Five teens walked into detention.
Sounds like the opening for a great punch line, doesn’t it? But the joke was on the “grownups”. When we talk about lasting relevance in the film industry my thought was there are few examples as shining as The Breakfast Club. I first reflected on how we all grew up listening to adults in authority telling us that things were so different “back when we were your age”. And always, the differences were and, dare I say, still are, placed directly upon our misguided youth. Like so many generations before, we swore we’d change the world and I believe we tried awfully hard to. We showed the world how to break through obstacles and get along, no matter our differences. We could dance with abandon alongside our “enemies”. We showed the Mr. Vernon’s of the world that they were so very wrong about the future of mankind. That scene in the library, while slightly exaggerated with the door glass breaking etc., was the start of these kids, all very different, finding their common ground. Dancing has a way of breaking down barriers for some. When we get lost in music many of us let down our proverbial walls, just a little.
That segued into them all sitting down to dig that little bit deeper into who was around them. We proved that open communication, (and maybe a little bit of weed from a nerd’s underpants for inhibition) can solve almost any problem. The actors portrayed their roles with skill and, should I say, an element of maturity? There are times where we need to show our vulnerability to create new lines of communication. Like Allison, we need to dump our bag out for the world to see. We need to create a chance for someone to learn more about us. In the meantime, if we get lucky, we also learn about others. Not only did that scene show that everyone has a ‘story’ so one can’t judge by appearance, they shared how youth can find their own tools to support one another. Even if it means crossing cliché imaginary boundaries.
Every time I have seen this movie I am left believing we can teach our children some of these same lessons. After all, they must learn to own those scary parts of themselves and embrace them. With courage and a bit of compassion for ourselves as well as others, this world could possibly become a better place. A place where people don’t hate or judge others who don’t fit as snugly in their landscape of the world. An atmosphere where differences are celebrated and embraced, and diversity is valued.
The truth is our kids aren’t very different from us when we were their age. They are still trying to change the world. They still struggle with the misconceptions the grownups have of them and they fail. A lot. But the successes are spectacular!
The Breakfast Club opened doors that had been locked and guarded by our parents for decades. We learned to laugh at ourselves while we sat in a movie theater, protected by the anonymity of the darkness. Suddenly it was ok to admit that we were all just a little messed up in the head.
Like Brian said in the final essay to Mr. Vernon, we are all a little bit of each other. Brains, princesses, criminals, athletes, and we can all admit that we can be basket cases from time to time.
Princesses are still “So popular that the entire school would shut down” if they didn’t show up. Jocks are still doing pranks to be cool and are pretty good at hiding how bizarre they actually are.
Basket cases still eat weird sandwiches for the sugar rush. My son’s favorite was peanut butter sandwich with raisins, honey, brown sugar, and frosted flakes. Yes, my son was a bit of a basket case. But he was my basket case. The “criminals” are still wildly misunderstood kids who force us to look at the ugly and also not so ugly truths about ourselves, whether we want to or not. And chicks still can’t hold their smoke… That line by Anthony Michael Hall is still as funny to me today as it was back when the movie came out in 1985.
Using the movie as a reference, the world is still an imperfect place, screws fall out all the time. It is our job to teach our kids how to pick them up and do something with them without squashing their creativity. A few folding chairs might get flung down the hallway, but eventually, the door leading out will stay open. And when they are grown, they will finally be allowed to leave that detention called childhood and make their way with the skills learned in that “library” of their own.
With kids having recently graduated at this time of the year and this year marking the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release, I wanted to revisit the messages found in this film. To you kids, the ones reading this story, there will be those people who will always try to decide for you what and who you are. Dance to your own beat, create your alliances carefully. Surround yourselves with those you want to be like. Cut your own path. Make a ruckus! Follow your dreams and don’t conform so strictly to what people expect of you that you lose who you are. And for the love of all that is sacred and pure, don’t grow up so much that your heart dies. Always acknowledge the kid inside you. Because that kid inside you is helping mold the adult you will be one day. And to you adults, try to remember the challenges we faced, still the same “labeled” kids are walking the halls so be patient with our youth and offer guidance when you can. Maybe sit down with a bowl of popcorn or a pizza with some friends and enjoy a little “Breakfast”.