John Hughes remembered: THE BREAKFAST CLUB

James Wallace

August 10th, 2009


"...And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations,
They're quite aware
of what they're going through..."

From the very first frames of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, it makes no illusions or apologies that it is a film for the youth from a filmmaker that understood us maybe better than any other before or since. John Hughes was 35 when he directed THE BREAKFAST CLUB, yet he showed an insight that said in a very 80s-like, yet timeless, fashion "Hey man, I get you." And what makes THE BREAKFAST CLUB really, truly good is that it really does get you. No matter who you are. A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, a criminal, a fill-in-your-own-self-prescribed-label-here. It lets you know that, while you may be misunderstood or misread by the world, you are not alone. The world is full of loners that come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. As Andrew puts it best, "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." Hughes showed us this in a way that only he could, in that what separates us on the outside is what really can bring us together in the end. That we are all different and that is what makes us the same. And maybe, just maybe, we aren't all as different as we make ourselves out to be. Sometimes it just takes a closer look, a unique situation, being held against your will for eight hours in detention, a film like THE BREAKFAST CLUB, to help us realize it.

It was one of those movies you grow up knowing the title of but, to be honest, this film was not the window into my discovery of Hughes. As I recall, I was first introduced to the man at a very young age. You may be thinking I'm going to say HOME ALONE, but alas, I am not. That came later. No, it was 1987's PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, watched one year around Christmas time as part of a family tradition in the Wallace household. And then came FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF and then THE GREAT OUTDOORS, and thus the floodgates were opened for me to the Hughesian world of comedy blended with heart.

It was not until my freshman year of high school that I first saw THE BREAKFAST CLUB, showed to me at a time that could be interpreted as ordainment by God almighty himself for the perfect timing it had in my teen life. As if I had a reservation with the film, in a way that was meant to serve a fate-filled purpose, like a friend that comes along in that perfect moment when you really need someone that understands you. It was my lovely stepmom who gave me the gift that was this film, insisting that we must watch it when she found out I had yet to witness its power and glory. Having been a baby of the 80s, I felt it an obligation to myself to see the classics of my birth generation. And what I saw tapped into me in a way no film had in my then-teen life.

I myself was trying to figure out my place in the world, that world being high school which, at the time, comprised the vast depth of the world I knew. Everything seemed so serious, so life changing/altering, so dramatic. While those "problems" of being "misunderstood" now just seem over-dramatic, at the time, they were the most weighty things I had encountered. I guess if you think of them in that way, that doesn't take away from the importance that they had. After all, you are who you are today because of who you were. High school was part of that, no matter how trivial and juvenile that may seem now.

And that's what I love about THE BREAKFAST CLUB, amongst other things. That it can be dated and nostalgic in its decade, but timeless in its sentiment and message. It can be relevant to one's life in the sense that it reminds you of a more innocent time. Reminds you of a time in your teen years when you wanted to be John Lennon, before you reached the end of college, hit the real world, and forgot a period where you made choices in your life based on how they made you feel and not necessarily what made the most sense. A time where you felt like the outcast and didn't quite know where you fit it, when you were still figuring it all out. Maybe you were an Andrew, a Bender, a Brian, a Claire, or an Allison - or maybe you were somewhere in between. But you were someone and you wanted the world to know it. Maybe you feel like you've finally begun to show the world that now, or maybe not...maybe you are still figuring it all out. But aren't we all? There's always going to be something to figure out. At least we have movies like THE BREAKFAST CLUB and directors like John Hughes to give us perspective in the moment or retrospective as we look back. As we try to figure out how we got from there to here and how we don't want to end up a Vernon or a Carl the Janitor, sitting in the proverbial supply closet of life with the door closed to what we once thought we were going to be.

In the end, I guess we will never really learn what the naked lady says after that bartender supposes she won't be needing a drink. But one thing is for sure. We know what John Hughes said to us in our youth. He said that you are not alone, no matter how different you may think you are. And that it doesn't matter how the world sees you or what it thinks of you. It sees you as it wants to see the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But that's not how you have to see yourself.

As I now listen to Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," all I can help think of is how that song has quickly become redefined in Mr. Hughes' passing. The simple truth is, John will never be forgotten. For the films he gave us, for the happiness and insight he provided, and for the understanding he helped me, and many alike, gain at a time where not many others did. He spoke to us in our language, at a time where we were often spoken down to or written off. And that language will go on forever, helping teenagers for generations to come shout a message to the world to not ignore them, to never forget them, and to fuck off if you don't like it. And to shout it with their fist raised high in the air.

To the man that taught me what the word heartfelt really meant, I say thank you.

Sincerely yours,
James Wallace

I want leave you with this beautiful sentiment from Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene. It's one of my favorites that I've heard about Mr. Hughes in his passing - "Let's do this one more time for Mr. John Hughes, who taught me the only way to kiss a girl is in the rain with a beautiful soundtrack."

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