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The Breakfast Club

Film Data
Characters/Actors
Communication Courses
Communication Concepts
Synopsis
Discussion Questions
Pedagogical Perspective
Film Data
Year: 1985
Director: John Hughes
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: R
Characters/Actors
Andrew Clark: Emilio Estevez
Richard Vernon: Paul Gleason
Brian Johnson: Anthony Michael Hall
Carl: John Kapelos
John Bender: Judd Nelson
Claire Standish: Molly Ringwald
Allison Reynolds: Ally Sheedy
Communication Courses
Group Communication
Interpersonal Communication
Communication Concepts
Group cohesiveness
Group development
Perception
Power
Roles
Self-disclosure
Status
Synopsis

The Breakfast Club takes place at an Illinois high school, where five dissimilar students are sentenced to spend a Saturday detention session together. In attendance is a "princess" (Ringwald), an "athlete" (Estevez), a "brain" (Hall), a "criminal" (Nelson), and a "basket case" (Sheedy). These titles identify the roles the students play during the school week. Because of stereotypes and status levels associated with each role, the students want nothing to do with each other at the outset of the session. However, when confronted by the authoritarian detention teacher (Gleason) and by eight hours of time to kill, the students begin to interact. Through self-disclosure they learn that they are more similar than different. Each wrestles with self-acceptance; each longs for parental approval; each fights against peer pressure. They break through the role barriers and gain greater understanding and acceptance of each other and of themselves. They ultimately develop a group identity and dub themselves, "The Breakfast Club."

Discussion Questions

1. How do the characters deviate from their normal roles during the detention session?
Coming into the detention session, each character is fixated in a stereotypical high school role. Claire is the "princess"; an upper-class, popular socialite who is in detention for ditching class to go shopping. In contrast, Bender is a lower-class (and perhaps abused) young man who is perceived to be a sociopathic "criminal." Because Bender constantly questions and defies authority, he is a detention professional. Andrew and Brian rarely defy authority. Andrew is a disciplined and driven wrestler who wants to break free from the demands of the athlete role in order to think for himself. Brian is a straight-A student who struggles with expectations of high grades--and is devastated about his recent failures in shop class. Finally, Allison is an ignored introvert who longs for attention and, in attempt to receive it, acts like a deviant "basket case."

As the group develops during the detention session, normal roles are abandoned and new roles are tried on for size. In contrast to his usual low-status position, Bender has high status during the session because of his detention expertise. He assumes a leadership role in which his defiant questions and actions are valued rather than disdained. Andrew and Claire also deviate from the normal behaviors of their high-status school behaviors. Andrew abandons his macho athlete role when he cries in front of the others and Claire confesses to the pressures of being a virgin. Brian, the conformist geek, asks courageous questions and ends up sounding more secure and functional than his new detention friends. Brian, Claire, and Andrew all break from their normal roles by smoking pot with Bender.

Allison, the basket case, steps out of her silent, unsociable role when Andrew shows interest in her as they walk to the cafeteria to get milk for lunch. Although she uses lies and deviant behavior to get Claire to confess her virginity, Allison provides wise observations which are contrary to her perceived role. For example, when the group is trying to coerce Claire into confessing her sexual activities, Allison notes, " It's a double-edged sword, isn't it? If you have [had sex]...
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