The Breakfast Club, Gratuitous Nudity, and John Hughes
March 12, 2015 7:47 PM   Subscribe

How the Female Stars of The Breakfast Club Fought to Remove a Sexist Scene, and Won [Vanity Fair; excerpt from upcoming John Hughes biography]
posted by julen (71 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's totally shocking to me that there was "a" sexist scene in a movie where the two primary romance subplots consist of a) guy subjects girl to repeated unwanted sexual harassment bordering on assault until she falls in love with him and b) girl is only lovable if she changes her look to a traditionally feminine one, except for the part where it's not shocking to me.
posted by capricorn at 7:53 PM on March 12, 2015 [59 favorites]


What did Karen Hopkins think of this?
posted by dilaudid at 7:57 PM on March 12, 2015


So wait, is it shocking or isn't it shocking?
posted by kenko at 7:57 PM on March 12, 2015


So the only 2 good things about that movie were things that didn't happen because wiser heads than John Hughes prevailed. Got it.
posted by bleep at 8:01 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


You take the three most emblematic John Hughes movies--Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off--and each of them has an element that will pull me right out of an otherwise excellent film:

- Long Duk Dong. Seriously, what was Hughes thinking? That all his film about a teenage girl who is simply trying to cope with her own family forgetting her 16th birthday (which in itself is a remarkable accomplishment for a veteran of the proto-bro National Lampoon) really needed was an Asian caricature that made Breakfast at Tiffany's Mr. Yunioshi look inoffensive by comparison? Did Hughes literally not know a single Asian person?

- John Bender. I'm not sure that Hughes knew any working-class kids, either. Bender is supposed to be the truth-teller to all these upper-middle-class suburban kids, but by the end of the film, I'm hoping that the vice-principal does look him up, a few years down the pike, to kick his ass.

- Ferris' vice principal (Jeffrey Jones). Although I don't subscribe to the "Tyler Durden" theory of FBDO--that Cameron imagined Ferris and his girlfriend--I do think that the film is really about Cameron wishing that his life were as slick and effortless as Ferris' seemed to be. And that film really doesn't need periodic interludes of hamfisted slapstick as Mr. Whatsisname stumbles around Shermer. You know who would have been an interesting character as a nemesis for Ferris? The vice-principal from The Breakfast Club. Shit would have gotten real, if not ballistic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 PM on March 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


From my other tab: The adult sympathies of The Breakfast Club, an essay from The Dissolve.
posted by effbot at 8:13 PM on March 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Halloween Jack: "Ferris' vice principal (Jeffrey Jones)."

I'll stop you right there. I'd watch Jeffrey Jones in anything.

Yes, even Howard the Duck. Actually, especially that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:30 PM on March 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes, even Howard the Duck. Actually, especially that.

Joakim, I wish I was Facebook friends with you so I could unfriend you. I wish I could unfollow you on Twitter. I wish you'd call me so I could slam the phone down and throw it across the room.
posted by desjardins at 8:36 PM on March 12, 2015 [41 favorites]


"Ferris' vice principal (Jeffrey Jones)"

Okay so I went to the same high school as John Hughes and I know who this and the dean in Breakfast Club are supposed to be; I was in a playgroup with his daughter from the time I was three years old.

I don't think he's that cartoonishly bad a guy, although he was intimidating even when I was three, but he DID give me a Saturday detention for a parking ticket when I was in high school. For parking outside the lines after a snowstorm when the whole parking lot got ticketed for missing the lines. I was the only AP student to get ticketed, had to miss a day of in-school suspension to take the AP test, and got 10 more days suspension for it. Some kid kept pulling down his pants and I was the only person not high at lunch time. I couldn't serve a Saturday because I had band competitions. I was kind of pissy about the whole thing.

Hughes's sister lived around the corner from my parents and he used to host block parties to screen his movies, which was super-cool. He also filmed the party scene in Uncle Buck four houses down from mine and my parents got a couple hundred bucks for letting John Candy's trailer park on our lawn and I got Candy's autograph ... both he and his security guard were super-nice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:37 PM on March 12, 2015 [85 favorites]


You know who would have been an interesting character as a nemesis for Ferris? The vice-principal from The Breakfast Club. Shit would have gotten real, if not ballistic.

