Saturday, March 24,1984.
Shermer High School,
Shermer, Illinois, 60062.
Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.
But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer your question?…
The Breakfast Club.
This is the opening, and with a minor change the closing of the 1985 John Hughes teen movie classic, The Breakfast Club – one of the of, if not THE seminal movie experience of my adolescent years. In large part this film was responsible for changing my perception of who I thought I was and in many ways who I ended up being.
In the summer of 1985 I was a 12 year old punk who had seen more than most his age, didn’t know anything, and thought he knew everything. It was the year my parents divorced, the year I was taken from my friends, the year I was put in catholic school, and the year of my first major failing. I was a few months away from being a teenager. An angry teenager. I was in the grips of what I thought was my first love. I was trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be – and that was defined by those around me – my peers.
Truth be told, my mother put me in this school because it did offer a higher level of education. However this was not one of those catholic schools that was a feeder to major universities or maybe even a priesthood – no this was the kind of catholic schools that the kids who live in a lower to middle income urban area and got into a lot of trouble went to. I wasn’t one of those kids, but I would soon learn to be. It was there I learned the thrill of defying authority. I embraced my love of swearing. I learned about sex, or at least the twisted preteen catholic version of it in which I certainly going to be damned to hell. One can say it was there that I truly started heading down the wrong path.
It was also there that in the midst of my newly forming adolescent identity that I was exposed to The Breakfast Club. it wasn’t my first John Hughes movie – I had seen Class Reunion, Vacation, Mr. Mom and Sixteen Candles – but this was the first of his movies to really resonate with me. It was about high school, the big kids. It was about a small group of very different people who otherwise would have never come together forced to be in one place and deal with each other. And it spoke to me like no other movie had before because I felt like I could be one of them. I wanted to be all of them – well maybe not Claire as I had no desire to be the prom queen, but I sure as hell would not have minded the money.
What it did was open my eyes. it made me realize that even as different as I was from other people around me that on many fundamental levels we all were going through the same thing. I think it really taught me to relate to others. More importantly it taught me that not only could I be all of those characters – I WAS all of those characters. It changed me in that in my remaining school years and on some level even today, I was never part of any one particular social group. I was an athlete but I wasn’t a jock. I was academic but I wasn’t a nerd or an outcast. I was a basket case, although I don’t think anyone really knew it. I was a criminal in the sense that I took every opportunity to defy authority and more often than not I got away with it. Again – I wasn’t Claire, BUT I COULD HAVE BEEN DAMMIT! I was popular, not because I did anything special with one group of people but because I did everything normal with all of them. I learned how to be an everyman.
That is what John Hughes and the Breakfast Club did for me. It helped me be a more well rounded person. It blessed me to have the ability to look past a persons social group to see who they are. And it is responsible, in no small part for instilling in me a deep love and appreciation of film. So if you can hear me, thank you John Hughes. Thank you for the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. Thank you for a having a part in me becoming me.