The Breakfast Club as Molly Ringwald watches it with her daughter
November 11, 2021 8:16 PM   Subscribe

New Yorker article un-paywalled "At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately. I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential."

[John Hughes] told me later that, over a July 4th weekend, while looking at headshots of actors to consider for the movie, he found mine, and decided to write another movie around the character he imagined that girl to be. That script became “Sixteen Candles,” a story about a girl whose family forgets her sixteenth birthday.
John wrote another movie specifically for me, “Pretty in Pink,” about a working-class girl navigating the social prejudices of her affluent high school.

The Breakfast Club
Sixteen Candles
Pretty In Pink
posted by bendy (8 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Double -- goodnewsfortheinsane

An interesting and well written retrospective of her experiences with John Hughes and his complicated legacy. Thank you for posting this.
posted by blob at 9:11 PM on November 11, 2021 [1 favorite]


As a kid, that under-the-table scene always bothered me. I couldn’t understand why it was supposed to be funny, rather than infuriating. But of course, you couldn’t question it. It was gospel, apparently.
posted by armeowda at 9:40 PM on November 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I had no idea that Bender was supposed to have touched her, aside from possibly getting closer with his face. Why she startled has always been a plot hole for me though, so that's one mystery solved!
posted by rhizome at 9:42 PM on November 11, 2021

It was really interesting to read and I'd honestly like to hear more from the people who made the movies that I grew up with, and hear how they've struggled with the things in them through... I want to say, I'm supposed to say, a modern lens here, and that just doesn't work for me. I mean, the whole idea of "the modern lens" is that it's people who weren't the butt of the joke or the target of the hate suddenly clueing into what the people who were have been saying the whole damn time. I have no doubt that anyone who said, when it came out, that Revenge of the Nerds was fucked because it celebrated sexual assault was told to lighten up because it was just a joke, or that, most of the people who thought that just kept it to themselves because they knew how badly it would end if they said anything.

I don't think it's wrong to point to this kind of topic as part and parcel of how shitty and fraught pretty much any part of public life is. A metric fuckton of the films that were made in the 80s are filled with casual racism, sexism, if not outright sexual misconduct up to assault, homophobia, ableism, all of it, all the way down the line, and much of it portrayed as punchlines. Yet, these films were so much a touchstone, so much a part of our childhoods, and the older we get, the more we like to imagine those days as a simpler, better time. When someone comes along and points out that things weren't all that great, a lot of folks take that as a personal attack, conflating their concept of self with the media they consumed, bundling their idea of how things are supposed to be with the lessons they learned from the movies and TV they grew up with.* Hell, there are still people who will fight tooth and nail to preserve the honor and dignity of Raw, they'll claim that "everyone loved it" when, well, no, probably not the people being used as the punchline of every joke. Or, now, even Eddie Murphy, who's said he's embarrassed by it.

And, yes, The Breakfast Club was a foundational film for me, like probably a lot of other people, and, when I was younger, I understood less, or, less charitably, was able to ignore more. Bender under the table was funny when I was a kid, and it's not now. The thing is, it wasn't okay then. As Ringwald points out, both she and her mother were very much against the scene, a scene they needed a body double to legally film. This, and so much more of the bedrock of an entire generation's concept of comedy, and what's funny, and who it's okay to make fun of were pretty much created by a very closed, very privileged circle of straight white guys with, holy shit, incredibly fucked up concepts of the world, and yet, somehow, they became the arbiters, they set the tone.

The thing that stood out to me, though, from the article, was this

good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important

That jumped out at me, simply because Hughes movies, set in the most insulated possible world (northside burbs of Chicago, folks) are all about allowing young people to say what the feel, and let their emotions out, but it's a world reserved for the young, the beautiful, and the white. That we look back at these movies with a critical eye is only possible because that ideal is finally being honored, and we are listening to a whole spectrum of people who were left out of these movies, or featured as punchlines, but who've been told what they feel and say is important, and they're saying things like, hey, this movie, it's got some issues. They've been saying it for years, though, and people like me deserve no cookies for taking as long as I have to start listening.

* The pushback I got at mentioning my realization of how fucked it was for the Dukes of Hazard to have the good guys driving a car with the confederate flag was, looking back on it, the beginning of a pretty solid wedge that's grown into a chasm between people I used to call friends.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:06 PM on November 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

The thing that stood out to me, though, from the article, was this
good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important

With respect to your point, I thought the response from Emil Wilbekin was valuable. Sure, the movies weren't perfect images of a diverse high school but there were parts that resonated with a lot of adolescents at the time.
posted by bendy at 11:30 PM on November 11, 2021


Aaah, I searched and missed this link. Flagged as double-post.
posted by bendy at 11:35 PM on November 11, 2021

bendy, yeah, you're right, and I agree, but I also think it's kind of messed up that a whole generation (well, several) had to put up with the fact that they had no representation on screen, and had to make do the best they could by having to identify with characters and actors that were nothing like them. While Wilbekin looked back on it in a different like, I think it's clear that having such limited options for role models and characters to idolize led to a lot of struggling and identity issues for a lot of people.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:47 PM on November 11, 2021

Ghidorah, absolutely. I would never say that there aren't decades and generations and categories of people who haven't been represented on screen. That's a well-known flaw in the US film industry.

But I still believe Ringwald is right in that Hughes' films recognized a portion of adolescents that had never had that visibility.

It's a tiny step, sure, but Hughes made films that push some boundaries.
posted by bendy at 12:00 AM on November 12, 2021

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