In today's world, two types of film rule the box office: Superhero movies, and Teen Dystopian Franchises. Think about how many people have stood in lines for hours just to see the newest Hunger Games before anyone else? Think about the billions poured into the marketing campaigns of Divergent or The Maze Runner. Teens today are ruled by the stories of what kids just like them would do in the most terrifying of worlds. Well what if I told you that, while a lot of those movies are great, the best one came out before most of us were even born? What if I told you that John Hughes was creating teen dystopian flicks, long before it was cool?
Picture a world where society as a whole is completely devoted to the individual; a place where teamwork and compassion are cast aside. A world we are taught at a young, and very impressionable age that everyone has their specific place and role in the world. There's no need to help anyone else or step aside to let anyone else have a chance. You have your purpose, and it's up to you to further your place in the world. Whether it's to become part of an army just because you are more brave than you are honest, or whether it's to fight for your district because you needed more food than the family next door. Maybe it's to torture nerds in the locker room and nab a wrestling scholarship just to earn your father's approval. I think Mr. Hughes hit the nail on the head: we already live in a dystopian society. He used The Breakfast Club to show us just how bad it really was. You might be saying, "Whoa now, Charlie. High school in 1985, or even now, is nothing like the stuff from all those books." Well, I'm afraid I have to disagree. Think about many of the common themes presented in these stories.
- Teens are told that they have a specific place in society. Those before them understand their place and don't see a need to change it.
"My God, are we gonna be like our parents?" "It's inevitable, it just happens."
- An unlikely group finds themselves thrown together by fate or chance.
- While they all might have different views on the current state of society, they realize they must band together to try and fix their situation.
- There is a dictator in the path of our heroes. While it may seem to this ruler that their heart is in the right place, they never stopped to wonder what effect they might be having on the lives of the ones under their control.
"Don't mess with the bull, young man."
- Everyone understands how bad their own life is, but no one quite understands that, although it might look different, it's just as bad for everyone else.
"Everyone's home-life is unsatisfying."
- An unlikely leader emerges, secretly willing to sacrifice themselves for the ones they try so hard to distance themselves from.
- When it's all said and done, the group has changed their course, but they are still far from changing the problems society has created for them.
"So, so on Monday, what happens?
Think back to our earliest days as a society, think about how we began. We started as a community. Tribes banded together to care for one another and selflessly gave to one another. When the hunters went out on a trip, they didn't come back with just food for themselves or their families, they returned with spoils for the entire village. We, as people, used to understand that surviving in a terrifying world meant banding together and taking care of each other. We knew we wouldn't survive without our neighbors. America itself was founded by the idea that people who wanted the same things could band together and fight for one common cause. In 1985, John Hughes showed us just how far we were from that place, he showed us the dystopia our predecessors feared most.
The dictionary defines Dystopia as "A society characterized by human misery." The word literally translates as "Anti-Utopia." To some people that means making teenagers fight each other to the death year after year, in order remind the world of "how far we've come." Maybe it's dividing entire cities apart by what trait you most highly represent and killing off anyone who chooses to think freely. Maybe it's throwing teens into unknown worlds and wiping their memories, just so the government can find a cure for disease. To John Hughes, in 1985, the idea of dystopia was much simpler. What's even scarier is that it had already arrived.
The one The Breakfast Club teaches us is worse than where we are as a society, but it's where we're heading. It shows us that we, as a society, are in a place where we just accept where we are and don't bother to fix it. One of the most moving scenes in the film comes in the final thirty minutes when Claire acknowledges that, while it might be terrible, things will go back to just the way they were when the five would return to school on Monday. We are taught today to be complacent, and to just make the best of the role we are given, and stepping away from that just won't do. We're taught that we really weren't meant to change other people, just to make ourselves better. We're taught, our whole lives, "Screws fall out all the time. The world is an imperfect place."