Revisiting The Breakfast Club
April 6, 2018 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Molly Ringwald looks back at the John Hughes Films she was a part of (Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles) and considers how they hold up in 2018.
posted by COD (63 comments total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so incredibly thoughtful and beautiful. I love how she puts these things in context, but also doesn't use "context" as the "excuse." It's not like some of these things were ever OK and now they're not -- just more, people didn't realize they weren't OK.

I need to reread it and sit with it further. It gave me a lot to ponder and articulates a lot of things I've been thinking about.
posted by darksong at 12:03 PM on April 6 [28 favorites]


The episode of This American Life with Molly Ringwald re: The Breakfast Club and parenthood was pretty good. Here it is.

“The Breakfast Club,” a film written and directed by John Hughes that I acted in, thirty-six years ago

For those concerned: No, you’re not that old. It has only been thirty-one years.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:12 PM on April 6 [10 favorites]


Wow, very eloquent. This passage was particularly good:

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

So too was the quote from John Hughes about how when he was teenager people his age were taken more seriously because they were out protesting and making their voices heard. With recent events and our current political landscape, I hope teenagers rise up like that again.

Back to the crux of the article - I dare you to think of the scene where Emilio Estevez is describing all of the pressure that his father puts on him to be a winner, and not tear up just a little bit, just thinking of it, not even watching the performance on screen. Yes, those movies hold up.
posted by vignettist at 12:35 PM on April 6 [23 favorites]


It would have been super-easy (ish) for her to simply write up her perspective on the matter now without any additional work. Instead she dug up old writings of Hughes to get perspective, and went out and interviewed someone she hasn't worked with in a very long time, to gain additional insight.

This was a much more thoughtful piece than I would have expected (and I would have expected it to be worth reading).
posted by el io at 12:39 PM on April 6 [39 favorites]


That was really good. Thanks for posting it.
posted by rtha at 12:40 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I've heard Molly Ringwald interviews on public radio a couple of times and she's always so thoughtful and aware not only of herself, but her role as a mythological actress. IIRC this interview on the Sacramento station is one of them.
posted by Nelson at 12:52 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


Yeah, very nice piece.

Although, regarding the bit about Geek/Ted and Caroline waking up in the car near the end of "Sixteen Candles," it has always been my interpretation that they did not actually have sex, and the humor of the moment is they just assume they did, and are trying to remember something that didn't happen.

Also, Ringwald is right, Duckie is totally gay.
posted by dnash at 1:04 PM on April 6 [13 favorites]


thirty-three
posted by Sys Rq at 1:06 PM on April 6


Yeah, a lot more thoughtful than I expected and going through his old writing was pretty illuminating. I'm not sure whether those stories are "dark" or just gross.

John Hughes made art that managed to transcend his own limitations

Yeah, that seems to sum it up for me too.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Even if no sex happened in that scene in "Sixteen Candles" (and that has always been my interpretation as well) the entire air of date rape is there in the things surrounding the waking up scene, but sold as something else.

I adore Molly Ringwald and I feel we are so lucky to get her talent, empathy, and grace for another go around now that she's older.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:13 PM on April 6 [13 favorites]


Those stories are gross and she makes clear that they aren't satirizing men, but rather women who were attempting to scrape out more liberation. I can't imagine a way that'd be dark and not gross, honestly.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:15 PM on April 6 [10 favorites]


Molly is currently appearing on Riverdale as Archie's mom. She is a bit player and I'm hoping they will work her more into the plot, because how could the show not be improved with a lot more Molly Ringwald?

That's not a slam on the show - it's good guilty pleasure material, sort of darker take on 90210, with only one kid being stupidly rich, instead of all of them.
posted by COD at 1:23 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


Man, I wanted to link Daniel Mallory Ortberg's analysis of Duckie as a lesbian icon, but it looks like the toast's website is gone entirely now. God, this timeline sucks. Anyone know if all that writing is archived somewhere, or is the wayback machine the only way to find it?
posted by Berreggnog at 1:27 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


I ADORE her! It's such great casting, as is Luke Perry as Archie's dad. Really, that show is just chock full of wonderful cast decisions.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:27 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to have so many comments in a row! The Toast is just down for now, not forever. It will be back, but we don't know when.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:27 PM on April 6 [9 favorites]


No, you’re not that old. It has only been thirty-one years.

