities. And so do Holmes, Hughes, and Bowie. Even a "criminal" can win the heart of a "princess". John Bender was a better teacher than the system for he taught the Princess, the Jock, the Basketcase, and the Brain who they really were, and most importantly, who they were not.
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