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Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us ... in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain ...
One of the most defining teen movies, it came to represent the genre and launch the careers of its stars, leading to the Brat Pack. The Breakfast Club follows the journey of five teenagers who have all landed themselves a Saturday detention. The main characters are characterized by their cliques, harassed by angry principal Richard "Dick" Vernon, and aided by Carl, the friendly neighborhood janitor.
The Breakfast Club was a 1985 film written and directed by the late John Hughes, a legend in the teen genre. It was named to the National Film Registry in 2016. The five principal actors in the film (Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy) became part of the "Brat Pack", a group of actors whose careers in the 1980s revolved around playing teens in popular movies with each other. This group also included Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore.
- Abusive Parents: All of the characters' parents are abusive in different ways. Bender's father is the "traditionally" abusive dad who beats his wife and son, Brian's parents set such high standards that it drives him to potentially attempt suicide (or whatever else he had planned) with the Flare Gun, Allison's completely ignore her, Claire's are about to get divorced and use her to get back at each other, and Andy's father tells him that winning is everything and that if he doesn't win, he's nothing.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- At the beginning of the movie, Andy and Bender can't stand each other, but Andy still cracks up when Bender asks Vernon "Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?"
- The rest of the students are suitably horrified to learn that Brian is in detention for bringing a gun to school. When he learns it was a flare-gun that went off in Brian's locker, Andy starts laughing. He stops when Brian insists it isn't funny, but then starts laughing again. Brian then admits it is a little funny.
- Similarly, everyone laughs at why Allison is there. She just didn't have anything better to do.
- Air Vent Passageway: Bender goes through the ceiling to get in and out of the closet.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Claire toward Bender.
- Almighty Janitor: Carl.
- Alpha Bitch: Deconstructed with Claire.
- Angry Dance: Andrew... oddly enough, his reaction to getting stoned.
- Attention Whore: Bender. He's always insulting somebody (whether it be the principal, the janitor or his peers), and it's obviously for attention. There's also his thorough, speculative impression of Brian's household, and the way he announces it out of nowhere without being asked and just assumes (correctly) they'll all watch.
- Around the middle of the movie Allison turns into something like this. She butts in at every conversation with something 'she has done or is about her. Even if it does not fit the conversation at all.
- Axes At School: Brian's Flare Gun.
- Berserk Button: Andy presses Bender's when he accuses him of lying about his abusive home life.
- The "B" Grade: Brian gets a low mark in shop class, meaning he can't get the perfect A's he was striving for.
- Big Eater: Andy.
- Big Man on Campus: Andy.
- Black and Gray Morality
- Book Dumb: Bender is unusually articulate and comes off as quite intelligent, despite his school trouble.
- Breakfast Club: Obviously.
- Cerebus Callback: Brian talking about how he failed shop because he couldn't make a ceramic elephant, which leads into a bit of joking on the part of the others. A few minutes later when the entire discussion has gone a bit more dramatic, Brian reveals he brought a gun to school because he couldn't get the elephant to work, implying he wanted to kill himself. It gets subverted when they all end up laughing about it anyway.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Allison.
- Colonel Bogey March: Whistled by the kids.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: The kids' clothes are all a different color; red for Bender, blue for Andy, pink for Claire, green for Brian, and black for Allison. Bender's color is clearer when he removes his jacket, Andy's only gets bluer when he takes off his, and Allison's changes to white after Claire gives her her makeover.
- Crapsack World
- Crazy Consumption: Allison lets her soda spill out, and licks it off the table. Then she throws away the baloney from her sandwich, and replaces it with Pixy Stix (powdered candy) and Cap'n Crunch cereal.
- Deadpan Snarker: Bender. Andy and Brian develop snarkiness as well but not nearly to the degree of Bender.
- Dean Bitterman: Principal Vernon.
- Deconstructed Trope: This film takes a very good look at what many of the "stock" characters of teen movies would be like if they existed in real life, and what their real motivations would be like.