Maybe you are that old. I remember where I lived when I saw it, and I left that place more than 31 years ago. I looked it up and Wikipedia says it came out in 1985. How long did they "work on it" before that? I dunno. But it's at least 33 years since she worked on it.
posted by elizilla at 1:48 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


This is a beautiful piece and as someone who grew up with Ringwald on screen and John Hughes films telling me what teenage life should be like, I really appreciate the thought she put into the exercise of re-examining his work.

It's funny, as early as college I could clearly state why I thought Lloyd Dobbler was a stalker and Ferris was an asshole that wasn't a hero, but it took far longer for me to see the problems in Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.

Then again, I'm right with Ringwald on this slow realization:

I was well into my thirties before I stopped considering verbally abusive men more interesting than the nice ones.


We are growing and changing, slowly, but it's happening.
posted by teleri025 at 1:57 PM on April 6 [21 favorites]


It can be hard to remember how scarce art for and about teen-agers was before John Hughes arrived.

QFT
posted by chavenet at 2:27 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


This is a great article; thanks for posting.
posted by parki at 2:42 PM on April 6


*tries to write long, incoherent rant on how these movies affected me as a lonely Gen X teen*

Nah, too hard. But thanks for the post.
posted by Melismata at 2:52 PM on April 6 [8 favorites]


Good stuff but I’m most excited about the revelation that Hughes never touched alcohol or drugs except cigarettes which he smoked constantly. Because that’s pretty much what I did in the mid 90s while idolizing his movies. Perfect metaphor for his films the cigarette. Addictive, unique, exhaustingly perfect, cancerous.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:54 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


God, I remember watching this at thirteen and being outraged when Allison said “he nailed me” with glee. Even though she was just lying compulsively, I got—and still have—the feeling that a large part of American society would have been just fine with that turn of events.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:00 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


thirty-three
posted by Sys Rq at 13:06 on April 6


Stop doing the math!!!
posted by elsietheeel at 3:56 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


We always said that Some Kind Of Wonderful was the apology movie for PIP since it's basically a gender reversal where the main character goes back to Ducky.

But now in my Headcanon, Andie loves Ducky but has excellent gaydar. That actually makes me pretty happy.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:07 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]




I recently learned that she has recorded jazz. She has a nice voice.

Also: her doing a jazz version of "Don't You Forget About Me."
posted by 4ster at 4:58 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


Wow, the thought that Duckie might be gay never crossed my mind, probably because I totally saw myself in that character in high school and I'm definitely straight. Not saying other people can't watch it that way of course.
posted by technodelic at 5:23 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


What an incredibly thoughtful and introspective article. Molly Ringwald was such a huge part of my adolescence; nice to see she grew up to be such an intelligent, eloquent adult.

That said, moving aside from the valid points she makes about the more troubling aspects of the movie in terms of consent, I always thought the odd number of characters in The Breakfast Club made for the most awkward of “happy” endings ever. “Hey, Nerd, why don’t you go ahead and write all of our essays for us while the rest of us all go fuck?”
posted by The Gooch at 5:32 PM on April 6 [8 favorites]


Duckie gave me the gay vibe (also stalker vibe) from the getgo and I could NOT root for him on so many levels. Though the fact that he's acted by a guy who has always kinda given me weasel vibes just by looking at him doesn't make that better either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:36 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Brian got screwed over. He should have brought his flare gun back to school and torched all of the elephant lamps in wood shop until the others wrote their essays like they were supposed to.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:37 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


To say nothing of the gong.
posted by sonascope at 6:03 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


John Hughes was a piece of shit, typical of the racist, sexist, exploitative pieces of shit of his time. He was made aware of his shittiness by Mrs. Ringwold and her daughter, and bent his arc towards the good and away from the dark, as imperfectly as he could. It took some time. It took some help.

