The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

I am sure that most of you have seen the iconic movie The Breakfast Club. The movie takes place on Saturday March 24, 1984 at Shermer High School in Illinois. On this day, five very different high school students meet at the school to serve detention. Each unique character, the princess, the jock, the nerd, the criminal, and the basket case represent different stereotypes. By analyzing each character, we can begin to realize how gender is portrayed and make additional connections to what we have studied in class.

The two girls in the film, Claire, who is the princess, and Allison, who is the basket case, portray the “typical” female and the “atypical” female. Claire is exactly what a person thinks of when the word female is discussed. She is thin, beautiful, popular, and well mannered. In addition to this, she is clothed in mostly pink, the color that symbolizes feminism. Also, throughout the film she brings up emotions and feelings. This immediately brings attention to how woman cope compared to men. Men never want to bring up feelings, because it may downgrade masculinity. In contrast to Claire, Allison is the exact opposite of what someone thinks about when a female is imagined. She is a very gothic looking individual, wearing mostly black, baggy clothing. As the film progresses, and everyone learns a little more about each other, Claire takes Allison to another room and gives her a makeover. During their conversation, Claire comments that Allison looks better “without all of that black shit on your eye.” Claire declares that she is doing this to be nice, but is there another motive behind this? Since she is the typical female, she may feel that how Allison looks is not normal, and she is trying change this. This connects to Liz and Abby in the 30 Rock episode. Liz tries to change Abby because her look is degrading females. However, in this movie, Allison is changed because she is downgrading femininity. Clearly, we are being show that there is a certain way that a female should look and act by the interaction of these two characters.

The other side of gender is portrayed through the jock, Andrew, the criminal, John Bender, and the nerd, Brian. Andrew and Bender immediately have tension that sets off the discussion about masculinity. Andrew, a wrestler, is quickly put under scrutiny because of his sport. Bender and Brian accuse him of wearing tights, and rolling around on the floor with other men. Andrew is visibly upset and backlashes by calling Bender a “faggot.” This shows us the mentality that men need to be strong and masculine. When Andrew was called out for rolling around with other men, he felt embarrassed. He was probably thinking that what the other guys were saying was making him look like a homosexual. In addition to Andrew needing to defend his masculinity, Bender has his own issues. He has a bad home life and attacks everyone in different ways. He truly portrays himself as a bad guy. I think that Bender is actually defeated on the inside, and what he is portraying on the outside, is meant to make him look strong. If Bender were to actually act the way I’m sure he feels, he would lose the credibility of being a strong man which would greatly hurt his masculinity. In addition to Andrew and Bender, Brian portrays gender concerns. For example, Brian tells us that he is in detention because he brought a gun to school to kill himself for failing shop. He said he “feels stupid.” I think Brian looks at himself as a really smart guy. However, by failing shop, he doesn’t hold the characteristics of the typical male. His masculinity has been hurt by the fact that he is incapable of doing something most men can. Another example of Brian trying to protect his masculinity is when he is afraid to admit that he is still a virgin. He does not want the other guys to know he is a virgin because it hurts his manhood. These examples also connect to the 30 Rock episode. In the episode we watched in class, three male characters changed their appearance to portray something other than what was within, like Bender. Also, Jack shows us the concept of needing to protect masculinity and not be made a fool of, like Andrew. Overall, Andrew, Bender, and Brian, show us that masculinity is extremely important to the male gender. Without it, men supposedly look weak.

In conclusion, The Breakfast Club is a fantastic example of how gender alters who a person is and how they act. The five students each bring a unique example of what stereotypes surround the female and the male gender. Without this distinction, I think our society would not know how to handle things. We have been taught so heavily how things should be, that even a movie from the 1980s still accurately portrays how society looks at gender today.


2 thoughts on “The Breakfast Club

  1. Very interesting insights here, Michelle. Your consideration of the variance in representation of “masculinity” and “femininity” is insightful. While John Hughes presents almost opposite ends of the gender spectrum with Bender/Andrew and Claire/Allison, what other stereotypes has he left out and how may that affect the way we read gender in ‘The Breakfast Club’? Also, virginity comes up a few times throughout the course of the movie, with different results/expectations according to the gender of those involved in the discussion. I’ve attached a clip from the movie here that presents a very real problem/challenge that many women encounter. On the other side of the spectrum (searched for a clip with no luck, sorry), Brian (“the nerd”) feels pressure to lie about his own virginity in front of the group and insinuates that he’d slept with Claire. Eventually he tells the truth, but quite clearly his masculinity has been called into question. Why is virginity such a “thing”? Especially in teen movies! Also, and unrelated, why are makeovers another trope of teen movies? What can they suggest about social expectations based on gender?

  2. Yeah, you brought up some very thorough and developed ideas about the gender schemes in The Breakfast Club such as Bender’s outward aggression and his inner resentment for being weak. I also like Caitlyn’s question of why makeovers are so common in teen movies. I think they further demonstrate the social expectencies that men have of women which has pervaded the image of what women expect of other women and of themselves. All in all, a great opening blog, Michelle.

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