I agree with this, and would like to see this version of the Ferris movie. Also, I think it'd be interesting to see Jeffrey Jones's administrator supervising the Saturday detention of The Breakfast Club. That one might not be as much of an improvement, but it could fix some of the tone problems that I have with that movie. (I don't think the adult world is out to get the kids, as much as the adult world is a fucking joke.)
posted by dogwalker at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's unbelievable how much straight-up sexual assault gets completely ignored and excused in this movie.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:09 PM on March 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I was a kid, I could never figure out what exactly that naked shower scene was doing in 16 Candles, but of course I can now see it was an standard expected feature in a Teen Movie, even in a movie whose audience was surely going to be at least 75% female ... because teen movies always had to have breasts ... even when they were teen RomComs.
posted by julen at 9:37 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's unbelievable how much straight-up sexual assault gets completely ignored and excused in this movie.

In The Breakfast Club? Other than Bender trying and failing to stick his head between Claire's legs while hiding under the desk, I can't think of anything.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:45 PM on March 12, 2015


It's unbelievable how much straight-up sexual assault gets completely ignored and excused in this movie.

Not to mention in this thread. (Y'all know about Jeffrey Jones, right?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:46 PM on March 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'll bite: what sexual assaults? I can't recall anything close.
posted by kanewai at 10:06 PM on March 12, 2015


So the only 2 good things about that movie

"I am the eyes and ears of this institution, my friends. [pause] By the way, that clock's twenty minutes fast."

" I never did it either. I'm not a nymphomaniac. I'm a compulsive liar."

There are a couple of things in that movie that aren't too bad.
posted by dglynn at 10:09 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


He connected with an entire generation in a manner that hasn’t been duplicated before or since.

vomit.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh wow. I actually couldn't remember the Carl The Janitor role (it's been a long time since I've seen TBC), but then the "Adult Sympathies" article:

(On my most recent Breakfast Club viewing, I wondered, for the first time: Was it Carl that first discovered the flare gun that went off in Brian’s locker? Was he the one who reported Brian to Vernon? Did he maybe even talk to Brian about what happened beforehand, prompting Carl to ask that heartfelt “How’re you doin’?” when he sees Brian in the library?)

and I remembered that one of the things Hughes was very good at doing was those tiny moments of connection and recognition.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:24 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Y'all know about Jeffrey Jones, right?

*Checks Wikipedia* Holy shit, dude.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:25 PM on March 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was the right age but the wrong demographic for Breakfast Club and jeez, it was a horrible moment when the freak girl character gets all thankful about her correction into acceptable attractiveness. I remember falling even more in love with my teenage feminist boyfriend when he felt sick, too.
posted by goofyfoot at 10:42 PM on March 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm right there with you, goofyfoot.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:57 PM on March 12, 2015


The thing is that those of us so old we were the target audience of teenagers in the mid-1980s knew Ally Sheedy's character was there for exactly that transformation, because we'd all watched her as Jennifer, the girlfriend/character foil, in War Games two years before. I'm not excusing anything, just saying we knew full well the authorial intent and it was maybe a little subversive even to cast Molly Ringwald, just off Sixteen Candles where she played a wallflower, as the popular girl, and Sheedy as the weirdo.
posted by gingerest at 11:22 PM on March 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


The Breakfast Club is an interesting one to me because, aside from even the super-white-breadedness of it all, and the sexual harassment/assault going on (leading to romance! eek!) there's the sort of inherent dichotomy in that each character is playing a "type," before each one deepens as an actual individual, but of course each still represents a "type."

And as much as it's an ensemble piece, some characters are more equal than others. The hierarchy goes something like:

Bender
Brian
Claire
Andrew
Allison

So Allison, the Freak (excuse me: "Basket Case") gets the shortest shrift, basically eating pixie sticks, barking that she likes vodka, admitting that she came to detention voluntarily, and getting the makeover from Claire so that she can end up with Andrew.

Between the lines, I actually knew (and know) girls and women like Allison, weird and interesting but awkwardly social, and that sort of makeover would be fun for a day or so/would've been fun for a day or so. In one way, this was the truest scene of the movie, because teens try on new identities all the time. In another way, she was the only one to do so to that much of an extreme, and it definitely comes across like Claire teaching Allison how to be a Girl.

