Film Analysis: The Breakfast Club
High school—defined in the simplest terms—is an institution of learning. Students attend their institutions daily over the course of four years in order to learn what society deems necessary to be a productive member of our civilized state. Therefore the teachers are expected to teach, and the students are expected to learn. However, what lays beneath the groundwork for what a high school education is supposed to be, is what a high school education actually is; a transition. It’s a transition in which student learn, not only what is in their text books, but who they are as a person, or who they would like to be. It’s a four-year period filled with interaction and socialization, and the stimuli coexisting with these unremittingly shape the students perception and impose an identity on each. The realities that coincide with each identity is different for individual students, and in the movie The Breakfast Club, this verity is captured and explored by the story of five very diverse students showing up to detention on a Saturday morning.
The Breakfast Club is littered with social psychological principles. They transpire from the initial hostile interactions, throughout the bickering and fighting, and all the way up until the end of the movie when the five become friends. Furthermore, an analysis of The Breakfast Club reveals three scenes that bring social psychological principles such as labeling theory, the agents of socialization, and social identity theory front and center in the most charismatic way.
The first principle of social psychology relevant in The Breakfast Club is labeling theory, and it appears in the second scene of the movie. The scene starts out with the five students are settling in the library for their eight-hour stint of detention. John Bender is not new to the schools disciplinary system, and upon his arrival he immediately begins to demonstrate why. The teacher, Mr. Vernon, who is in charge of overseeing Saturday detention, comes in and starts to lay down the law, but without hesitation Bender insults him. This is a clear example of the labeling theory in action. “labeling theory argues that deviance is a consequence if a social process in which a negative characteristic becomes an element of an individuals identity” (David, Melissa & Jeffery, 2013).According to labeling theory, Bender, for one reason or another, was deviant in the past, got caught, and after being punished he attached himself to the label he received as a result. A synopsis of the movie describes Bender as “The Criminal,” and you can see that label undoubtedly has became a part of his identity when removes a screw from the door connecting the detention room to the teacher’s office, making it impossible to keep open. Mr. Vernon barges into the detention hall after he notices the closed door and accuses Bender, and after the accusation, Bender says to Mr. Vernon, “Eat my shorts!” This turns into an altercation that ends with Bender getting an additional 8 Saturday detentions. This is a perfect example of secondary deviance; additional deviant acts that support the initial deviant label. In short, John Bender received the label of a delinquent after committing deviant acts in the past that eventually led him to become what Howard Becker (1963) calls an outsider; a person who accept the deviant labels. Further, utilizing what is purposed in the identity control theory maintaining self-consistency is as or more important to people than having a positive self-image. In other words, after adopting the label as a delinquent, Bender is now acting out purposefully to maintain his self- image.
Another principle in social psychology that appears during The Breakfast Club are the effects of the agents of socialization. Socialization is defined as “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behaviors, and...
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