- Andy, the Jerk Jock, only behaves that way in order to fit in with the rest of the team and to impress his father, who raised him on stories of how he acted like that back when he was in school. He wishes that, one day, he'd get injured so that he wouldn't have to wrestle again, and thus never have to worry about living up to Dad's expectations.
- Claire, the Alpha Bitch, is a Type A Stepford Smiler who feels that her life is empty, and that her parents only use her as a tool in their endless arguments. And she's hardly the "queen bee" — in fact, it's peer pressure that essentially molded her into the snobbish bitch that she is, and she feels miserably forced into it.
- Brian, the Nerd, hates how his parents have destroyed his social life by pushing him so hard to succeed, and is so obsessed with his grades that he tries to kill himself (or worse) after getting an F in shop class. His attitude is also little better than that of the "popular" kids that he hates, as shown when he talks about how he took shop class because he thought it was an easy A that only "losers" like Bender took (as opposed to his advanced math classes).
- Bender, the juvenile delinquent, is like that not because he's a bad person, but as a result of his tough, working-class upbringing and his abusive father, both of which have taught him that violence is an acceptable solution to problems. His Badass image is also easily disarmed by Andy, even though he's armed with a knife.
- Allison, the crazy loner, intentionally acts crazy and theatric in order to get attention, something her parents don't give her. She doesn't bother to hide her blatant thefts and eccentricities, and her withdrawn persona is actually just a ploy to get people to give her more attention.
- Do Wrong Right: Andrew's father in the beginning chastises him for getting caught after screwing up, not for screwing up.
- Drink Order:
- Playing the trope as straight as can be, all five characters have Coke with their lunch.
- They also have a variation of the trope — their lunches represent their parents (who packed them) as much as it does the kids. Claire has expensive Japanese food that working-class Bender has never even heard of; Andy has a massive lunch loaded with carbs; Brian has a typical "mama's boy" lunch complete with crustless PB&J; Allison (whose parents "ignore her") ditches the baloney they put in her sandwich to make herself a Pixy Stix and Cap'n Crunch sandwich on Wonder Bread; and Bender, who neither brought a lunch or was made one by his parents, makes out like he's going to forcibly share Brian's, although he doesn't in the end.
- Dysfunction Junction
- Education Mama: Brian's parents. It gets worse.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Bender to Brian: "So, what are we having for lunch?"
- Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over a single day.
- Female Gaze: While Andy is having an internal conflict about whether to smoke weed or not, the camera is shot from Allison's perspective, who is gazing at his back and, later, when the camera doesn't move, at his crotch.
- Foot Focus: In the uncut version of the movie, the only copy of which was on a VHS tape lost after John Hughes' death, the part where Allison notes that she can "write with her toes" was followed with Ally Sheedy actually writing with her toes, completely filmed.
- Foreign Queasine: Claire's lunch consists of what she calls sushi (actually, it's sashimi, but that common mistake is beside the point). Bender is a bit put off by the thought of eating raw fish.
John Bender: You won't accept a guy's tongue in your mouth, and you're gonna eat that?
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: According to a picture on the wall, Carl was "Man of the Year" for the class of '69.
- Freudian Excuse: All the kids have this. A major theme in the movie is how adults can shape their kids for better or worse, intentionally or not. Bender grew up learning how to be tough because his dad beats him (he got burned with a cigar for spilling paint in the garage), Andrew is driven to compete and bullies another kid because his dad is always pushing him and going off on the wild things he did as a teen, Allison acts like she's nuts because her parents ignore her, Brian is a socially-inept nerd because his parents are always forcing him to study, and Claire is a shallow popular girl because she feels empty inside due to her parents using her as a tool.
- Girlfriend in Canada: Brian claims to have a girlfriend living up in Niagara Falls.
- Growing Up Sucks
Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.
- Hollywood Dress Code: slightly averted, Brian does not wear glasses to signal that he is a nerd, and Bender does not wear a leather jacket. It has been mentioned on the DVD they wanted the character to have some originality from their cliques.
- Ho Yay: One brief moment, between Bender and Andrew.
Bender: You know, you're kinda sexy when you're angry.