God, I haven't seen this movie in forever. Does anyone even learn anything from Allison? I seem to mostly remember even Andy just recognizing that she could be hot by the end.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know what happened to me, but I can remember vividly watching this and enjoying it (altho I never enjoyed the whole Allison Becomes a Real Girl thing); but I recently re-watched and was really surprised by how robustly sexist it is, and how I didn't remember that about it. Not sure I'll watch again.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 11:58 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


desjardins: "Yes, even Howard the Duck. Actually, especially that.

Joakim, I wish I was Facebook friends with you so I could unfriend you. I wish I could unfollow you on Twitter. I wish you'd call me so I could slam the phone down and throw it across the room
"

If it'll makes you feel better, I can MeMail you my contact info, we can strike up a brief but mutually satisfying friendship, talk a bit on Facebook, maybe, share some videos of funny animals, stuff like that, and I'll bring up my unapologetic love for the Lucas Howard the Duck movie again in a month or two.

I charge very reasonable rates for this kind of service.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:40 AM on March 13, 2015 [60 favorites]


I loved The Breakfast Club when it came out and I so wanted to be Alison. Not Alison at the end but Alison all the way through. I even tried to copy her outfit. I needed a role model and she was it but somehow the outfit didn't look as good on me.
posted by h00py at 3:58 AM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


That all his film about a teenage girl who is simply trying to cope with her own family forgetting her 16th birthday (which in itself is a remarkable accomplishment for a veteran of the proto-bro National Lampoon) really needed was an Asian caricature that made Breakfast at Tiffany's Mr. Yunioshi look inoffensive by comparison?

That comments reminds me of this excellent Adrian Tomine comic strip.

I was in high school when Sixteen Candles came out, and I much preferred Ally Sheedy's character's original look, thank you.

(Fun fact: Ally Sheedy guest starred on Hill Street Blues as a Catholic high school girl who comes on to the alcoholic detective.)
posted by Gelatin at 5:32 AM on March 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Does anyone even learn anything from Allison?

I don't know, but if memory serves me correctly, she's the one who predicts that their day together won't change things; that Claire will go right back to ignoring her, a plot point the movie leaves unresolved.
posted by Gelatin at 5:36 AM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Hughes' movies haven't aged well and even at the time were more entertaining fantasies than anything else.
posted by jonmc at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved the Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink when they came out, but I saw part of one of them (Pretty in Pink, I think) about two years ago and oh boy it hadn't held up well. And even at the time, I found the Breakfast Club's portrayal of the outsider kind of painful -- I connected with the expression of desire to belong, but not with how it was done.

I found the main characters in Ferris Bueller's Day Off to be repellent (Ferris) and sad sack (the friend); in retrospect I suspect that the movie was intended to be quite layered. I haven't rewatched it since maybe 1990, but of the group of films I would bet this is the one that would hold up best to rewatching now.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a weirdo when The Breakfast Club came out, and I remember feeling like Allison was a huge let down (and until this thread I don't think I ever mentally called her by her name, even the name feels somehow wrong to me). I think I could have forgiven the makeover if it made her look more beautiful in some way, but the minimalist eyeliner was such a step backwards from the punch of the kohl for me - I literally didn't understand, watching it at the time or for years afterwards, how that was an improvement. And I also realized that my failure to understand the makeover as being in any way prettier reinforced my sense that whatever this popular girl grokking of fashion and beauty was, I didn't have it, and would probably never have it.

She didn't feel like a real freak - if everything she said was a lie, why those lies? She didn't match any of the stereotypical freak markers the way all the others fit their categories. She could have been into computers, or Dungeons and Dragons, or piercings, or homemade clothes, or even thrift store weirdness like Andie in Pretty in Pink, and I'd have accepted it. I knew (and was) many of those freaks. Her weirdness seemed only designed as a setup to her eventual makeover, and then the makeover just stymied me. I still don't know what to do with that character. She doesn't belong, and yet without her there would be a her-shaped hole waiting for an altogether different freak girl to fill and have a different catharsis. And I wish I knew what that was, because it seemed to my 15-year-old self that that was the movie trying to teach me something important which I was ready to listen to, and I was the one who missed the boat -- when clearly, no, the movie did.

And then a couple of years later Pretty in Pink came out and it was suddenly cool to wear thrift shop clothes and have weird hair and be different and all of a sudden cheerleaders were saying hi to me in the hallways I hadn't done anything different. Which really threw me for a loop.

