The Breakfast Club

“When you grow up, your heart dies.”—Allison

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The last time I watched The Breakfast Club, I was a senior in high school. Last night, I watched it again with my fifteen-year old son, who is now a freshman in high school, and with my twelve-year old son, who is now in sixth grade. Turn and face the strange, indeed.

Nevertheless, as much as The Breakfast Club is about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, it’s also about what doesn’t change. While the social groups today may come in slightly different flavors, the kids are no less stratified. Then, as now, belonging to a group provides a sense of safety and cohesion, but at the price of conformity, and establishing one’s own independence means having mom and dad less and less to rely on. It’s the portrayal of this complexity, especially through the Bender character, that gives the Breakfast Club its lasting appeal.

Bender is a first class asshole, the kind of guy who tells the smart kid to get the hell out of his seat, who bluffs people with his tough guy front and then wilts when someone calls him on it. But he’s also charismatic and charming, a guy willing to take one for the team and who is, as he says, just trying to help via his own brand of keeping it real, the truth hurts evangelism. He challenges them, and they are, ultimately, better off for it. As Rubin Safaya says in his review at Cinemalogue.com, “Molière’s most famous work, Tartuffe, is about a pious fraud who turns out to be a criminal… The joke is that Bender is a criminal fraud who turns out to be pious.”

They have to go through the long, dark night of the soul first though. It’s pretty easy to spot in the film when this happens because before purging each character asks the others “Do you know why I’m here?” Somewhat less obvious is how each first has to be challenged by the others in order to get there. With the possible exception of Claire, it takes seeing themselves through the eyes of the others to hone in on, and consequently begin to deal with, what’s really bothering them. Fortunately for them, being thrown together under unusual circumstances gives them the perfect opportunity to do so. Even Vernon has a shot at redemption through his interchanges with Carl, though as Allison surmises, it probably too late for him.

Plus, if that’s not enough to recommend it, it also has that Simple Minds song in it, and it’s  a really great song.  Recommended.

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