The John Hughes Canon


The first rule of Breakfast Club is that you totally talk about Breakfast Club. And then you shout some about Breakfast Club, and do some truly awful dancing about Breakfast Club, and then you cry. But mostly you talk. In 1985, when The Breakfast Club was originally released, this was a fairly radical notion. Throughout the early 1980s, in movies like Porky’s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and dozens of similar knock-offs, Hollywood depicted teens as raging hedonists devoted to the pleasures of the body. They practiced oral sex on carrots, they hired hookers, they got stoned before class, they drank themselves into happy oblivion. Even in John Hughes’ sweet-as-frosting Sixteen Candles, debauchery hovers in the margins. In The Breakfast Club, however, he broke completely with contemporary standards. Sure, there’s a scene where everyone gets stoned, and a couple of chaste kisses at the end, but the pursuit of pleasure is no longer the narrative engine driving this movie. Nor is romance, nor even the desire to assume grown-up responsibilities. Generous humanist that he was, Hughes was that rare adult who took teenagers just as seriously as they take themselves, and the result was a movie in which the five main characters – the brain, the jock, the princess, the criminal, and the basket case — pursue nothing more compelling than self-awareness and the public revelation of thoughts and feelings once consigned to diaries and psychologist offices.

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