“Just be yourself” is a fairly common message in the teen film genre, but few have navigated the universal feelings as well as The Breakfast Club. While the question over which John Hughes film is the best is frequently pondered, the tale of the brain, the athlete, the criminal, the princess, and the basket case is almost always at the top of the list. While many teen classics feel less than genuine once you cross the threshold into your twenties, there is a timelessness to The Breakfast Club‘s transparency that manages to help it avoid feeling hopelessly dated.
Whether you’re starting to get bogged down by the facade that comes with adult life or still figuring out how to navigate the world as a teenager, The Breakfast Club is great at reminding you that being yourself is your only real option. The exhaustion of hiding your true self will overwhelm you otherwise. Some of us manage the charade better than others, but deep down, we all just want people to see us for who we really are.
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” — Andrew
The central theme of The Breakfast Club is that everyone has their own problems, whether you can see them or not. Andrew (Emilio Esteves) may seem like just a dumb jock at the beginning, but just like the rest of the kids, his own relationship with his father plagues him. He may be weak-willed, but he keeps up the “everything’s fine” face better than most. While you don’t need to be share every bit of your life with anyone who will listen, having a few people who see the real you is a pretty critical part of being your true self.
“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.” — Bender
For most of the film, Bender (Judd Nelson) was the worst version of himself. While he certainly has his reasons, that kind of anger does tend to keep people at arm’s length. The world has done him wrong, so he has a better idea of the harsh reality outside of the cocoon that is high school. However, when you have that information, you can either let it make you hardened against those who might improve your life, or you can see it as an opportunity to embrace those who might encourage you to be the best version of yourself. Be like Bender and learn to let people in (eventually).
“I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say.” — Claire
As the most popular girl in school, Claire (Molly Ringwald) constantly felt crushed by the responsibilities that came with pleasing her parents, friends, and other authority figures at the expense of what she really wants. Going along with the crowd because you think that’s just how things are supposed to be will always just end in frustration, so throw off your self-made shackles and cut out those people you actually hate.
“Like, when I step outside myself kinda, and when I, when I look in at myself, you know? And I see me and I don’t like what I see, I really don’t.” — Brian
Everyone in detention is forced to do some serious soul searching, but Brian, who was assumed to be a happy go lucky dork, actually harbors a good deal of self-loathing. It’s important to realize that everyone has trouble looking in the mirror sometimes. It’s often not easy to embrace who you really are, so be an encouragement to those who are just coming out of their shell.
“When you grow up, your heart dies.” — Allison
The fear of getting older permeates the teen genre, and nothing captures that better than Allison’s (Ally Sheedy) solemn statement about the perceived nature of aging. Honestly, the pressure to “stay in your lane” permeates adulthood just as much or more than in high school, so by being yourself, you can keep some of that soul death at bay. You don’t have to fit into the boxes that snuff out your spark.
“You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.” — Vernon
Vice Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason) may have been the bully of the film, but this is actually some solid advice. Instead of wasting all of your time trying to cram yourself into a pre-appointed box, just work on making yourself a better version of you. Work hard and be kind. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.
“Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?” — Allison
As Allison points out, sometimes there is no winning way to be yourself. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. If nothing you do is going to make the people want to impress give you validation, you’ve got to find that validation in yourself. There’s no use being someone you’re not when it still won’t get you what you want. You might as well be yourself, and the people who actually matter will be into it.
“You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”
While they all tried to avoid detention like the plague, the crew from The Breakfast Club actually learned a bit (ain’t that the movie way?), but it wasn’t from their textbooks. Everyone is multifaceted, so don’t be afraid to show every part of yourself to those who deserve it. Kiss the girl in the parking lot and them pump your fist to the sky.