Forget Breakfast Club. Forget Pretty in Pink. No, really. You can seeeee the break in his work, and I have to believe Molly Ringwold and her influence on him is on display with his work after that.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Uncle Buck. Home Alone. Complex women as characters essential to the plot. Entitled men as either villains or heroes trying to redeem themselves with great effort after recognizing they're villains. Even then, it's not... great. Or consistent. But better.

Molly Ringwold made a difference. She still is making a difference.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:18 PM on April 6 [25 favorites]


I was Andie in high school, and my Duckie was gay. There was really no safe way to be out in that particular time and place, not even to me, although in retrospect the awareness was there in the subconscious and subtext. Agreeing that Andie and Duckie shouldn't have ended up together was probably the closest we could come at that time to having that conversation. (Luckily, we stayed friends long enough to get out of that town!)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:53 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Molly Ringwald has always been the smartest person in the room. And she's been a jazz singer since she was a little girl. I remember reading back when she was on The Facts of Life that she had dressed as Bessie Smith for Halloween.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:56 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


It can be hard to remember how scarce art for and about teen-agers was before John Hughes arrived.

There had been some long before, but little (I was exposed to) so unfiltered and accurate. I was in high school long before the film, and it still rang the bell.

(I just remembered Voices from the Hellmouth popping up on the web in 1999. Much of the gang checked in To Tell the Truth on that one.) (Previously)
posted by Twang at 7:58 PM on April 6


> Ferris Bueller's Day Off [...] Complex women as characters essential to the plot

It's been a while, but...

(nth'ing the love for the article, BTW).
posted by Leon at 8:28 PM on April 6


It’s an excellent article, and Molly Ringwald is an thoughtful, compassionate, and talented writer and an admirable person.
posted by Songdog at 8:58 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


Yeah that piece is good by writer standards, not just actor standards.

She has written some books as well — the first one “Getting the Pretty Back” suffers from what appears to be a publishing sales director’s choice of title. Based on reviews it seems to be lifestyle guide for women of a certain age with a certain amount of privilege, which is just to say that it’s audience is probably narrower than the New Yorker piece.

But I remember when her second book, short stories, came out because a friend urged me to read it, saying it was better than anyone expected. After reading this article, I’m inclined to give it a shot.

Regarding the Hughes movies she was in, I do kind of get the vibe that she was his muse (she says yes and no, in the article) and I think it’s creepy that a grown man had a 15 or 16 year old muse.

The camera on her is not nuetral in those movies. It’s not as lascivious as the camerawork on say Megan Fox in every movie I’ve seen. But she’s shot somewhat... longingly, and it’s kind of creepy. Yes, these are stories about a girl in a landscape where few stories are about girls. But they feel like stories shot from a hetero-Duckie’s perspective, if he were omniscient. They’re movie versions of those songs about girls who are beautiful but dont know it.“ (I’m referring here to PIP and SC. Breakfast Club is different. She’s attractive and she does know it so she has to be taken down a peg).

The class stuff is also really interesting in these movies, because I have long suspected that my real estate aspirationalism is partly influenced by the houses in Hughes movies (though being a poor kid at a rich kid school was also probably a big piece of it). I was about 8-11 when I saw them, and while the “rich people are assholes” messaging was overt in BC and PIP, it didn’t make me covet what they had any less. And movies like FBDO and SC were set among kids that were just as rich, but there was no examination of class at all.

Last 2 random thoughts: unrefrigerated sushi for lunch? Maybe Japanes schoolkids do it and its fine, but to my American sense of food safety, it seems odd.

