Wednesday, September 05, 2007

High School Nostalgia

John Hughes seminal high school classic The Breakfast Club puts five barely acquainted students from different social orders into the library on a weekend to serve out a detention. The day begins with stereotype reinforcing banter. It’s easy to differentiate the jock (Emilio Estevez) from the outcast (Ally Sheedy), the spoiled rich girl (Molly Ringwald) from a nerdy A student (Anthony Michael Hall) and the burnout (Judd Nelson) from all of them. But soon their forced conversation –what else can they do? —leads to soul-searching confessionals and the crumbling of the social order walls that their high school identities impose on them. The Breakfast Club ends with the following quote, written by the brain, but delivered via voice-over with each student chiming in:

“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 basketcase, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

The simple genius of the movie is in the way it manages to accept and discuss those labels without really subverting them... (Read my full nostalgia heavy article at Zoom-In)


Glenn Dunks said...


I covet that movie. I saw it when I was 15, alas it was on late night TV, but I felt like I was just a part of it as I would've been in 1985 (the year I was born - sign? I think so).

It's in my top 5 personal favourites. It really is amazing.

Éric Shannon said...

I remember that movie all too well. But unlike Kamikaze camel, I saw it when it came out. I was in NYC for a weekend trip with a couple of friends, barely 17 years old and already having too much to drink every night. My hair, designed after Robert Smith, resembled a furn and my clothing choices scared old ladies away. I was happening like a spiral in a toilet.

The movie was so soothing that I couldn't speak after it. I was a teenager, just like all of them, and was going through exactly the same awkwardness they were.

*sigh* in deed...

Anonymous said...

The movie's pretty good, but for my money I'll take "Sixteen Candles" over it any day.

Sharon said...

I think you've nailed it on this one. This movie reaches people especially if they see it when it when they are in high school. I'm a total child of the 80s so even though I saw it when it had been out for years, the obvious 80s influenced endeared it to me. It shows high school kids figuring out who they are and what that means in a way that is entertaining and not condescending.


SusanP said...

“When you grow up, your heart dies”

I’m glad you wrote about this quote in your excellent piece, Nat.

I loved The Breakfast Club and identified with the characters in many ways, yet even when I first saw it in high school, there was one key difference. As I recall, the protagonists universally disliked their parents, which was one reason for Ali Sheedy’s indictment of adulthood.

I’ve always gotten along well with my folks and have therefore always believed that people of all ages are compassionate. It has never been a matter of how old someone is, though it’s true that how we process and deal with emotions (usually) matures as we grow up.

If anything, growing up awakens compassionate hearts even more, because we have moved beyond the more powerful self-involvement of youth. (Generally speaking, of course.)

Deborah said...

I've told this story many times over the years.

I was 24 when this movie came out, and I saw it with my fiance, who was a few years older.

When we came out of the theater, he said "It was great, but I don't think any real burnouts are that articulate." "Not true," I replied, "I hung out with people like that."

The next day at work I was discussing it with a co-worker, and I said "It was great, but I don't think any real jocks are that articulate." "Not true," she replied, "My ex is just like that."

And I realized, we were still carrying these stereotypes with us, still living as if the decisions we'd made about stoners and jocks and weirdoes in high school made sense.

It was pretty flippin' profound.

Edward Copeland said...

When it originally came out, I liked The Breakfast Club a lot, but on subsequent viewings, I grew to dislike it more and more, thanks largely to how annoying Judd Nelson is. Maybe I've become an old fart, but I find myself siding with Paul Gleason more. One thing that always bothered me even the first time was the wish fulfillment ending. I wanted a coda showing the five of them back at school Monday ignoring each other and reverting to their usual cliques. I agree with Ray about Sixteen Candles though. I think that's the Hughes that really holds up, before his filmography degenerated into nothing but fart jokes and hits to the groin.

Anonymous said...

Judd Nelson has weirdely giganitc nostril holes - that's what I remember about the movie.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I think that notion that Susan brings up that some teenagers are close to their parents explains a lot about my soft-spot for Pretty in Pink. That and "What. About. PROM! BLAINE!" But The Breakfast Club is wonderful, and I love what you wrote about it.

Jill said...

By the time Pretty in Pink came out, I was old enough to appreciate Duckie and think Andrew McCarthy looked like a rabbit.

Anonymous said...

Saw it when it came out (I was 26 and a couple of years out of the Navy) and thought it was one of the best movies I had ever seen. Still do. This and "Pump Up The Volume" make the perfect teen-angst double feature.

lawyer tony fernando said...

I watched this movie in 1988, when I was 5 y.o., it aired on tv, about 3:30 pm, wow ,that movie is still a classic, like it or not, john hughes movies were really the meaning of american�s high school for me, I always loved the fact the schools in Brazil are different, you know, no lockers, you can study from 7:00 to 12:00 or 13:00 to 18:00, like I did, but I always loved the idea of meeting those great people someday. Great choice Nathaniel!

PIPER said...

Nat, I just recently wrote about Hughes because I couldn't stop thinking about him while watching Superbad. I have not seen a movie in a long time that made me feel like his movies did. Dazed and Confused and Superbad are the only ones that come to mind.