1. A phenomenon in which a luminous electrical discharge appears on a ship or aircraft during a storm.
2. A 1985 Joel Schumacher film surrounding a group of friends just out of college, and their struggle with adulthood.
In 1985, 12 (going on 13) year old me did not know either of the definitions listed above. It was a pretty rough time for me. I was living with an abusive parent, I had just come off of failing 7th grade at a private school in at attempt to punish my parents for their divorce and for moving me to the private school in the first place, and I was being left behind by all of my friends. (That last one is important with respect to how I feel about this movie, so pay attention.) So what is a tween to do for an escape? MOVIES!
1985 was a not so great year for me, but was a truly great year for movies. This is the year that gave us Back to the Future, The Goonies, Legend, Clue, Weird Science, The Jewel of the Nile, Cocoon, Desperately Seeking Susan, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Real Genius, Better Off Dead, The Breakfast Club and of course the reason for this post – St. Elmo’s Fire. While many of these films that I cherish allowed me a temporary escape from my reality it was the last two that really had a huge impact on me. Both of these movies gave me hope. “Both?” you might ask – “they are very different stories!” This is true – but they came at a pretty dark time in my childhood and made me believe that I might have something to look forward to.
With a difficult mother, a distant father, and older siblings all scattered in the wind having lived through similar circumstances – I felt very much alone. So naturally in trying to cope with this reality, when I made friends I latched on to them and kept them very close to me. My friends became my surrogate family, which is a condition which holds true to this day. At home when I was spoken to it was to be yelled at, punished, or insulted. Nothing good happened while at home. But with my friends, I felt like a person again. This is where the movies come in.
The Breakfast Club dealt with different kids coming together and realizing that they are not so different after all. This struck a chord with me because my friends, while very different from me and my circumstances, showed me that we all had things in common. That message was very strong, and I took it to heart. But then came St. Elmo’s Fire, and while they are very different movies there is a strong connection between them – CAST MEMBERS.
Just months earlier I had seen Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy overcome their differences to become friends and to truly understand one another. Now here they are just coming out of college and they were STILL TOGETHER. I know they are different characters and the happenings of The Breakfast Club had nothing to do with those of St. Elmo’s Fire – but now 13 year old me could not help but make the connection! They were still friends, they were still together… and if they could do it why couldn’t I? And this gave me hope. Sure their circumstances were not ideal, but neither were mine and if they could keep it together well then my friends and I would be able to as well. That’s hope, and it was something I really needed at the time. Thirteen year old me looked up to this group of friends. I wanted to be like them.
That isn’t to say I wanted to have a drug issue like Jules, or be a deadbeat dad like Billy, or even have political aspirations like Alec. But I did want to think that people would look at me and think I was leading a great life (Jules). And I did want to be popular with the ladies (Billy). I wanted to be witty and be able to speak intelligently (Kevin). I wanted to dream big (Kirby). I wanted to help people (Wendy). I wanted to be perceived as a responsible adult (Alec), and like all young people I wanted to have Love (Leslie). But most of all I wanted to be surrounded by my friends at all times. Thirteen year old me thought twenty-something year old me could have all these things – Hope.
Fast forward close to three decades – and having re-watched this film forty-something year old me has some very different feelings. Want to know what those opinions are? Check out the video this Sunday night!