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Manifesto of a Generation: “The Breakfast Club” by John Hughes


The Breakfast Club was different from typical films for young people of that time. The release of the picture determined the development of the English-language youth cinema genre for decades. I choose this film because although it is a simple story without plot twists and unpredictable ending, the most interesting question is how it could become a manifesto of a generation of American teenagers at that time. The five main characters that appeared in the walls of Shermer High School, as they are called: brain, athlete, basket case, princess, criminal, are the representatives of the most common school groups. In the context of stratification, they begin to communicate only being forced by exceptional circumstances. There are no passages in the picture, and everything is subject to the gradual disclosure of the plot. The Breakfast Club can be considered an example of the unity of place, time, and action.

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Synopsis of the Story

The Breakfast Club is an American teen comedy-drama directed by John Hughes that appeared on the screens in 1985. Actors played in the cinema picture are Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. The plot tells about several hours spent by five American teenagers together. They were at one time in one place. They had nothing in common, except that as a punishment, they were forced to spend Saturday sitting in the library hall of their school. Each of them has their problems and dreams. Everyone has a task – to write an essay about the future image of himself or herself. After spending a day of debate and revelation together, adolescents become closer to each other.

Sociological Perspectives

Functional Perspective

The difficulties experienced by the characters of the film were socially motivated. Clare’s parents’ marriage reflects the increased number of divorces in the early and mid-1980s. One of the reasons for the breakup of families was the possibility of both parents’ income, a typical situation for Reaganomics (Nelson 60). An attempt to take Brian’s own life illustrates a tripled percentage of suicides among teenagers compared to the 1950s (Nelson 60). In the 1960s, children of the first post-war Baby Boom more often had siblings. Twenty years later, adolescents maturated in a changing educational system; they remained in the shadow of the vibrant generation of youth of the 1960s as the latter shook the foundations of society in numerous social conflicts facing the Vietnam War and student riots (Nelson 65). In the 1980s, young were more concerned with issues of self-awareness and the search for their place in society.

Symbolic Interactionism

The film contains a large number of various symbols. Disclosure of the main characters begins with their arrival at school. Parents’ cars correspond to the social status of each of them. For instance, Claire drives up in an expensive BMW, while John Bender, growing in the most dysfunctional family, comes on foot (The Breakfast Club). Allison, who suffers from a lack of attention in the family, is the only one who does not communicate with her parents (The Breakfast Club). Moreover, for lunchtime Claire eats sushi contained in an exquisite wooden box, Andrew Clark refills healthy food for the athlete, Bender is left without food (The Breakfast Club). The dinner episode, which the teenagers brought from home, adds new touches to the perception of their image and status.

The characters’ outfits are also the subject of a detailed approach. The accurate selection was especially crucial because the costumes do not change the entire film. The director picked up clothes for Claire in a Chicago boutique Ralph Lauren; Bender is dressed in a raincoat with a scarf, cowboy shirt, loose trousers, and army boots (The Breakfast Club). Gloves without fingers is a symbol of freedom-loving spirit. Brian’s clothes are a form of an excellent student. He wears an electronic watch-calculator, which for the 80s is one of the typical signs of a nerd. Andrew is wearing jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. Revealing themselves, the heroes gradually undress, parting with protection from the outside world.

Conflict Perspective

The film has become another interpretation of the famous story in American culture: the separation of insiders and outsiders. In the movie of 1985, there is a gradual change of emphasis. Teenagers have to seek mutual understanding, although even in a group, they are fragmented. Bender and Allison act defiantly and antisocially, defying traditional morality. However, they do not separate from the group, becoming its leaders. Insiders are all the young heroes of the picture, being a part of the Breakfast Club as they call themselves in the ending. Hughes’ outsiders are adults over 25.


Teenagers began to make up a significant part of the audience, starting in the 1950s. While in the musical industry, young performers composed and performed songs for peers, the situation was different in the cinema. It was from Hughes’ film that the youth audience became the target group for the film industry. I believe that this cinema picture is an excellent one. It is difficult to divide the film characters into traditional protagonists or antagonists. The quintet of teenagers in the movie can be considered as one generalized hero combined with various features. The Breakfast Club shows the types and labels appearing in almost every school, whose heroes are much more complicated, and the social environment dictates the character itself. The filmmakers were effective in achieving the goal to show real young’s worries and thoughts. The movie allows spectators to look at the world through teenage eyes without simplifying. The adults are not judges; parents’ appearance in the film hints that they might go through similar processes and problems that they experience in middle age.

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Works Cited

Nelson, Elissa H. The Breakfast Club: John Hughes, Hollywood, and the Golden Age of the Teen Film. Routledge, 2019.

The Breakfast Club. Directed by John Hughes, Universal Pictures, 1985.

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