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Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Matinee: The Breakfast Club

The Athlete.
The Brain.
The Criminal.
The Princess.
The Basket Case.

These were the people in your high school. In your high school. In your high school...

(Oh, sorry...little Sesame Street throwback there)

I'm sure that most of us can recall our high school days quite well, regardless of whether they graduated last year, or fifty years ago. I'm sure that many of us were grouped into some sort of high school clique, or at the very least, wanted to be a part of one.

The five cliques that most high school students have probably faced are the ones that I have listed in the opening paragraph of today's entry.

You had the athletes who bonded over basketball and football games. You had the brainy people who could do algebraic equations with their eyes closed. The so-called 'criminals' were the kids who used to bully smaller kids while carving their initials into their desks. The princesses were the cheerleaders, fashionistas and quite often, stuck-up faction of a class. As for the basket cases, they were the ones who often had the most problems at home or at school, but was unable to tell anyone about them for reasons only they could understand.

Quite often, you would walk down a school hallway, and see each of these cliques off in one area. I can tell you that in my school, these meeting places for the cliques were one of four places. You could find the athletes around the gymnasium area, which made sense. The bookish kids were usually found on the first floor, as that was where our library and audio-visual editing suites were. The princesses were usually scattered around the second floor. The basket cases and criminals, I'm not exactly sure where they hung out, as I tried to stay as far away from them as possible. Perhaps they hung out at the park directly across the street from the school where they dabbled in the effects of drugs and alcohol. Merely speculation on my part though.

Sometimes, these cliques would find a way to intersect each other. There was a display of flags on the second floor of my school, and I can tell you that a LOT of people from my graduating class used to hang around those flags. A lot of them were the athletes trying their best to fawn all over the various princesses of the school. At the time, my locker happened to be just down the hall from the flag hallway, so I ended up seeing a lot, even though I wasn't a part of either clique.

So athletes fawned over princesses, and some brains became basket cases, and the criminals would play pranks and bully almost everyone who belonged to the other four cliques.

But it was very rare that you'd ever see one representative of each clique together in the same room.

I mean, yes, the odds of having at least one member of the five cliques in your English class were quite good. But I bet that whenever group assignments were brought forth in class, the cliques mostly stuck to their own kind.

So picture this scenario. Imagine that you are forced into serving a detention (on a weekend, no less) where you are the representative of one of the five cliques. Then imagine that the four other people serving the detention with you are people from the other cliques that you aren't a part of. That might be awkward indeed.

But that's exactly the situation that five teenagers had to face in the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club. And on an added note, this may be one of the very few Monday Matinee entries where I may spill some secrets about the ending.

Released on February 15, 1985, The Breakfast Club took a look at five students who could not be more different from each other serving a Saturday detention, which was largely unsupervised by the bumbling vice-principal of Shermer High School, Richard Vernon (played by the late Paul Gleason). From 7:06 in the morning to four in the afternoon during the date of Saturday, March 24, 1984, the five teenagers were not supposed to move out of their seats or even talk to one another. They are also each assigned a one thousand word essay for them to write. The subject? Who they think they are. Of course, Vernon leaves the group largely unsupervised, which only serves to have the five students break the rules at every opportunity.

And just who are the five students? I'm getting to that.

In fact, I'm going to introduce you to each of the kids, what their stereotype is, how they interact with the others in the film, what their backstory is, and a trivia fact about each of the actors who played the characters in the film. As I talk, I'll likely be spoiling some details of the movie for those of you who haven't seen this film yet. Though I trust that most of you have. When the movie was released, it made almost $46 million at the box office (which in 1985 dollars was a huge blockbuster), and the movie is ranked consistently at the top of several lists of 'the best movies of all time'. Just on a personal standpoint, The Breakfast Club is one of my all-time favourite movies as well, and I have probably seen this movie over a dozen one year.

So, let's go ahead and meet the kids of the Breakfast Club.

portrayed by Emilio Estevez

CLIQUE: The Athlete
DETENTION REASON: Taping the buttocks of a teammate together

Andy Clark is your standard teenage jock type character. He plays on sports teams for Shermer High and is highly respected for his athletic ability. Therefore, it might surprise some to hear that one of the main motivations behind Andy taking part in sporting events was the fact that his father was a former star football player who had infused into Andy's brain that being anything less than number one was simply unacceptable. Part of the reason why he agreed to playing the prank on his teammate which netted him the Saturday detention in the first place was to earn his father's respect. In the end, all he ended up feeling was guilt and remorse. During the course of the film, he starts to become curiously drawn to Allison Reynolds, especially after Allison receives a makeover, courtesy of Claire Standish.

TRIVIA: Emilio Estevez originally auditioned for the role of John Bender, but when John Hughes had difficulty casting someone for the role of Andy, Emilio was recast as Andy.

portrayed by Ally Sheedy

CLIQUE: The Basket Case

Allison Reynolds was the only one of the group who didn't get an official Saturday detention. She claims that the only reason she goes to detention willingly is the fact that she has nothing better to do. To say that Allison was kind of the 'weird girl' in the school was a bit of an understatement. Here's a clip of her in action as she prepares to eat her lunch.

