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Why The Breakfast Club is Actually Overrated

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club: A Critical Reevaluation

John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (1985) is widely recognized as a definitive depiction of high school life in film history. For its incisive study of adolescent grief and mutual connections, the film has a devoted cult and worldwide critical acclaim. Its legendary status has not wavered throughout the years as it continues to connect with new generations, but is it truly deserving of all the accolades? The Breakfast Club follows five kids, each playing a standard high school stereotype, as they bare their souls to one another during a Saturday detention, breaking down their original biases and preconceptions. It’s a beloved picture because of its candid depiction of adolescent life, an emotional rollercoaster of laughter, tears, and everything in between.

Although this classic film has clear effects on modern culture, it seems to fall short of its mark. In fact, multiple elements of this film are now seen as outdated and obsolete by today’s standards. The Breakfast Club has received criticism for its stereotypical protagonists and somewhat predictable narratives, as well as its inconsistent tones and limited viewpoints. Despite The Breakfast Club being an 80s classic, it can be said that it is valued too high. The topics that will be discussed are not meant to tarnish or destroy the film’s reputation or influence but rather to encourage a more balanced and critical analysis and review of it. With other mediums, comprehending the apparent flaws only adds depth and complexity. 

Cliche Stereotypes and Predictable Arcs

The Breakfast Club has been widely criticized for its use of archetypal character tropes. Each character is introduced as a typical high school student. The Athlete, princess, outsider, geek, rebel. Part of the film’s plot is to break down these assumptions and show the depth behind them, but some viewers felt the film didn’t challenge these stereotypes enough again. Rather, opponents argue that it often encourages them. Allison’s changes, for example, are presented in a way that seems to encourage consistency over originality. While the film’s intent may have been to emphasize that everyone suffers, the execution may have been interpreted to promote a simpler, more general portrayal of high school students. 

One of the criticisms aimed at The Breakfast Club pertains to the perceived predictability of its story arc. The film’s narrative, while engaging, follows a relatively well-trodden path which can be seen as detracting from its distinctiveness. We see the characters introduced as classic high school archetypes, initially resistive but gradually drawn into a dialogue of revelation and mutual understanding. By the end of the film, they each emerge with a fresh perspective and newfound respect for each other, a trajectory familiar in teen films.

This route is well established in the field of teen movies while having the potential to be useful in illustrating the commonality of teenage problems. The movie’s seeming predictability, according to critics, detracts from its novelty and creates a feeling of déjà vu rather than offering a fresh and nuanced picture of adolescence. Therefore, the movie’s dependence on cliches and predictable storylines might be seen as limiting its capacity to fully materialize a rich and unique portrait of the high school experience.

Inconsistent Tones 

In its attempt to depict the chaotic emotional landscape of adolescence, the film seeks to walk the tightrope between comedy and sadness. While the combination of light and serious moments may reflect teenage highs and lows, other critics believe that the sudden shifts from funny interactions to emotional admissions may generate a sense of discontinuity. Some viewers may find the film’s rapid-fire tone shifts to be disjointed. The transition from lightness to strong emotional disclosure may appear abrupt or unexpected, thus impeding the viewer’s ability to fully interact with the plot and characters. 

The Breakfast Club

The main goal of The Breakfast Club is to depict the dynamic emotional backdrop of their teenage years, which necessitates a deft balancing act between comedy and drama, lightheartedness and seriousness. True, adolescence is characterized by severe mood swings and contrasting sentiments of joy and melancholy. In this aspect, one may argue that the film’s tone shifts resemble the emotional rollercoaster that youths face in real life. 

Moreover, this tonal inconsistency can sometimes make the film’s attempts at grappling with serious issues seem less impactful. The rapid shifts between comedy and drama can cause moments of genuine emotional resonance to be lost amidst the abrupt changes in mood, preventing the film from exploring these themes with the depth and sensitivity they deserve. Therefore, critics argue that these inconsistent tones, while attempting to reflect the chaotic nature of adolescence, may ultimately dilute the film’s emotional impact and thematic depth.

Limited Perspectives 

The story concentrates on its five teenagers, thus relegating the adult characters to the background. This results in a fairly one-sided image, notably of the man, who is drawn mostly in negative, simplistic strokes. The lack of nuance in their representation prevents the viewer from developing a comprehensive understanding of their motivations or sympathizing with their perspectives, making it difficult for the film to explore the complexities of the student-teacher dynamic in a meaningful way. This limited perspective tends to diminish the adult characters’ intricacies, making it difficult for viewers to build a fair understanding or sympathize with their point of view. By emphasizing the kids’ viewpoints to such a degree, the film’s plot not only simplifies the adult characters but also risks offering a biased portrayal of the high school atmosphere.

The story concentrates on its five teenagers, thus relegating the adult characters to the background. By focusing so heavily on the teenagers’ perspectives, the film risks offering a skewed portrayal of the high school atmosphere. It tends to overlook the multifaceted nature of the high school experience, which includes not just the students’ viewpoints but also the experiences and challenges faced by the adults involved. This focus on teenagers at the expense of adults can limit the narrative’s scope, potentially preventing the film from offering a fully rounded, authentic portrayal of high school life.

Absence of Real Consequences 

Despite a day filled with such defiance, the protagonists appear to experience no immediate consequences. This absence of repercussions may look unrealistic, undermining the film’s efforts to offer a genuine representation of adolescent rebellion. This portrayal feeds into the common cinematic trope of teenage invincibility, which, while it might make for an entertaining viewing experience, does not reflect the real-world implications of such behavior. The day is filled with rule-breaking activities – from vandalism and drug use to a blatant disregard for authority figures. And yet, when the final bell rings, the characters walk away unscathed, with no apparent fear of reprisals. This creates a sense of teenage life as a lawless landscape where actions don’t have consequences – a far cry from most teenagers’ realities.

The lack of genuine repercussions generates a distorted or idealized vision of adolescent life. By failing to acknowledge the possible implications of such activities, the film arguably falls short of providing a fair and responsible depiction of adolescent life. This may decrease the film’s credibility and its power because it glosses over a key part of rebellion and risk-taking – their possible negative consequences.

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The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club (1985) Official Universal Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Michael Zabalou is a writer and storyteller based in Minnesota who is currently studying Creative Writing at Metropolitan State University. Michael intends to publish more of his work through several mediums.