The Breakfast Club: Protraction of “Convenient Definitions”

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The Breakfast Club tells the story of how five teens, from seemingly different circles, come to look past the labels and categories that high school imposes upon the adolescent in order to discover that they may not be so different from each other after all. The group first comes to exist on a Saturday morning, when each student ends up in detention to serve punishment for his or her infringements. Each teen embodies a certain stereotype that high school has created- the braniac, the jock, the basket case, the princess, and the rebel- and it is very clear who is who by the initial portrayals and interactions of the characters. When the teens are faced with the task of writing an essay about their violations and”who you think you are” upon request of Mr. Vernon, the disciplinary principal, they come to question the  constructions of the identities that each claims to be. Through a mix of isolation bonding and curiosity, the teens come to their own realizations of how popularity, sexuality, family life, and social acceptance have shaped their own perceptions of each other as well as themselves.

As the film progresses, amidst emotional twists and honest revelations, the students begin to see that friendships can be formed even among the most unseemly bunch. After coming together over various activities such as running about the school to outwit Mr. Vernon, engaging in drug use, and dancing carelessly together, they begin to breach social boundaries that the real world of high school holds rigidly in place. ultimately conclude, as Brian writes in their collective final essay to Mr. Vernon, “You see us how you want to see us. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.” This statement applies to both the way teens view each other as well as how adults view teens. By the end of the film, the rebel (John Bender) seems to find his princess (Molly Ringwald), the jock (Emilio Estevez) is intrigued by the quirky beauty of the basket case (Ally Sheedy), and the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall) discovers that maybe he has a group of friends. However, John Hues instills a deeper meaning of his view on stereotypes through the way that he crafts the film.

Potential Thesis Statement:

In The Breakfast Club, John Hughes highlights the influence of stereotypes on the construction of teenage identity, and seemingly argues that despite this recognition, they are continuously perpetuated by a need for social belonging and approval.

Topic 1: John Hughes uses examples of family life through various tactics of dialogue and visual imagery to carefully craft each character’s unique experiences that have led them to mentally perceive their own social identity as well as others’.

  • The character’s differing lunches
  • John Bender’s story of abuse by his father (Parents “better off without him”
  • Molly’s divorced parents
  • Parental pressures

Topic 2: Through implementation of Freudian concepts, John Hughes contrasts the teens conscious efforts of the superego to consciously fit in and earn approval in “real-world” high school with the creation of a safe space where aspects of the id are able to gain more expression.

  • Use of marijuana in the school
  • Running recklessly through the halls
  • Dancing carelessly
  • Open expression of opinions in the group

Topic 3: The breach of these stereotypes in the detention space may or may not translate into the real world, for when coming out of detention, each character symbolically reunites with his or her own reality.

  • Claire gives her earring to John Bender, a subtle gift that does not formally denote their relationship (phallic symbol)
  • In order for Andrew to be attracted to Allison, Claire has to “beautify” her
  • Brian is left alone to finish the essay that declares their underlying bond.
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