After salaciously consuming breakfast for lunch, a coworker and I popped in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. I remarked to her, ‘ I haven’t watched this movie for at least eight or ten years.’ For her, about four years had passed.
In case you don’t remember the premise I’ll refresh your memory. Five teens from wildly divergent cliques are forced to commune in the same room for nine hours without any normally socially sanctioned barriers between them. In this space of time they probe beneath one another’s masks and discover what really motivates them. According to wikipedia, it’s heartwarming and inspirational. If I hadn’t just watched the movie, I would have agreed based on my remembrance of it. However, recent viewing has considerably changed my opinion.
Setting drives the drama second only to concept in this movie. The faded brown and tan and beige and buff school definitely draws a drab atmosphere. The library is the primary scene and it’s depressing, that’s for sure. The linearity of the shelves, tables, and desks invoke those classic stereotypes and it’s easy to judge each character like a book, by it’s front cover. However it is the concept and conversations that unfold which are the real action.
Unfortunately, in these conversations what I hadn’t recalled are the aggressive speeches peppered liberally with expletives. The profuse profanity surprised me, but I was more surprised at the sexual harassment as well as the physical and verbal abuse each character undergoes. Without comment. Much of it at the hands of a teaching professional.
In the last two to three years the target of much extracurricular education and media attention has been about bullying. This morning there was The White House Conference on Bullying Convention where Barack Obama let on that the knows he has big ears. Last summer one in a series of teen suicides occurred in Hadley, Ma, ultimately traced to bullying. A social worker friend of mine interns several times a week in a local town where one of her primary responsibilities is teaching elementary-schoolers about how to notice and stop bullying.
It surprises me then that The Breakfast Club seems to carry in it an implicit bullying message which isn’t addressed. There are surface attempts at psychoanalyzing each of the characters, and the root problem is misunderstandings. With a far-too-trite and glossed-over message that bullies are often the subject of bullying, it presents little in the way of solutions to its viewers. The movie limits itself to stereotypes, which are being focused on less in the media. The underlying message seems out of date, showing every one of it’s 26 years.
I wonder if this is because the Internet has given people the ability to be “your best you,” or an idealized façade of who one is. Facebook allows one to carefully present oneself by either displaying interests and hobbies. If it removed the friend count, such stigmas as popular or unpopular might disappear as well. At the very least, it would be more difficult to tell based on numerical values.
In a world where an online persona can present one image, occasionally contradicting real life personality is there a need to stereotype people so vigorously? Will stereotypes continue to be reflected in films? Or will the problems, like bullying, that arise from these, and the solutions be presented instead? I don’t know, but maybe a summer blockbuster will deal with bullying. I’ll have to wait and see.