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Whatever Happened to The Breakfast Club?





"Where's John Candy when you need him?"
While they are likely to argue otherwise, every last generation of history's teenager is universally the same. The haircuts may change, forms of rebellion vary, and interests appear different, but ultimately, ages 13-19 are an angst ridden period of hormonal volcanoes, inability to secure social and personal acceptance, and the naive knowledge we have the game of life all figured out; when in reality, barely knowing our arses from our elbows…

For those unaware, quintessential 1980's movie, 'The Breakfast Club' is based around the Saturday detention of five American High-School students, each appearing as diverse as the last; a brain, an athlete, a criminal, a princess, and a basket-case. What follows is a ninety-minute breaking down of the walls of stereotype; eventually making the gang realize they share a common bond via the desperation to fit in, while retaining their true selves, coupled with a disdain of the parents they have no intention of becoming, but aware they probably will. 

Like all John Hughes movies, the simple premise blankets a host of complicated social and ethical viewpoints underneath. It also contains the core element of goodness lost in the confusion of life; something I feel grew too dark, once the gritty subversion of independent 90's cinema took over. Almost three decades later, and with the gang now middle-aged, I sit here asking myself a simple question: while certain Richard ‘The Teacher’ Vernon (Paul Gleason) now rests in a small but respectable retirement home, and Carl ‘The Janitor’ Reed (John Kapelos), still works in Sherman High School; clearing the kids garbage, reading their mail, and still wishing he were John Lennon. Whatever happened to those wild-eyed members of The Breakfast Club? Here is what I think...

Andrew ‘The Athlete’ Clark (Emilio Estevez):   
Bound by social pressure, his relationship with Allison ended come Monday; much as it did with most of the group. His route was predictable; walked through college on a sports scholarship, married a corn-bred conservative, took a job as a Physical Education teacher two states away, and is now the intensity pushing mad-man he detested so much. On a lighter note, he once appeared on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, and won $32,000. It would have been more, but he was certain it was Hugh Laurie, who portrayed Mister Bean.

"They turned on me!"
Claire ‘The Princess’ Standish (Molly Ringwald):
John tried to call her over and over for a week, but she knew she couldn’t answer – even though she wanted to; though an eventual fling in their late-teens ended as soon as it began, as she couldn't take his inability to self-control. Eventually she married a chiropractor, had a couple of puppies, and, got fat. Once her looks faded, she engaged in a number of temporary validation seeking affairs. Today she runs local PTA afternoons somewhere in small-town middle America, and has blonde hair. She still misses John, though.


Brian ‘The Brain’ Johnson (Anthony Michael-Hall):
Worked at Apple as one of many of the minions employed by Steve Jobs, then moved to IBM for more money. He is currently married to a biology teacher, has three kids, and lives in one of those mansion sized houses, commonly associated with John Hughes movies, Brian is the wealthiest financially of the group. Still slim and with a full head of hair, his political interests burnt out with Bill Clinton's cigar, and now spends his spare hours playing online Call of Duty, and going to seminars about Graphical User Interfaces. Of the other four, John is the only one he has managed to find on Facebook.


Allison ‘The Basket-Case’ Reynolds (Ally Sheedy):
Knowing full well there was no reason to chase Andrew, Allison eventually moved to Paris; marrying a chef/street artist who kind of resembled Mister Bean. Happy in her artful, left-field mindset, she happened to bump into Mister Vernon at a Kraftwerk concert in her late-twenties; but knew there was nothing to say. Had a son called Bender, and still remembers the group with fond memories. Once met Brian during a trip home; they got along, but it just wasn't the same.


John ‘The Criminal’ Bender (Judd Nelson):
Leaving school with zero grades and three cigar burns, John worked various jobs; including auto-mechanic, gasoline-pumper, and Barney the Bear impersonator at the local shopping mall, before managing to pull himself together in his mid-twenties. Initially selling screws to fix unhinged doors, door-to-door, the rousing success created a millionaire in little under a decade. Today, he owns America’s third-largest national screw distributor. Never married, no kids, wears a suit and tie, and has a skullet for a haircut. Once beat Bill Gates at pool, and ironically, always eats breakfast at an exclusive club.

Sadly, we shall never know their true outcomes; John Hughes passed away in 2009, and only the original writer could possibly pen its natural sequel, ‘The Dinner Gang’. Nonetheless, The movie is a finely executed slice of cinematic storytelling. Whatever happened to The Breakfast Club? They got older, and life – as it invariably does, kicked in. I just hope they never forget the core message of that long Saturday; that deep down, and regardless of what we show on the surface, we are all the same. Because whether a hopeful teenager, a hopeless janitor, or a teacher who feels the future has turned on his own past, the reality is – in the words of a detained high-school wrestling athlete; “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some are just better at hiding it.” What do you think happened to them?

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3 comments:

John said...

Nicely written. I enjoyed reading your ideas of how everyone turned out. I loved The Breakfast Club. All of the best movies came out of the 80's.

Lee Gunnell said...

Thank you John, glad you enjoyed reading the piece. I re-watched it in order to write this article, and it is in my view perhaps the strongest movie story telling wise of the 1980's. A true classic in every sense of the word. :-)

Anonymous said...

Nice interesting article!
A piece I wrote for a Uni course about sociology and psychology in teaching was based around this film, as it is one of my favourites and is great to extract deeper meaning from.
I hope more people choose to look at other aspects from this great film and write further articles.