Looking through the boxes in the shed for Christmas decorations the other day, I happened across my old “Brat Pack” DVD collection. It had been a number of years since I put them in storage and had just about forgotten about them all when I found them in a box with a lot of other old treasured collectibles. Needless to say, I was very keen to watch them again and to see if my old opinion had changed as I have grown older.
Of all the DVD’s in this collection, the one that stands out most as being of most impact in my teenage years is The Breakfast Club. You know the movie, it’s the one where a bunch of kids from different social backgrounds are all held up in a Saturday detention in school. While I was a good student (I never had one detention throughout my entire school career), I always felt such an empathy for the characters in the movie and their positions in life during this critical period of development.
My main association was with Ally Sheedy’s character, Allison. I recognized a lot of myself in that character when I was growing up, and still do to this day. While I am neither a recluse, a compulsive liar or a frequent visitor to a psychologist’s office for anything other than work (being that this is my field); I do empathize with the lack of friends and social involvement based upon my more inclusive behaviors. And yes, I still dress in more obscure clothing!
Watching the movie again also made me realize that the central message of the movie is apparent to my life. I am “a brain, a princes, an athlete, a basket-case”, but not so much “a criminal” – although I am guilty of breaking the occasional speed limit when I’m in a rush. It’s easy to identify with all characteristics being applicable to yourself in adult life, where you might have considered to only identify with one as an adolescent.
Another factor, while watching the movie really struck a chord in me. How innocent and, in many ways different, these teens were in comparison with teens today. In a modern climate, one would hardly be considered a “criminal” for the base act of setting off a fire alarm in school on a Friday afternoon. These days, with metal detectors attempting to find children carrying guns, we have more important things on our mind.
Considering the actions the children participated in to obtain their detentions, I believe the majority of these to be minor offenses would result in just a “slap on the wrist” these days. The only exception to the rule is Brian, who brings a gun to school (be it only a flare gun). These days, incarceration and time in a psychological institute would be in order rather than just a wasted Saturday.
A few other factors came to mind, in relation to the differences between then and now. Firstly, the impact of wireless technology would play a major part in the movie. These days it would be realistic to expect Claire (the princess) to spend the day chatting to friends on her cell phone while Brian surfs the web from a wi-fi laptop. The significant fact of Bender ripping up a work of classic literature would mean very little to the children of today when they can download any book from Amazon.
Another point is that the “friendless” pair, the “basket case” and “Brain” would actually be extremely popular in modern high school society. Possibly far more so than the prom queen or jock. These days, it is far more cool to be slightly unusual than to fit into more classic stereo-types. Modern teens are far less interested in active sports and traditional popularity contests.
Additionally, the behavior of the teacher toward the children would result in an immediate dismissal these days. We do not, and should not, tolerate an aggressive, semi violent approach to children by these secondary care givers.
There is one constant between the film and children today, that being issues within the parent-child relationship. All of the problems the teens in the movie face are still apparent to children today. Abuse is still rife, as is pressure to succeed. While the latter is not necessarily such a bad thing, looking at it through adult eyes, it can be horrendous for the morale of the child. Many consider that what they do is never good enough and will warrant disappointment from parents. While the truth is that we are all proud of our kids, regardless of what they do, too much perceived pressure can be hard for a child to cope with. One message a parent should take from this film is to support and motivate their child rather than to steep pressure on them to be “number one”.
One line really touched me as a teen, that being “When you grow up, your heart dies”. It is easy to see why some teens can believe this when viewing parental interactions. However, coming out the other end of the teenage angst years, I can say that the heart grows stronger.
In all, watching this movie again after so long really hit me about how much times have changed and yet how much we still stay the same. I, for one, still feel 16 at heart and believe that this movie is a useful tool for children today to identify with. Also, for us “oldies”, this is a classic of our time.