What I'm saying is, I learned nothing. But I'm glad that there wasn't a gratuitous nude scene on top of all that. So, um, thanks, John Hughes?
posted by Mchelly at 6:38 AM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also if any fellow weirdos are reading this and are looking for a makeover movie that makes you feel good about your weird self - or helps you get over the way "fashion" only seems to make things more confusing and harder to figure out how to fit in - I highly recommend Desperately Seeking Susan.
posted by Mchelly at 6:43 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was a little young for the Breakfast Club demographic when it came out, but I really enjoyed that film way beyond other John Hughes movies. Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink were filled with way too much sexist/classist nonsense (and "Long Duk Dong?" - good God) even for a dopey middle schooler in the 1980s.

But Breakfast Club seemed to have a little more heart to it. The Bender/Claire dynamic of harassment -> romance IS gross. But at the time....this was kind of how I knew things to be. Adults would leave teenagers alone and they would be cruel to each other in a variety of ways. They would try on different identities (sometimes "Abusive Asshole") in a private context that they couldn't entirely get away with in the adult world. Disturbing but totally authentic.

To me, what I KNEW was going to happen over the next few days to those characters was just as much a part of my understanding of the film as what was actually on screen. Particularly w/r/t Allison.

In my mind, Allison got back to her dark clothes and black crap under her eyes the next day and dropped Andrew for a drummer she met in Chicago. I always thought the makeover was more about her trying to connect with Claire than learning to be a "girly girl." Her original freakiness always seemed like a put-on to me in the movie. So was the makeover. Eventually the real Allison sorted herself out.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:46 AM on March 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Does anyone even learn anything from Allison?

If you are at a party, and you dance like she did in that one scene, you will get hearty applause.
posted by Lucinda at 6:54 AM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't think he's that cartoonishly bad a guy, although he was intimidating even when I was three, but he DID give me a Saturday detention for a parking ticket when I was in high school. For parking outside the lines after a snowstorm when the whole parking lot got ticketed for missing the lines. I was the only AP student to get ticketed, had to miss a day of in-school suspension to take the AP test, and got 10 more days suspension for it.

That sounds like a cartoonishly bad administrator to me, actually.
posted by parliboy at 7:02 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I highly recommend Desperately Seeking Susan.

Madonna!
posted by jillithd at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2015


I was a weird high school kid when Breakfast Club came out, and definitely identified with/had a crush on Allison. And while I preferred her pre-makeover look and thought it was too bad she only got the guy after the makeover, I also understood that giving Allison a makeover was Claire's sincere attempt at friendship and though that was really sweet.

I still don't know what to do with that character.

I actually think she has some of the more meaningful lines in the movie.

All that said, I will fully admit that if you weren't a teenager over the course of Sixteen Candles to Pretty In Pink (and even Some Kind of Wonderful, which Hughes didn't direct), the movies may not hit the sweet spots they did for me and my friends. And yet there's this.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was right square in the center target demographic for John Hughes movies and I barely remember them. They did not particularly stand out to me at the time and did not really capture anything essential about my adolescence. In fact, most of the people I've known since I was 15 barely remember them. I suppose it's like anything: enough people proclaim its primacy loudly and people either loudly agree (so as not to be left out or because they do agree or whatever) or don't bother to argue against it.

Hughes' movies may not have had "bare breasts, party scenes, guys drinking beer—the things they thought a teenage picture needed.” but they were pretty much otherwise exactly like everything else sold to 16 year olds in the mid-80's.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:16 AM on March 13, 2015


Oh, are we supposed to hate John Hughes movies now? I didn't get the memo.

To be fair, yes, Allison's makeover has always sort of bothered me, but it does actually fit in with the theme of the rest of the movie. Being a teenager is (or was, in the 80s) about archetypes, fitting into a group, and finding your tribe (because not belonging is terrifying). This is true even for Allison -- the non-conformists are definitely their own tribe. So The Breakfast Club is about putting kids from five different archetypes together for a day, and watching them struggle to bridge the divide between their various factions. Brian experiments with being cool and confident; Andy experiments with being sensitive. Allison's makeover is about Claire trying out what it would be like to be friends with someone like Allison, and Allison trying out what it would be like to be like Claire. Andy's reaction sucks, of course, but it's too much to expect that the characters are going to be completely changed by the end of the movie.