- I Am What I Am: Claire, Andrew and Brian do it publicly; Allison confesses privately to Andrew; and Bender hides the specifics from the characters, but the audience can easily figure out his situation.
- I Hit You, You Hit the Ground: "Two hits: Me hitting you, you hitting the floor."
- Ineffectual Loner: Bender.
- Ironic Echo:
- Early on in the film, Andrew tells Bender, "You don't even count. You could disappear forever, and it wouldn't make any difference. You might as well not even exist at this school." Later on, when Andrew yells at Bender for his Sarcastic Clapping reaction to Claire's lipstick trick, John replies with "What do you care what I think, anyway? I don't even count ... right? I could disappear forever and it wouldn't make any difference. I might as well not even exist at this school, remember?"
- "Do I stutter?" also fits this trope.
- Richard Vernon, of course. He starts hinting at Jerkass Woobie status as the day wears on, particularly during his conversation with Carl.
- John Bender also easily qualifies, but down deep, he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, once you get beneath the antisocial cynicism of a physically abused kid.
- The parents of the kids we see have thoroughly unpleasant personalities and demeanors. It's a miracle they haven't been put in their places.
- For that matter, everyone in the film, given the Crapsack World setting.
- Jerk Jock: Deconstructed through Andy. He feels like he has to be an asshole and a bully to the weaker students because his father expects that behavior out of him. When he plays a humiliating and painful prank on another kid, he feels terrible about it afterward, but his dad is only upset that he got caught.
- Last-Name Basis: See how everyone keeps saying "Bender" rather than "John"?
- Locked In A Schoolroom
- Loners Are Freaks: Allison.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Claire.
- The Makeover: Used for Allison.
- Meaningful Name: Vernon's first name is "Dick".
- Miles Gloriosus: Bender. He puts out an image of toughness but Andy is able to take him down with ease. Even when Bender pulls a knife and casually talks about killing Andy, he's slowly backing away from the fight. Confirmed when Principal Vernon challenges Bender to a fight.
- Monochrome Casting
- Mood Whiplash: After a Tear Jerker of a story told by Brian about bringing a gun to school, the revelation that it was a flare gun and that it went off in his locker gets everybody laughing.
- Not So Different: The five students slowly come to realize this about each other over the course of the movie. Andy's rant about his obsessive and borderline abusive father makes Brian cry and Bender remark that their fathers should get together and go bowling.
- Orphaned Punchline: Inverted with Bender's "naked lady" joke. (It doesn't have a punchline, Judd Nelson ad-libbed it).
- Panty Shot: Shoved right in your face, too.
- Pitying Perversion: Claire's drama partially stems from the fact that her friends force her to be unkind to the unpopular kids
- Precision F-Strike: Brian's response to Claire about social pressure.
- Rule of Symbolism: This film is almost entirely dialogue. It takes place in a Library. Libraries are collections of words - just like dialogue. But you won't perceive any of the words in a Library unless you seek them out - like the Character's thoughts.
- Sarcastic Clapping: "That was great, Claire. My image of you is totally blown."
- Second Place Is for Losers: While not actually said in those words, Andy's father clearly believes this.
- Self-Proclaimed Liar: Allison.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Brian's reaction to Allison's makeover.
- Six-Student Clique: Minus the sixth student, but it's really close.
- The Head: Bender
- The Muscle: Andy
- The Quirk/The Smart One: Brian
- The Pretty One: Claire
- The Wild One: Allison
- Slap Slap Kiss: Claire and Bender.
- Stage Mom: Andrew's dad was a male example.
Andrew: (imitating his dad): "Andrew, you've got to be NUMBER ONE! I won't tolerate any losers in this family! WIN, WIN, WIN!" (cries)
- Sticky Fingers: Allison.
- Sweet Tooth: Allison. Mmm, pixie stick sandwiches...
- Uptown Girl: Claire and Bender.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Andy.
- We Need a Distraction:
- Bender's presence in the library getting hidden from Vernon by the other kids via redirecting questions and obnoxious coughing.
- Earlier, Bender provides a distraction so the rest of the group can get back to the library without Vernon noticing them.
- Yeah! Shot: Bender, at the end.