The Breakfast Club

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."
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Think of greatest high school movies of all time and undoubtedly the film, The Breakfast Club comes to mind. This iconic 80’s movie has just the right amount of teenage angst and relatable social pressures to become a classic and go down in pop culture history.


What is 'NORMAL?'

Five extremely different teenagers arrive for detention on Saturday morning March 24, 1984. The principle of the school already has misconceptions of what kind of people these students are. He assigns them a thousand word essay in which the simple topic, “Who do you think you are?” ultimately becomes the basis of this film. This question is hauntingly accurate to the life lessons the characters will encounter. They have nothing in common, or so it may seem and find being in each other’s company is a complete inconvenience. The students are from different social circles in high school and hardly know anything other then the labels already given to them. The teenagers become frustrated with the presence of each other and find it difficult to mindlessly sit through detention. Out of pure boredom and slight curiosity, they begin to bond. Slowly at first with silly things to pass the time, but then their relationship with each other starts to get deeper. Sticking up for someone against the strict principle and participating in antics like escaping from detention, getting high in the library, and dancing makes them become closer. Eventually these very different people realize that they are actually a lot similar, not matter what social group they are a part of in high school. They share their secrets, insecurities, and other personal information with each other. This movie plot sounds like the typical high school movie, but it goes much deeper then that. The emotional connection these five strangers make goes way beyond any typical movie, it captivates the hearts’ of the audience and reminds us we are all people no matter what we are seen as to the outside world. What is normal? The students in this film obviously have their own version of it, as does anybody else. To be normal means to be like everyone else.


"They’re simple ideas of characters but in reality very complex people."

Principle Vernon: Strict principle
Claire: The Princess
Bender: The Criminal
Brian: The Brain
Andrew: The Athlete
Allison: The Basket Case
Carl: A janitor at the school

Social Groups

 First Impressions

So which of these characters are normal? The principle, Richard Vernon has an idea of who these students are based on the social groups they are apart of. He especially hates Bender, known as a burner or a punk. Andrew who is a jock automatically is drawn to talk to Claire who is a rich little daddy’s girl. Brian is a smart guy who takes school too seriously and Allison is an outcast who has her own odd tendencies. The social and economic backgrounds of all these people are very different. They come from different households and have different priorities. Claire and Andrew are seen as popular, the type of friends they hangout with would never associate with people like Brian, Allison, or Bender. Even Bender would not be caught dead being with any of the other four. They are brainwashed based on assumptions. So where does this leave them? Who are the normal ones? The answer is simple, none of them. Emphasizing the word “different” goes against the definition of normal. All the characters fulfill some sort of high school stereotype. Claire is a very popular and conceded girl. She is known as The Princess. Andrew in the beginning seems to have a cocky attitude and is really into his sport, he is known as The Athlete. Brian takes the detention seriously as well as his grades, he is known as the Brain. Bender has obviously been in detention before; he is a disturbance to everyone and pushes the principle as far as he can. He is recognized as The criminal. Allison does not say much except for random squeaks and such in the beginning of the film, she is known as The Basket case. They’re simple ideas of characters but in reality very complex people. Psychical looks play a huge role in initial first impressions. In all schools people are judged by the people they hang out with, how much money they have, what they wear, and so much more.

The Same?

Problems teens face

People are different but what these students and others do not get is that they are all more alike then they think. The pressure and problems teens face could be the same. All these characters’ home lives are not desirable. The pressure bestowed on Brian because of his grades and parents makes him want to take his own life. Depression is common amongst teens today and the constant search for an identity is always troubling. Some of them, like Andrew and Brian, are currently living to please their parents and are facing completely unattainable expectations. The feeling of wanting to belong is also a common factor; this is why they all act a certain way. In today’s society people often retreat to solipsism. Often the feeling of loneliness drags a person to believe they are going through problems virtually alone. The insecurities and secrets these characters share is heart wrenching but also relatable. Their emotions and feelings are generally the same. They want to be accepted, they want to understand life, but most of all they want to understand themselves.


What role should a teacher play?

It may seem natural to initially judge people, but not when the person judging is a teacher. Teachers should be able to treat everyone as equals and look past backgrounds and realize that every student deserves a chance. The principle does the opposite of this in the movie, he tells Bender he is going nowhere in life and how no one cares what happens to him. Principle Vernon also confides in the Janitor, Carl, revealing that he hates this generation and that he is scared because they are the future. Administrators should really focus on getting through to students. Bender suffered from abuse his whole life and was never encouraged to find his strengths and talents, yet the principle still treats him with disrespect. To be a true educator one should really focus on encouragement and try their best not to judge students like peers do. It is in everyone’s best interest if educators try to understand some of the backgrounds these students come from. Even though Claire has money, and Brian is smart, and Andrew excels in sports, they feel uncomfortable with their home life. A teachers should never just assume students are all right because in reality people can be very good actors. As the final scene in the movie explains, “You see us how you want to see us, in the simplest terms and in the most convenient definitions.” Another point that educators should not look past is the potential of the student. Claire is involved in social activities for the school and Andrew is involved in sports, but some how these do not match up to the type of activities Brian is involved in like physics club, math club, and Latin club. Bender is seen as nothing and useless because he is not involved in anything. He is however good at things like woodshop, which Brian is not. Bender asks the janitor, Carl, how he decided to be a janitor. He is mostly making fun of Carl but Carl is satisfied with his job. He explains that he is the “eyes and ears of this institution.” He knows a lot that is happening around the school and is seen as just a bystander. Excelling in certain areas does not make a person better. Having different strengths and weaknesses than a peer does not make a person less of an asset to the community. The Breakfast Club was made almost two decades ago and the social issues and hard-hitting truths of life are still relevant today. The feeling of wanting to be accepted and fit in with the crowd is a normal feeling, however not everyone is normal. Educators should be aware of the common problems students face and try to be accommodating as much as possible. Students should be encouraged to embrace their strengths and realize that they can only define who they are. Having an identity is something a person can spend their life trying to create. Potential can be sought out in all students. The Princess, The Athlete, The Brain, The Criminal, and The Basket case all benefited from each other. They learned about life and about themselves. The true realization that they are all pretty bizaare gave them a common ground and changed their life.