Cliques are groups of people with mutual interests and goals, who spend a majority of their time with each other. They can be found at every high school. The Breakfast Club is a movie that brings five students belonging to different cliques together in an unfortunate situation-detention. At the beginning of the movie, these five students appear to be very different people who have nothing to say to each other. However, throughout the movie, the sanctions of each clique become less relevant, and they find that they themselves have formed their own clique: The Breakfast Club.
Coming into the detention session, each character has a fixation in a stereotypical high school role. Claire is the “princess”; an upper-class, popular socialite who is in detention for ditching class to go shopping. In contrast, Bender is a lower-class (and perhaps abused) young man who has a perception of being a sociopathic “criminal. ” Because Bender constantly questions and defies authority, he is a detention professional. Andrew (the jock) is a disciplined and driven wrestler who wants to break free from the demands of the athlete role.
Brian (the brain) is a straight-A student who struggles with expectations of high grades–and who is experiencing devastation about his recent failures in shop class. Finally, Allison is an ignored introvert who longs for attention and in attempt to receive it, acts like a deviant “basket case. ” At the beginning of the session, the determination of the status by the pecking order of the school’s social structure. During the school week, Andrew and Claire have high social status. They recognize their shared status level and sit by each other upon entering the detention session.
The two break into conversation about their mutual high-status friends whereas the other detention attendees listen. Brian is probably next in the school status hierarchy because of his intelligence, but he is also a “geek. ” High-status students usually ignore him. In the school’s caste system, Bender and Allison are the social bottom feeders. Early in the movie, it becomes clear that a different social order is developing. Bender is the expert at Saturday detentions and is on a first-name basis with the janitor and Mister Vernon (the detention teacher). Detention sessions are clearly Bender’s turf and his status on Saturdays is high.
Brian seems to recognize this when he gives up his seat to John and waits for John to take off his coat before he removes his own. As is true of high-status members, John begins making and breaking norms. He is the first to break the principal’s explicit rule of “no one moves from their seats. ” He also breaks the implicit rule of respect for authority when he tears up a library book and when he removes a screw out of the library door so it will not remain open. The groups abandon normal roles and try new roles on, as they develop during the detention session.
In contrast to his usual low-status position, Bender has high status during the session because of his detention expertise. He assumes a leadership role in which his defiant questions and actions create value rather than disdain. Andrew also deviates from the normal behaviors of his high-status school behaviors. He develops emotionally by abandoning his macho athlete role when he cries in front of the. Brian, the conformist geek, asks courageous questions and begins to appear more secure and functional than his new detention friends. Brian, Claire, and Andrew break from their normal roles by smoking marijuana with Bender.
Allison, the basket case, steps out of her silent, unsociable role when Andrew shows interest in her as they walk to the cafeteria to get milk for lunch. Although she uses lies and deviant behavior to get Claire to confess her virginity, Allison provides wise observations that are contrary to her perceived role. For example, when the group is trying to coerce Claire into confessing her sexual activities, Allison notes, “It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? If you have [had sex] you’re a slut, and if you haven’t you’re a prude” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985).
Allison also steps out of role by allowing Claire to give her a cosmetic makeover, after which she begins to court Andrew. Brian exhibits a change when it comes time to write the required detention essay. The group gives him authority to write their papers because his perception is most intelligent. Brian is more expressive and sociable when he asks the important question, “Come Monday, are we all friends? ” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985). Before the detention session he would not have questioned the group because he was not confident enough to speak up.
The group develops together by first occupying the same space for an extended amount of time. Because of a common enemy, Mister Vernon, they band together even though it is against the norm. An early indicator of group identity emerges in Bender’s use of “we” as he asks, “Why don’t we close that door? We can’t have any party with Vernon checking us out. ” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985). They begin to perform as a group after Bender removes the screw from the door leading to Vernon’s office. The other students cover for him when Vernon comes back asking, “How did that door get shut? ” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985).
Self-disclosure further helps the development of the group. Bender gets Claire to self-disclose about her feelings toward her parents. Andrew turns and asks Bender to tell about his parents. This discussion is critical to the development because the group members begin to see the similarity of their struggles. It also helps them to identify with each other. When the group pressured Claire to confess her virginity, embarrassed she calls Allison “bizarre” for lying to force the confession. To which, Andrew replies, “We are all pretty bizarre. Some of us are better at hiding it, that’s all.
” This marks another point of similarity: they all protect their self-concepts by putting on faces in line with the expectations that others have for them. Andrew describes his struggle to live up to his father’s athletic expectations and Bender tells of his father’s abuse. Thus, two very different characters find common ground, typified by Bender’s comment to Andrew: “I think my dad and your dad ought to get together and go bowling” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985). In a quotation that begins and ends the movie, Brian reads from an essay that the Breakfast Club writes to Mister Vernon: “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 seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed. ” (Hughes & Hughes, 1985). This quote demonstrates the cognitive development of the students. They now realize their perception of each other because of the social stereotype and how they were wrong. As they band together to fight against mutual enemies–parents, peer pressure, authority figures, stereotypes, boredom–the Breakfast Club develops into a unified group.
While nothing appears to alter the world’s view (or Vernon’s) of these five students, they learn to look past the stereotypes of each other. They empathize with each other’s’ struggles, dismiss some of the inaccuracies of their first impressions, and discover that they are more similar than different. As they leave the detention session, their acceptance of each other becomes significant by Claire and Bender. They walk out of school arm in arm; she turns up her collar “punk style” and he dons one of her diamond earrings. Each student both takes from and gives to the members of the Breakfast Club.
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