To the contrary, I don't think we're supposed to believe for one instance that these five characters become best friends or even speak to each other come Monday morning. Allison is going to go back to the black clothes and heavy eye makeup, Bender is going to go back to the reprobates, Claire is going to pretend that none of them exist. The movie represents a couple hours of self-contained rebellion, a stretching rather than a breaking of boundaries.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:20 AM on March 13, 2015 [33 favorites]


The first couple of times I saw The Breakfast Club, in the late 80s and early 90s, it was via broadcasts from Detroit stations that we received in my corner of southwest Ontario.

For years, I had no idea that there was a pot smoking scene - it was edited out for broadcast on the US stations I saw it on. Consequently, the scene where they're suddenly all dancing and then subsequently sitting around talking while stoned seemed a little off to me.

Thanks, FCC!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:41 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wasn't Alison the proto-goth? I mean if Breakfast Club had been done 10 years later, that's what she'd be, right?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:51 AM on March 13, 2015


Man, I own Breakfast Club, but probably haven't seen it in two decades. Now I have to go see why everyone hates it. I remember loving that movie.
posted by dejah420 at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like a lot of the hate being channeled at the Hughes films in this thread overlooks how rare it was to see teenage characters in mainstream culture acting like actual people, with real concerns, flaws and strengths. I was fifteen when The Breakfast Club came out, and I felt like it was the first time I'd seen teenagers onscreen that seemed anything like the people I went to school with. As an adult, now, I can reference many other films before it that attempted to be sympathetic and simultaneously honest about teen life, but at the time, this was the it, the first. It, and the other Hughes films, are not perfect, but I think it's possible to enjoy an imperfect thing, despite or even because of, its imperfections.
posted by ga$money at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wasn't Alison the proto-goth? I mean if Breakfast Club had been done 10 years later, that's what she'd be, right?

I don't know if goth is the right term. I knew a ton of people like Allison in high school around that time. They listened to The Smiths and Depeche Mode and the Cure, wore a lot of black, and generally tried to be the opposite of whatever the "popular" girls were doing. My future wife was one of them. There wasn't a name for that group at the time (although the music was "alternative" or "progressive"), but goth is a different sort of thing.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


They were called "angsters" in central Texas and "death punks" in other parts of the US where I lived in the mid 80s, early 90s.

I'm not seeing a lot of "hate" for Hughes films here, just a lot of indifference and a couple people noting they don't hold up.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:03 AM on March 13, 2015


(Y'all know about Jeffrey Jones, right?)

I had this same conversation with griphus a while back, when we were podcasting about Ravenous, because I was like "this movie is a confused tonal trainwreck but I love the cast, a bunch of fun actors, there's, y'know, he's That Guy, the principal from Ferris, O'Hara's husband in Beetlejuice..." and he was like "yeah, yeah, Jeffrey Jones, but you know right?" and I did not know and that was a gross bummer of a revelation.
posted by cortex at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


At the risk of perhaps coming off as something of a cliche myself, the Mefite who tears down a popular piece of mainstream entertainment, I'm another one who finds "The Breakfast Club" to be highly overrated. Its reputation as *THE* definitive teen movie of my generation does not feel well earned to me.

No character in the movie feels authentic, because none of them really ever escapes their role as a stereotype. Even the big reveal of their deepest, darkest secrets are themselves cliches based on their particular stereotypes (Jock has a dad who pushes him to be tough and manly, rebellious bully suffers from abuse himself, nerdy guy has parents who put too much pressure on him to succeed academically, etc.). The characters bear little resemblance to actual teens, but feel more like what an adult imagines teens to be from the outside looking in.

I actually think "Sixteen Candles" is the far better movie, since it is at least consistently funny throughout in a way that still holds up today, and the scene between Molly Ringwald and her dad on the couch feels more genuine than anything in "The Breakfast Club" (although I can understand people finding the Long Duk Dong character offensive).
posted by The Gooch at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2015


I don't think Allison is goth or nerdy or fits into any particular social subculture, which is why she was my favorite character in the movie and why her ending was the most disappointing to me. I was definitely more like Allison than any of the other characters when I was younger. I was a kid with social difficulties and odd mannerisms, I did not present particularly femininely, I was very blunt and uncomfortably honest, and I didn't fit in anywhere, even though I sometimes adopted the trappings of various subcultures the way Allison does.

