I fell in love with the movie The Breakfast Club when I first saw it on my eighteenth birthday more than 30 years ago.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine that my two teenagers would enjoy watching it in the year 2015. In fact, I would have found the idea completely impossible.
The movie was about my generation.
The angst of the five teenage characters stuck in detention on a Saturday clearly demonstrated that we suffered from the mistakes and misguided expectations of our parents.
As the character Andrew, played by Emilio Estevez said, “Everyone’s home lives are unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.”
The first time I heard him say that line, I thought no truer words have ever been spoken. I couldn’t wait to put as much distance between my parents and me as possible. I was sure that all of my faults were products of my parents’ faults. My only hope for a normal life was to escape them.
Now, watching the movie with my own kids, I have a different perspective.
Hairstyles may change, fashion may change. technology may change, even language may change, but human nature doesn’t change that quickly.
The Breakfast Club is about the ridiculous social constructs of high school. By the end of the movie, the characters recognize that individuals are much more complicated than the labels they are given.
All these years later, I realize that those social structures and labels from high school aren’t that different from those in the world today. As adults, we just do a better job at pretending we’ve outgrown them.
The people with money and connections make the rules. Those with the right social contacts are recognized and applauded for their good work even though others do just as much. The misbehavior of athletes is often accepted, and low-income people are blamed for their situations.
When The Breakfast Club was first released, my generation hoped we’d be better than that.
We rolled our eyes during a scene in the basement of the school that features a conversation between the principal and Carl the janitor. Principal Vernon warns Carl that, when they get old, the kids are going to be running the country and they should be worried. At the time, I just considered Vernon an old guy who was out of touch with young people.
Now, the generation that scared him IS running the country, and, unfortunately, we do demonstrate the self-absorbed behavior about which he worried.
But, there is also hope.
Unlike Principal Vernon, I’m not nearly as concerned about the generation coming up behind us.
From what I’ve observed, they are more accepting of differences and more likely to challenge the status quo. In other words, I think they really do get the lessons in The Breakfast Club.
Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.