Also: ugh, so depressing that at the end of PIP her awesome boss meets a guy and loses all her fun and creativity of personal expression. Like she was just filling a man-shaped void with it.
posted by mrmurbles at 9:14 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


Last thought for real this time: I’m sure many of us are familiar with the theory that Ferris Beuller is a kind of imaginary wish-fulfillment figure for Cameron, but I think he’a also kind of mirror-image Duckie. Like Duckie, he’a kind of dorky and slight and dark haired/pale skinned, but he’a from the right side of the tracks, nobody questions his fashion choices, and he has confidence, a beautiful gf and inexplicable magnetism.
posted by mrmurbles at 9:52 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


That's a fantastic article from a woman who starred in those movies but came to recognize the offensiveness they portrayed. I appreciate her condemnation of those films and when I watch them now I'm very conscious of the biases there. At the same time in the mid-80s when those films came out none of us even knew about anything that's offensive today.
posted by bendy at 11:06 PM on April 6


Bender was always my guy. Not until recently I admitted to myself, "he is an asshole".

And I used to be an asshole too. I used to be, and I still am. But there is some growth, I guess I am a more well-rounded and inclusive asshole, aware of my privilege and less likely to punch down. And at least now, with my own children, having my drugs be on fire would not be the worst thing in the world... I would rescue my children first, then my drugs.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:31 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Like one of those art pieces where scattered objects turn into a pistol from one view point, then into mainland United States at another, this slow shift in perspective of such a formative work brings me to a slow nod.

Pervasive and institutionalized, but not permanently invisible.
posted by filtergik at 4:35 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

I struggle with this a lot myself, especially as more and more artists and creators show us their feet of clay, in whatever format that revelation may occur. Is there even such a thing as art for art's sake anymore? Are we even allowed to choose, in a Woke World? Or are we obligated to view all art through a lens colored by everything it's possible to know about the artist?

I look at an Old Master and revel in its color and composition. What if next week we somehow discover that in 1873 that painter regularly beat his mistress, or preyed on pre-teen boys? Am I not allowed to love that painting anymore? Am I supposed to maintain a mental spreadsheet of the things it's still OK to like, and just keep deleting rows each time new information demands I withdraw my appreciation? Asking for a friend.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:04 AM on April 7 [8 favorites]


Am I supposed to maintain a mental spreadsheet of the things it's still OK to like, and just keep deleting rows each time new information demands I withdraw my appreciation? Asking for a friend.

It's up to you.
posted by amanda at 6:30 AM on April 7 [15 favorites]


Ringwald told a story about meeting her daughter's principal for The Moth's program that broadcasts on my local NPR affiliate. She's clearly a talented writer.

She was also great as Fran in the mini-series of The Stand.
posted by Gelatin at 6:40 AM on April 7 [4 favorites]


I watched The Breakfast Club a few years ago with my SIL and was horrified to find this, too. I'd always loved Bender--in my head, he was a damaged, but funny guy who spoke to growing up with physical abuse. In actuality he was just super rapey.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:05 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Everyone who is saying that this is an interesting and well-written essay is right. This is really good and I hope we see more of her writing.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:07 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Is there even such a thing as art for art's sake anymore? Are we even allowed to choose, in a Woke World? Or are we obligated to view all art through a lens colored by everything it's possible to know about the artist?
You really should read Ringwald's piece, because it's great, and that's not the question that it discusses. This isn't about separating the art from the artist: Hughes was clearly a complex character, but he doesn't come across as a monster. It's easy to read the title and think that the #MeToo reference means that Hughes personally preyed on young women. That's not what Ringwald is saying (at all). What she's discussing is the art. Rewatching those movies as an adult, she realizes that they conveyed fucked-up messages about consent. So this isn't a "separate the artist from the art" discussion. It's "how do you deal with art that you love but recognize as flawed in ways that could hurt people?"
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:39 AM on April 7 [25 favorites]


I did read it, and that was a follow-up thought. I guess it's out of scope there then.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:50 AM on April 7


I mean, but the equivalent would be if the Old Master (so inherently gendered a thought experiment, sigh) was doing art OF his students beaten. The art itself here is a problem, not merely the person behind it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


