The Marshall Plan: The Breakfast Club revisited

Ever mess with the bull and get the horns?

I remember the first time I spent 97 minutes in detention with John Bender, Claire Standish, Brian Johnson, Andrew Clark, and my favorite basket case, Allison Reynolds. If my memory serves me, I think I saw the movie for the first time late in the winter of 1985 on one of those classically gloomy, wet and cold days that seem to cover the town of Waynesboro like a wet blanket for weeks at a time.

It is tough to believe â??The Breakfast Clubâ? turned 30­years­old this yearâ??itâ??s equally unnerving that I will attend my 30th high school reunion next spring.

When I watched this film the first time, alongside a few friends, we all enjoyed it and in other ways we longed for the Clubâ??s experience. You see most of us had either chosen our world or it was presented to us as the final option. My high school experience was much more complex than serving a weekend detention under the (not really that watchful eyes) of Mr. Richard Vernonâ??that guy who raided Barry Manilowâ??s closet.

My friends and I attended military school. Our world was governed by bells, formations, older cadets, a commandant, night guards, uniforms and penalty tours. Our social cliques where all neatly camouflaged by uniformity.

We lived in our school and girls were a much desired, yet often ghostly pursuit for us.

Of course, we knew the stereotypes presented to us in the film, the brain, jock, princess, basket case and criminal. Most of us proclaimed that we were either like Bender or Clark­­­but most of us were a combination of all the characters­­­except for maybe the princess. However, Claireâ??s elitism was very identifiable among my peers. We had a few fellow cadets from wealthy families who resembled James Spaderâ??s character in â??Pretty in Pink.â?

When I watched â??The Breakfast Clubâ? a second time it was with my parents, little brothers and grandparents on VHS the following year. Somehow, I think the adults laughed harder at its punch lines­­­but looking back we were all laughing for different reasons.

As a teenager, I laughed at the rebellion. My little brothers laughed at the physical comedy. My parents laughed at the goofy high school kids while my grandparents probably just laughed at the world we were all actively screwing up.

Recently, John Hughes films have been said (mostly by Baby Boomers) to be some type of definitive snapshot of 1980s youth culture. Many of his themes and characters did resonate with my generation, but like those kids in detention weâ??ve always been a bit more complex than weâ??ve been given credit for.

The typical Hughes film had a certain MTV-­like quality to it that wedded teen angst and music well.

Wouldnâ??t it be amazing to see the Club members as adults in midlife? Most of the Club would be in their late 40s now.

We could observe them as parents trying to convey the wisdom they earned while dabbling in Pixy-­Sticks and pot to a generation that would probably rather stare at their smart phones.

Is the same degree of cross­-clique communication even possible now?

Could teenagers talk to each other face­-to-­face for an entire day?

Could they share all their social and personal demons like the kids in the film did?

Would this generationâ??s â??Breakfast Clubâ? sort their differences out on social media?

Would they shame, cyber­-bully or troll each other? Or would they be indifferent and happy to leave each other alone?

Teenagers, like most adults today, rarely have to step outside their social group­­­­ even if they are a brain, basket case, criminal, jock or princess.

Remember Allisonâ??s warning? â??When you grow up, your heart dies,â? she said.

Break out the Smiths and Cure mix tapes… I always liked her thought process.

What topics would todayâ??s â??Breakfast Clubâ? confront? What social barriers would they break down?

â??You see us as you want to see usâ??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?” ­­­The Breakfast Club.

Now kiss Molly Ringwald and walk off pumping your fist.

Marshall Conner is a freelance writer and contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at