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Breakfast Club

It is likely fair to say, that every person, at least once, has been called something or identified as someone based on superficial stereotypes. While stereotypes may stem from valid preexisting prejudices, they can be degrading, disheartening, and obstructive. Thirty-two years later, John Hughes’s cult classic, Breakfast Club, shines a light on the social paradigms that remain pertinent to today, and should be watched by everyone to ensure that everyone understands that stereotypes and their consequences can be transcended through establishing an understanding of different individuals’ circumstances and socioeconomic class.

Every character in Breakfast Club is defined by their peers and parents. While John Hughes’ iteration of stereotypical teenagers is basic and cliché, it sends the necessary universal message about generalizations. Brian Johnson is “the brain,” who consistently eats homemade balanced meals and is pressured by his parents to excel academically. Claire Standish is “the princess,” the spoiled upper-middle-class socialite, and Andrew Clark is “the athlete,” the jock pressured by his father to pull abusive pranks and earn his wrestling scholarship. Verbally and physically abused stoner-outcast John Bender is “the criminal,” and neglected Allison Reynolds is “the basketcase.” Each of these characters, as seen through the eyes of supervisor and teacher Richard Vernon, represent the stereotypes that they embody.

As the 9-hour detention session unfolds in the Shermer High library, each character learns something new about the others that they had no idea were true. Brian Johnson is in detention for bringing a flare gun he intended to use to kill himself because his life is so stressful, and Allison Reynolds is so neglected by her parents she has nothing better to do than attend detention. Claire is used by her divisive parents to get back at each other when they argue, and Bender is abused and gets a pack of cigarettes for Christmas. Andrew’s old man is disappointed that Andrew can’t misbehave like he did in high school without getting caught, and is proud of Andrew when he attacks a weaker boy in the locker room. As each member of the Breakfast Club comes out with something about their personal life, they learn something new about people that, they too, initially identified with stereotypes. What John Hughes and Breakfast Club do so excellently is portray the tearing down of emotional and social barriers that hindered the characters’ understanding of life beyond the biased prejudicial lenses they, for so long, saw life through.

Thirty-two years later, this message stands true today. So often, decisions and choices are made, heavily influenced by social pressure and stereotypes, that end up harming those individuals later in life. The pressure exerted by one’s parents directly influence who they may become, and minimizes their choice in their own individuality and what they choose to do. Differences in social class influence how those of whom are in other socioeconomic spheres are perceived, and disdain for others for no known reason is rampant without valid cause or reason. Anxiety, stress, depression, fear, and a closed-mindset are a common result of the effects stereotyping and generalizing can have.

With his iconic fist pump, Bender declares his and the Breakfast Club’s conquering of the stereotypes that had defined them nine hours earlier. Stereotyping vindicates ignorance, and ignorance hinders progress. Perhaps by ensuring this film is seen by everyone during the coming-of-age years, a much needed light can be shined on such a universal and widespread issue, and catalyze a change in the ways in which people see other people.

 

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