This was a great piece; she's a very good writer. I've never actually seen most of the films talked about, I think only Breakfast Club, but I got all the references anyway since they've been talked about so much for the last thirty years.
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Am I not allowed to love that painting anymore?

who are you asking? who could be qualified to answer that other than you?

justify or condemn or refuse to justify or condemn. you can't put that responsibility onto anyone else. when it comes to art, love is incompatible with a need for permission to love. if you can't criticize or condemn what you love without losing your love, I don't know what to tell you.

no artist can sense when you're looking at her painting or what's in your heart as you do, especially if she's dead. you can't reward or punish her by changing your feelings. she's not there. you cannot make yourself a better person or a better lover of art by feeling as you're told to feel, unless the teller is yourself.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:28 AM on April 7 [11 favorites]


Frankly I find art with shitty messages a lot easier than art by shitty people.

The Breakfast Club is great, but some of the implicit messaging in it is pretty vile, as Ringwald explains very well. I have zero problem still enjoying the film. The emotional impact of, for example, the sexual assault scene, are very different than they were intended to be then. But in a way, I think that makes them almost a force for good in the way they force us to confront how entrenched and acceptable these things were so recently, and by extension, how much more entrenched they still are today than we would like to think.

On the other hand, I can't watch the Cosby Show anymore, even though, for the most part, Cosby's incredible shittiness as a person is not evident in the work.
posted by 256 at 11:09 AM on April 7 [13 favorites]


Also: ugh, so depressing that at the end of PIP her awesome boss meets a guy and loses all her fun and creativity of personal expression. Like she was just filling a man-shaped void with it.

This is definitely one of the problems I had with his films, where the message seems to be it's best for said characters to be "normalized" (see also: Reynolds, Allison in BC). Can't add anything else that hasn't already been said (including that it's a good piece), except does anyone else find SKOW to be pretty unwatchable nowadays? (Some individual scenes are still good, but overall...)

Okay, one thing: Adrian Tomine's take on the Donger (though one could probably argue whether Hughes would have included said character/scenes post-Ringwald).
posted by gtrwolf at 3:34 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]


Ferris Bueller's Day Off [...] Complex women as characters essential to the plot

Jeanie is a mustache-twirling villain until she's not, a glorious heel-face turn, and it was foreshadowed all through the film! The rivalry and resentment is mutual... as is the affection. Jeanie is essential to the Grand Joke, that Ferris can get away with anything as long as it's for the good. She is the punchline, in the best possible way. She chooses to let him Get Away With It, and we understand the choice.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:13 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


SKOW? I really tried but can’t think of what that could be...
posted by JenMarie at 7:18 PM on April 7




Jeanie is a mustache-twirling villain until she's not

Jeanie is the foil. Cameron's the villain.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:09 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Probably the most thoughtful interview with an actor I have ever read - ever. We need more people like her period.
posted by xammerboy at 5:26 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Reading this article confirms my teenaged crush on Molly Ringwald. Back then I thought she was "hot and cool" at the same time, and now, I see that indeed, she is intelligent, thoughtful and cool too. And that makes her all the more beautiful as a person.
posted by wolpfack at 8:29 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Some Kind of Wonderful.

Oh, okay! That wasn't on my radar at all. Thanks elsietheeel!
posted by JenMarie at 12:23 PM on April 9


This great article is making me think a lot about the influence of fandom and of transformative works in my life and the generation I grew up with, and how we approach and talk back to art/media, especially art that we love/art that is damaging/art that is both. Art that you love so much you want to dive into it, but also art that you want to challenge to be better, art that you want to shake the flawed pieces into a new configuration. So people make art, like fanfic challenging the racism in Breakfast at Tiffany's, fan vids challenging the violent misogyny in Supernatural and the normalized rape in Dollhouse and the racist erasure in Firefly.

I hope Ringwald's article sparks a lot more requests for transformative Claire fanfic this Yuletide.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:08 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Dollhouse was interesting, but also inescapably creepy.
posted by uberchet at 8:20 AM on April 10


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