I like the idea of Allison's makeover as trying on a different sort of femininity and having room to experiment in ways that the social role she's been slotted into doesn't allow her to do during the regular school day, but that's not where the narrative structure of the movie takes it. What happens instead is that the "payoff" of Allison's makeover is that Andrew now sees her as someone lovable and beautiful, which also has the effect of justifying his previous treatment of her before. His opinion of her doesn't change until that moment when she decides to be more traditionally feminine, even though they've opened up to each other emotionally in the detention room.
posted by capricorn at 8:42 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now I have to go see why everyone hates it. I remember loving that movie.

I was too old when Breakfast Club hit (mid-twenties) to really buy it. Not that I was in a hurry to dismiss any teen film -- just one that took itself so seriously as being about something, but was really just an overlong after school special in which more or less stock characters learned more or less stock life lessons.

I actually think "Sixteen Candles" is the far better movie, since it is at least consistently funny throughout in a way that still holds up today,

I agree. One or two regrettable missteps aside, it has a great anarchic energy that, to my mind, is way more reflective of teendom's ripe madness than anything in Breakfast Club
posted by philip-random at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2015


Hughes' movies haven't aged well

Well, fuck, neither have I.
posted by chavenet at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


desjardins: Joakim, I wish I was Facebook friends with you so I could unfriend you. I wish I could unfollow you on Twitter. I wish you'd call me so I could slam the phone down and throw it across the room.

I have found my new project: I will be your Mildly Terrible Person, so you can vent accordingly. I won't play the part of the guy who ran over your dog, but the guy who said your dog had a stupid haircut.

My cost is simple: cookies, and with nothing terrible added in as part of your venting process.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2015


They were called "angsters" in central Texas

Oooh, I love that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2015


I should mention, in light of the counter-backlash, that back in the day I saw it in the theater more than once; it was an effective fantasy of what a lot of people wanted high school to be like. Hughes' teen movies got more baroque as they went on until you got to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, in which the title character is literally applauded when he plays hooky to go into Chicago for the day. That's obviously fantasy, and Sixteen Candles is mostly realistic (aside from the aforementioned Long Duk Dong, plus some more unfortunate ethnic stereotypes in the future in-laws), but TBC seems to occupy this weird no-mans-land in between, a sort of deadly-earnest encounter-group-centric belief that we could all get along if we could, you know, just talk to each other. Plus, of course, the aforementioned problematic aspects; you might understand how I feel about Allison's makeover if you know that I used to have an 8-by-10 black-and-white glossy of Ally Sheedy as Allison, pre-makeover, of course.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2015


Re: Allison's transformation.

The reason I don't really care for it is not just 1) that it's a massive cliché, or 2) that it prizes conformity, but also and especially 3) that it undoes the best part of the movie: Remember when Claire says to Brian, "That's because you look up to us," and he responds, "You're so conceited"? That message goes right out the window.

But then again, maybe Allison isn't like Brian. Maybe she does look up to Claire, and does wish she was outgoing and popular, but just doesn't have the makeup (both literal and figurative) for it. She does seem to enjoy turning heads, after all, but she does it with weirdness, which makes her an outcast, which makes her more desperate for attention, which she gets by being weird, which makes her an outcast, which...

Why is she there, after all? It's not because she has nothing better to do. If she revels in independence and individuality, the last place she'd want to be on Saturday is school. It's obvious, I think, that she wants to be part of something and doesn't know how.

(The answer is pot. Pot is how.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


(The answer is pot. Pot is how.)

I can't understate what a linchpin pot is for the plot. In the censored version I first saw, there's no rationale for the excursion to Bender's locker.

So all of a sudden, the whole gang sneaks out, then has to sneak back in. Uh, okay. That was fun.

Next thing you know, Emilio Estevez is ripping off his jacket, throwing it on the floor and dancing. Etc.

So, without the pot, the whole thing makes absolutely no goddamned sense from the point of the locker excursion onwards.

Some other notes on alternate versions here.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:02 AM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wasn't Alison the proto-goth? I mean if Breakfast Club had been done 10 years later, that's what she'd be, right?

Actual goths had been around a while by 1985, so no?

Long Duk Dong. Seriously, what was Hughes thinking?

That was a large problem with Sixteen Candles, as well as Jake passing his wasted girlfriend off to Anthony Michael Hall for some impaired consent rapey times.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


If I had caught it at the right time in my life I'd probably have enjoyed it more. As it is I can't get over how the character that most resembles me ends up alone with everyone else dumping their homework on him.

