The Breakfast Club, written, produced and directed by John Hughes, is a 1980’s comedy-drama film. In the film, five high school students from different backgrounds and positions in society encounter a Saturday detention under the supervision of a power-hungry principle. The disparate group consists of princess Claire, brainy Brian, outcast Allison, rebel John Bender and jock Andrew. Hughes used themes such as the search for identity to engage and connect with the audience and let them know that they are not alone on their trek to finding out who they really are. The making of this film is largely affected by Hughes’ auteur style of basing his films on teen angst, exerting influence on the film’s theme, genre and setting.
The many ways in which Hughes’ auteur style affects the making of The Breakfast Club, includes the effect it has on the film’s theme. Hughes’ style that he portrays through his collective body of work, targets the causes of teen angst. This effects the theme, search for identity, as it is one of the very relatable stresses that teenagers face. In the film, each of the characters change in terms of who the audience thinks they are.
For example, rebel John Bender is at first portrayed as the reckless school bully, but after gaining knowledge about his personal life and how he is growing up with abusive parents, the audience comes to the realisation that he is a mistreated child, seeking attention. This shows the audience that somebody’s background can reflect on who they are, and as teenagers, they are still figuring out who that is. The auteur’s style is what relates the theme to the coming of age and teenagers’ struggles.
The stereotypical characters in the films, although fictional, are very relatable and ‘real’ to a large extent. Hughes’ style endorses the overlooked concept that all teenagers are categorised by society, and while society choses to judge them, they are not given the chance to express who they really are. He chooses to have a wide variety of characters not only to enable connection to a broader audience, but also to allow the audience to appreciate that despite their differences, they share common ground of internal struggle.
For example, in the beginning of the film everyone thought Brian was every parent’s dream, being a perfect ‘straight A’ child without any problems, but later figure out that he tried to kill himself because he, and especially his parents, cannot deal with failure. This proves that people can appear totally different to who they really are, and that some people struggle with the amount pressure that society puts on them. Hughes style induces the audience to think about the issue relating to society’s expectations, and how teenagers especially, feel obligated to abide by them.
Hughes has wisely chosen to have the film take place in a Saturday school detention, to show the authority the school system has over teenage students and how, even on a Saturday, they must conform.
His style of basing his films around teen angst, affects this choice because all teenagers can relate to the feeling of being trapped by the ‘dictatorship’ of the school. By using the Saturday, a non-school day, he’s subconsciously reflecting the sense of isolation that teens face. This dictatorship is further enhanced by the controlling principle giving the five students strict instructions in the opening scene.
For example, after ignoring something Claire said, he commands the group, “You may not speak, you will not move from these seats, you will not sleep.” The principle speaks for the school, reflecting the school’s authority including the way students are both mistreated and misunderstood. This portrays the little say that teenagers get in terms of how their lives are run, how they are treated like children. Hughes uses this confinement by the school to endorse his style of directing teen films to cement the very relatable idea of teen angst.
Hughes’ films have refused to fade away because rather than engaging in fantasy, they are indulged in an emotionally realistic and timeless world view of the difficulty and pressure of the trials and tribulations of a teenager. His teen films went against the establishment that teens should be treated like children. One of the most spectacular things he did as an auteur was show us the dark corners of his characters, however giving them all a joyous ending, as if to tell the teenage audience that whatever their struggles may be, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
John Hughes was one such director, who, through the course of his prolific film career, since the 1980’s has continued to impact the lives of several generations of teenagers. This is done through the issues he highlighted and explored in his films such as The Breakfast Club, as the audience watches the five stereotypical teenagers, break through social barriers. By affecting the making of Hughes’ films, his style of basing his films on teen angst, is the reason they continue to appeal to today’s generation and are not indelibly tied to their decade.
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