Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. A Brain. An athlete. A Basket Case. A Princess and a Criminal.
Almost 30 years ago a group of teens gathered for a Saturday detention. What transpired in that detention changed not the lives of the characters alone, but mine as well. The fact that they gathered at MY HIGH SCHOOL is just a bit of trivia unrelated to this post. But, I had to mention that (my locker was featured, just sayin').
John Hughes always had a way of portraying teens and their issues but this, this was different. There wasn't a person in that group that one of us could not relate to. That one of us still can't relate to. I could relate when it first came out. I was 28, single and living alone. I wasn't that far out from high school that I couldn't remember what the experience was like. The angst. The stress. The need to be popular. The pressure to fit in and get good grades. To find who I was.
Today, all these years later I can see how all these characters and their issues are even more profound. How things change yet stay the same.
Kids today are under more pressure than ever. At a local high school this year, an alleged 130 students have been taken by ambulance to the hospital emergency room to be treated for panic attacks. There is so much pressure put on teens to get that A, to get that scholarship, to be the most popular it's a wonder they all just don't go crazy.
In the film, the brain is a nerd. He would more than likely be horrifically bullied in today's schools. He is pressured by his parent's to use all his time to study, to get those A's. When he couldn't make a lamp in shop class and would blow his GPA, he brought a gun to school. So what if it was a flare gun, it was still a gun. Today it would be a real gun and bullets would fly.
The athlete is pressured to get a scholarship. How many kids are involved in sports and play just for fun? Not many I'm guessing. The dad asks him "You want to miss a meet? You want to blow your ride?" In today's world parent's are overly involved in their kids sports activities. It's all about a scholarship. I get that to a degree: who wouldn't want their child to go to college for free? But too many parents don't let it be a choice, they make it their kids job to save them the expense.
The princess is dropped off in a BMW and can't believe her dad couldn't get her out of the detention. She is spoiled and pretentious as she unpacks her sushi lunch. Nowadays, she doesn't get dropped off in the BMW, she owns it. She got it for her 16th birthday. She tells the brain when she sees him in school the next week that she probably won't say hi to him. This is so painfully true. The popular "mean girls" would never dare speak to those beneath them. Not because they didn't want to but because they would be ridiculed.
The criminal just pretends to not care. He has an awful home life and his attitude shows the hurt he feels deep inside. His behavior just screams for attention, negative or otherwise. How many kids live this life today? It doesn't always have to be because there is abuse in the home, a cigarette burn for spilling paint on the garage floor. It can be because parents are disconnected; latchkey - not around enough to show they care at all.
And the basket case. Well, I think there's a little of her in all of us. Aren't we all afraid to open up sometimes? Haven't we all had a pixie stick and Captain Crunch sandwich once in our lives? (Actually no, never have). She is just screaming for attention in every way, she needs to be noticed.
Fifty years from now someone will pop this movie in and be shocked at it's relevance. There will always be so much truth to everything about it.
And maybe someday, life will be able to be as simple as this:
"Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are.
You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is a brain,
and an athlete,
and a basketcase,
and a criminal.
Does that answer your question?
The Breakfast Club
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