As odd a character as Allison was, she really did have a lot of depth to her. Feeling neglected by her parents, Allison often talked about how she would constantly be thinking about running away from home because she was so miserable there. When she tries opening up to the others about her problems at home, at first they don't seem to care about it (or rather they don't believe it because she admits to being a compulsive liar). Gradually, she eventually gets the others to listen to her. Claire Standish gives her a makeover, and Andy Clark starts to show her more attention as a result.

TRIVIA: Before Ally Sheedy became an actress, she wrote a book at the age of 12 entitled 'She Was Nice To Mice'.

portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall

CLIQUE: The Brain
DETENTION REASON: Possession of flare gun which went off in his locker

Brian Johnson is the stereotypical geek of the group. He was one of the more academically sound students at Shermer High, and always managed to get good grades. However, this came at a price. For Brian had extremely pushy parents who basically pressured him to keep consistently doing well in school. It is revealed that the reason he brought the flare gun to school in the first place was because he was going to use it to kill himself, citing that fact that he could no longer take the pressure his parents were putting on him. During the course of the movie, Brian is seen as the most diplomatic of the group, attempting to smooth out the conflicts that arise between other members of the group. It is he who comes up with the name of the group...The Breakfast Club.

TRIVIA: Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald dated each other briefly after the filming for the movie wrapped up.

portrayed by Molly Ringwald

CLIQUE: The Princess
DETENTION REASON: Skipped school to go shopping at the mall

Claire Standish upon first glance comes across as the girl who seems to have it all. She's pretty, she's popular, she wears the finest fashions and owns the most expensive accessories. Therefore, according to the others, she seems perfect. She especially becomes the target of John Bender. In this clip below, you can definitely see that Bender seems to take great pleasure in making Claire's life a misery as long as they are in the same room together. (Warning for mature language in this clip)

The relationship between Claire and Bender does warm up as the movie progresses, but I won't exactly reveal how. Hey, a guy has to keep some secrets, right? However, one thing I can reveal is that Claire also seems to have a strained relationship with her parents, who see her as more of a tool that they can use to one-up each other in their arguments.

TRIVIA:  Molly Ringwald wanted to play Allison Reynolds, but Ally Sheedy had already been cast.  She took on the role of Claire instead.

Hmmm...I seem to be noticing a pattern here. Might as well confirm it with the last character profile.

portrayed by Judd Nelson

CLIQUE: The Criminal
DETENTION REASON: Setting off a false fire alarm.

John Bender is probably the angriest of the five, and probably has the most character development of the whole movie. John Bender is the criminal of the group, and when he is first introduced, he gets his kicks out of harassing and bullying the others. He especially likes to save his venom towards Claire, as you have seen up above. Bender openly defies vice-principal Vernon at every given opportunity, and in this scene, he actually tries to escape the detention hall...with not so great results.  (Another warning for mature language here)

You can't blame him for trying though.

Anyway, the reason why Bender seems to have so much anger towards the world is based on the traumatic childhood that he sustained. Thanks to being raised by a violent, abusive, alcoholic father, Bender's anger issues are easily explained. In fact, Bender goes so far as to showing everyone in the room a burn mark that he suffered when his father burned him with a lit cigar after he accidentally spilled paint all over the garage. He is the last one to really open up in the film, but when he does, it's almost amazing to see just how relieved he seemed to be at letting it all out.

TRIVIA:  Judd Nelson was almost fired from the movie by John Hughes because he was bullying Molly Ringwald off screen.  But when his co-star Paul Gleason stood up for Nelson, claiming that he was staying in character in between scenes, Hughes kept him on the project.

By now, I'm sure that you all have figured out that all five kids in The Breakfast Club are connected by one key thing.

They hate their parents.

Well, okay, hate seems to be too strong a word (well, unless you're Bender, who actually did have a valid reason to hate his father), but they all were afraid that they would end up like their parents. They wanted desperately to learn from the mistakes that their parents had made, and vowed to never repeat them. As a result of this shared connection, as well as other minor connections that made the kids realize that maybe they had more in common than they thought.

And common threads linked together to form a rather unusual, but heartwarming friendship between five people who never would have met each other under different circumstances.

I guess the one thing that we can learn from this movie is obviously to not judge a book by its cover. If you take the time to get to know someone, regardless of how radically different they might be from yourself, you might be surprised to know that maybe their lives aren't as happy as they make out. You might even be surprised to get a new friendship out of it.

When the movie first began, we see Brian writing the essay assignment that Vernon had given them while they served their Saturday detention. Here was the excerpt that he had written at the very beginning of the day.

Saturday, March 24, 1984.
Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062.

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong...and what we did was wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

Compare that to the letter that Brian writes at the end of the movie. Each character reads the part of the letter that corresponded to their parts in the movie as Mr. Vernon reads their finished essay...

BRIAN: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that 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 the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
ANDY: ...and an athlete...
ALLISON: ...and a basket case...
CLAIRE: ...and a princess...
BENDER: ...and a criminal.
BRIAN: Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club

And on that note, let's end this blog off with the main theme for the movie. A little hit by Simple Minds that hit the top of the charts on May 18, 1985.

1 comment:

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