(also I can't help but imagine that the vice principal cares nothing about their cliques and upon reading the essay says "What the fuck is this? You're all coming back here next weekend.")
posted by ckape at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


As it is I can't get over how the character that most resembles me ends up alone with everyone else dumping their homework on him

"So, Brian, the rest of us are all going to go fuck, would you mind just going ahead and doing all or our homework for us while you wait?"

Yeah, I never saw the ending of TBC as a happy one either. That dude got screwed in a totally different way than the rest of the characters.
posted by The Gooch at 10:49 AM on March 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


When I first saw the movie, the characters I connected to were the basketcase and the brain, and so I felt their bullshit endings most strongly. I particularly felt her alienation, her oddness, her inability to deal with her world, her sense of invisibility, her trying on of personas, so having the solution be that she put on a makeup mask and try to be "standard" to win the "prize" was highly aggravating to me. He liked her because she was different, but she had to change to be acceptable? No, thank you.
posted by julen at 11:25 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Several years ago, for the last day or two of school at a predominantly black high school, I offered my students a selection of films. We wound up going with Ferris Bueller. I admitted/apologized, in the opening discussion, that the big problem with a lot of these '80s teen films is that they're lilly-white. The students were fine with it -- in that eye-rolling "sure, that's fine" way.

Later, a kid came in pretty late and asked what was going on. Another student answered, "Mr. K's showin' us some movie about white people."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:10 PM on March 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


You know what Hughes movie I like? Dutch. It's kind of an apology/revenge for all the spoiled brats he foisted on us before. Plus it includes the great line "I aint your mommy, I ain't your daddy, I ain't your Grammy. I don't care whether you live die or grow roses out your ass!"
posted by jonmc at 12:24 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, are we supposed to hate John Hughes movies now? I didn't get the memo.

I loved these films. I still find them entertaining. It's okay to also see their glaring flaws. Recognizing those flaws is a good way to reflect on our own growth as a society and as individuals, too -- becaus a great many of us blindly accepted these films as emblematic of a generation (even "our" generation, for a lot of us) without really seeing the blatant sexism, classism, social stereotypes and racism within them.

They're really good for what they are. They're just not what a lot of people make them out to be.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm not seeing a lot of "hate" for Hughes films here, just a lot of indifference and a couple people noting they don't hold up.

I don't know, i'm not seeing a whole lot of "these movies have flaws but i like/liked them", mostly just "these movies have these flaws and therefor they're bad" which always feels like it has a subtext of and you shouldn't watch them because of that gross stuff, and if you can enjoy them despite that then you're basically dismissing those issues and that's your privilege rolling around

It's the lack of qualification that bugs me. Just taking a crap without acknowledging anything else generally comes off as just saying, "this is crap because:".

And there's also an element of "i'm rejecting this mainstream thing" that makes it really eye rolly.

Besides Ferris Bueller, i didn't watch any of these movies until college. And when i did, i noticed that stuff and it grossed me out, but thought they were still fairly entertaining in the same way that Sean Connery as James Bond can be gross and exist but still watchable, and even worth watching. If you take it more as a time capsule than as generic entertainment product it tends to work better.

Mostly though, and i realize this might be a me thing(but i suspect it's really not) there's this prescriptive way that criticism of media tends to be phrased both on mefi and in general now that REALLY tends to come off as "this is bad, here's why(and if you watch it and enjoy it despite that then you're part of the problem)" where the only acceptable discourse is completely anti-whatever-that-thing-is.
posted by emptythought at 3:29 PM on March 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


When I was a teenager my main reaction to TBC was "holy shit that school is enormous holy shit that school library is bigger than our local library holy shit American kids go to school in buildings the size of the fucking Pentagon".
posted by um at 5:32 PM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


because a great many of us blindly accepted these films as emblematic of a generation (even "our" generation, for a lot of us) without really seeing the blatant sexism, classism, social stereotypes and racism within them.

I think we were pretty much aware of them at the time. The Breakfast Club was the movie we talked about in high school, but even then there were those elements, like Halloween Jack pointed out, that gave us pause - made us realize that John Hughes understood us better than most, but in the end really didn't understand us much at all. The racism in Sixteen Candles embarrassed us, the kids in Ferris Bueller were part of a economic class we could never be part of, and Ally Sheedy's makeover felt like a betrayal.

