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Anthony Michael Hall Breakfast Club Essay Paper

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 and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club”

There’s no better way to sum up John Hughes’ seminal teen movie The Breakfast Club than with the voiced-over letter at the end. Released in 1985, The Breakfast Club turns 30 on February 15 and, amazingly, remains incredibly relevant today.

A quick refresher for those who’ve never seen the film (such people exist, we’ve heard): On a Saturday morning, five high school students in Shermer, Illinois, assemble in their school’s library for eight hours of detention. All the typical high school clique archetypes are present and accounted for: the popular girl, Claire (Molly Ringwald); the jock, Andrew (Emilio Estevez); the rebel, John (Judd Nelson); the outcast, Allison (Ally Sheedy); and the geek, Brian (Anthony Michael Hall). But time together eventually erodes the barriers separating them. It’s unclear if that will stick, but for now everyone gains new perspectives on the lot peers and parents have handed to them.

And, yes, this is an ’80s movie we’re talking about here–which means there is the obligatory dance break and the freak-to-chic makeover (why can’t you love Ally as she is, Andrew?!) However, The Breakfast Club is sneaky with its deep emotional truths–and rooted in ideas that teens and adults are, and will always be, grappling with.

Here are five of the most powerful scenes:

1) The catalyst for bonding is always finding a common enemy: in this case, it’s assistant principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Even though Bender grinds hard on the nerves of anything with a pulse, the crew covers for him when he closes the library doors and when he sneaks back in from solitary confinement.

2) So why is Bender such a grade-A asshole? The same reason many of us struggle: parents. But it’s a little different with Bender. His relentless antagonization is part of the facade he uses to keep people at an emotional arm’s length. Here’s the first time we see a beneath his hardened exterior:

3) There is no way to rank one Breakfast Clubber’s confessional moment over another, but this single take of Brian’s explanation for why he’s in detention is just heartbreaking.

4) There’s a big elephant in that library: What happens come Monday morning? Over the course of their detention, the group forms an undeniable bond, but the question is whether or not that bond will hold up against their respective social cliques. Claire’s honesty may make her sound conceited but it’s honesty, nonetheless.

5) And of course there’s the ending that hearkens back to the question above: Will everyone forget about everyone once the weekend is up? Judging by Brian’s poignantly penned letter to Vernon, Monday might just work out, after all.

Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall)

Character Analysis

Odd Man Out

Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) has the misfortune of being the Nerd Stereotype in this story. Even though everyone else pairs up at the end, Brian's left alone—and he has to write the essay explaining "who they think they are" for the others, while they all skip the assignment.

Hughes—who probably identified with Brian to a fair degree—was just trying to be realistic when he wrote this part. Having Brian pair up with Claire would've seemed like fantasy wish-fulfillment to audiences. (But what about Allison? Wasn't she in Brian's league?)

So, this dude winds up with the short straw. But he also learns a lot and pens a manifesto. Maybe that's breaking even, eh?

At the beginning of the movie Brian articulates the lesson he—and presumably everyone else—has learned:

BRIAN (voiceover): Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? 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 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.

By the time, the movie ends, they've realized that each one of them is all of the above— a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. They all can relate to each other's experiences. Or, at least, Brian's realized this—since he wrote the essay.

Revenge of the Elephant Lamp

When we first see Brian, his angry mother is needling him to do homework while he's in detention and not waste time. Brian has to deal with this kind of academic pressure constantly. He tries to explain he's not a huge fan of his parents, but Bender argues that his parents are worse:

BRIAN: [...] I don't like my parents either, I don't... I don't get along with them... their idea of parental compassion is just, you know, wacko!

BENDER: Dork...

BRIAN: Yeah?

BENDER: You are a parent's wet dream, okay?

BRIAN: Well, that's a problem!

In fact, all this pressure to be a model student is the reason why he's in detention in the first place. As he reveals later on, in a tearful speech, he flunked shop class after he built a lamp that didn't work—the lamp was supposed to look like an elephant, and it would light up when you pulled the trunk. But Brian accidentally built a non-functioning lamp: pull the trunk, nothing happens.

This totally messes up his GPA and jeopardizes his chances of getting into the very top tier of colleges. So he brings a flare gun into school intending (apparently) to shoot himself with it. But the flare gun goes off in his locker, leading him to receive detention.

So, it's a peek into just how pressured Brian feels, to put it mildly—he's been penned into this academic, grade-obsessed lifestyle, yet he hates it. He doesn't like the way he appears when he's locked into this hyper-competitive academic mode. But the tension between who he is and who he's expected to be causes him to make this half-baked suicide attempt.

The other kids finds this concerning at first—thinking Brian intended to kill himself with the gun—but amusing when they find out it was a flare gun that accidentally went off. Brian has to laugh too. So, thanks to all this academic pressure, he's managed to look pathetic and ridiculous and kind of crazy all at once—remember, all that Bender's in detention for is pulling the fire alarm.

So, in the end, Brian's explored his emotional issues, smoked marijuana with Bender and the others, cried in front of everyone, written everyone's joint-essay for them, and failed to get with either of the girls. But the human insight he's gained is what's really important, right? Maybe?

Brian Johnson's Timeline

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