Why your kids love The Breakfast Club

The breakfast club

Admit it, you saw the title of this post and immediately began singing, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey! Don’t you forget about me… You instantly envisioned Judd Nelson, arms pumped above his head and Molly Ringwald’s diamond stud shining from his ear as he strutted across the football field. The Breakfast Club is an iconic movie, one that never seems to lose its luster or its relevance.

But here’s something I bet you didn’t know: According to the Stage of Life Teen Trend Report, 51 percent of teens in 2015 have watched this 30-year-old movie.  Speaking from experience, my own students have not only seen it, but speak of it lovingly. They hold close to their hearts this strange group of kids and never notice the paradox – they weren’t even a sparkle in their parents’ eyes when The Breakfast Club met for detention in the school library all those years ago.

How is it possible that this movie has stood the test of time despite technological advances and distractions; a society that has taken divergent paths in morality, ethics, and beliefs; and multi-generational differences? Here’s what my experience tells me:

  1. Teenagers never really change. Sure, they become consumed with different interests as time and technology march on, but who they are, how they feel about adults, and how they feel about each other? Unchanged, despite the decades.
  2. Everyone wants to belong. Maslow said it way back in 1943 and it’s every bit as true in 2015. Belonging isn’t just a want, it’s a psychological need. Teens today are just like teens of yesterday in that they oftentimes feel alone or isolated from the crowd. Just one person – even someone radically different – can help a teen feel accepted.
  3. But everyone wants to be different. We all want to be unique, to have our own quirks and our own idiosyncrasies that make us uniquely us. The degree to which we desire this dictates the distance we are willing to go to be different. Ally Sheedy’s character, Allison, was willing to make snowflakes out of dandruff if it brought her some attention, while Emilio Estevez’s character took the safe route and found popularity through sports. It didn’t matter how they went about it, though, because all teens want to be noticed for something that sets them apart.
  4. They believe adults don’t understand them. Ask any teenager how many adults truly “get” them, and they’ll roll their eyes and utter an oath. While teens greatly respect some adults and tolerate others, they generally believe that adults can’t really understand them and certainly don’t remember what it was like to be their age.
  5. Everyone gets made fun of for something. Too rich, too poor, too perfect, too weird, too geeky – you name it and kids will make fun of it. I’ve never met a teenager who wasn’t teased about something at some point in his or her life. For teens, being reminded that they’re not alone in this comes as a great comfort.

The Breakfast Club has enjoyed a 30-year run because teenagers see themselves in the characters. But as the movie’s central theme wraps up in the final minutes, we are all reminded that teenagers don’t fit the “simplest terms or convenient definitions.” Instead, each one “is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.”

Does that answer your question? Sincerely, The Breakfast Club.


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