Though I think if that shower scene has been included it might have totally ruined the movie for us. It sounds like something out of Porky's.

Mostly though, and i realize this might be a me thing(but i suspect it's really not) there's this prescriptive way that criticism of media tends to be phrased both on mefi and in general now that REALLY tends to come off as "this is bad, here's why(and if you watch it and enjoy it despite that then you're part of the problem)" where the only acceptable discourse is completely anti-whatever-that-thing-is.

Counterpoint: if you check out the Fanfare on Game of Thrones you'll see that a lot of people on mefi can indeed balance 1) an admiration of the series overall, and 2) an acknowledgement that it is kind of fucked-up when it comes to race and gender.
posted by kanewai at 6:43 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


um: "holy shit that school is enormous holy shit that school library is bigger than our local library "

Filmed at Maine North High School.

Ferris Bueller was filmed at my (and Hughes's) actual high school, Glenbrook North. I mean it's nice and has a lot of facilities (pool, indoor fieldhouse), but it's like high school cinderblock palace of love nice, not like Super Fancy Building Of Historical Import nice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:10 PM on March 13, 2015


After its closing, Maine North was used for location shooting of the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club, filmed in the spring of 1984.[2] The library scenes in the movie were shot in the school gymnasium, where a set was constructed.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 AM on March 14, 2015


(The real library was probably way smaller. And also probably didn't have any books in it because the school closed several years earlier.)

(I am actually oddly disheartened to learn it wasn't the real library of a real school. It takes a lot of suspension of disbelief to buy into such an opulent high school library, and the only thing that kept it up was seeing the "shot at" credits and going, "Oh, it was shot in a real school, I guess that is a real library.")

(Then again, the idea of virtually unsupervised detention on a Saturday always seemed like it couldn't possibly be real, but I never had much trouble just glossing over that entire premise of the movie. One more glaring fiction shouldn't be too much to handle.)

(Also, come to think of it, a school with a library that big must have, what, two, three thousand students? And only five -- no, four -- get detention?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:22 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: "Then again, the idea of virtually unsupervised detention on a Saturday always seemed like it couldn't possibly be real, but I never had much trouble just glossing over that entire premise of the movie. One more glaring fiction shouldn't be too much to handle.) (Also, come to think of it, a school with a library that big must have, what, two, three thousand students? And only five -- no, four -- get detention?)"

So this I can actually speak to! Saturday detentions were an alternative to a suspension for first-suspension (and second-suspension) offenders. (Generally you get expelled after four or five suspensions.) You could serve a one-day suspension (when all of your grades were zeros); or a Saturday detention with no academic consequences, or 10 days of 45-minute lunch-period suspensions (with no academic consequences). The high school that Hughes and I went to was about 1200 students; closer to 2,000 these days. Somewhere between three and ten students serving Saturdays is about right for the time period when I was there; a lot of students took the ten days of lunch detentions instead because there were so many Saturday activities (sports, academic bowl), and others took the one-day suspension. Saturday detention was typically supervised by just one guy, plus the janitors were around doing weekend work. But generally the guy would be in the room where the students were, reading a book, not off elsewhere in his office dicking around. But sometimes the guy would go to the bathroom and minor shenanigans would ensue.

I got a Saturday for getting three parking tickets, which I served as 10 day of lunch detention, and it sucked, and I sort-of wished I'd had the six-hour Saturday instead but I had music competitions on those weekends. Halfway through my lunch detentions I had to take an AP test that went through the lunch period so I got five extra days for not serving my lunch detentions properly. You had to sit in this windowless room without speaking or getting up from your desk all period. Mostly I was the only one doing homework; other kids were super-stoned, or sleeping, or this one kid just kept taking his pants off all period because, hey, why not?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


But then Bender would never have been in Saturday detention - he would have been expelled ages before.
posted by gingerest at 3:59 PM on March 15, 2015


“The Breakfast Club”, 30 Years Later: A Conversation Across Generations

"Thirty years ago I loved “The Breakfast Club” because I was oblivious to its whiteness; my students today love “The Breakfast Club” in spite of its whiteness. They notice its sexism, its casual homophobia, and its exclusion of all non-whiteness in the same way that any good film student notices a jump cut or high-key lighting, or a long take. It is an aspect of the text, something to be analyzed. This is their oppositional reading strategy."
posted by effbot at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


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