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Psychological Film Analysis of The Breakfast Club

After watching the film "The Breakfast Club" I wrote a Psychological Film analysis for the movie pointing out the major developmental themes present in the movie, the stages of Erik Erikson’s theory that were demonstrated, the major theological themes I noticed, and what drove the film.

The Breakfast Club has become a classic in our society of today and I have to say that I can see why it is such a favorite. The major developmental themes of the movie are relational to the audience and with the five teenagers there is proportional representation of almost all click groups so that people can see themselves through one of the characters of the film. This film is based on the adolescent high school years, a time in life that almost all people remember quite well, and that makes The Breakfast Club even better because the movie takes the viewers back to that age themselves. This film was enjoyable to watch and just as enjoyable to write about.

There were three major developmental themes that I found present throughout this movie. The first theme I felt was major was that of being alone. Each student has their own insecurities and problems. They all feel secluded and alone at the beginning of the movie. Each one is from a different social group and they do not feel that they can spend time with each other in a friendly manner, leaving them to suffer Saturday detention by themselves. I remember a specific moment in high school where I was in detention and I was sitting alone. I felt bereft of friends and insecure. In fact, I began to get truly upset knowing that I would have to spend the rest of my day in seclusion without my friends or anyone I knew. It can be very upsetting to feel that you are ‘alone in a crowded room’. But, by the end of the movie the five teenagers have become a group of friends. They shared some of their inner thoughts and feelings with each other and this helped them create a stronger bond with each other and they were not alone any more.

            Another theme I felt resonated through the movie was how the teenagers wanted acceptance from the others, no matter how well they hid it. All of these adolescents, at one point in the movie or another, want acceptance from their peers. Claire and Brian lie about their virginity because they feel they will be more accepted after losing their virginities. And Bender is sometimes almost nice to the other kids and I feel it’s because deep down inside he has a big heart and truly wants the other teenagers to accept him. Allison just lies in general, but I believe she lies because she wants others to notice her and hear her….which is Allison wanting acceptance. Andrew may not show a deep craving for acceptance from his peers, but his entire life story is about trying to win everything for his dad so that his father would accept him for who he is.

            The last major developmental theme I found in this movie was friendship. All five students start the movie off as complete strangers and by the end of the movie all the teenagers are good buddies with each other. These kids came in alone and they started to talk and socialize, and one thing led to another until they were all friends. They did have about a 20 minute scene where all of them have a deep conversation with each other about their worries and family problems. I feel this is when the strong friendship bond came around and whenever people share true problems with others it makes them feel closer to each other. I always wondered what happened the next Monday at school whenever they went back. Were they still friends like the film suggested they would be? Because Claire said herself that she would probably ignore or make fun of Brian, Allison, and Bender if they were to speak to her in the hallways. These teenagers came to a Saturday detention feeling alone, confused, and upset at a variety of things and they left with a group of friends and a feeling of acceptance which made a great ending for the movie.

I found only two stages of Erikson’s theory throughout the movie, though one stage was more prominent than the other. The main stage I recognized was Identity vs. Role Confusion. This is the adolescent stage where one is going through puberty and trying to create relationships through peers and groups. They have issues with resolving their own identity and direction in life and are trying to ‘find themselves’. The second stage I noticed in The Breakfast Club was Integrity vs. Despair in Mr. Vernon. The film didn’t develop his character much except to show that he is a bitter teacher who has lost his love for teaching and for the students. This stage is for those who are late adults and they are trying to find their own personal meaning and purpose in life. I believe Mr. Vernon looks at his life and what achievements he has made and is still unsatisfied with his lot.

I didn’t really find a true theological theme for this film, but I did find an example of the golden rule during the film. The golden rule is ‘to treat others the way you would want to be treated’ and I see this played out in The Breakfast Club. At first, no one did this! In fact, almost everyone except for Brian and Allison were spiteful and said hurtful things to one another. But as the movie progressed you started to see the compassion they had for one another.

I didn’t feel that I learned anything new about adolescence and this particular stage of development. But I did feel that the movie reiterated what I already knew. It also helped concrete and confirm certain ideas in my mind that I was wavering on. One main point that I noticed was how confusing adolescent roles in life are during this time in life. Teenagers don’t know who they are and are still trying to figure who they are and who they want to become. Another point that was epic in The Breakfast Club was how the home life is an essential piece of who you are and who you will become. What happens at home develops a person from the beginning of life and helps a teenager establish their worth to the outside world. If a home situation isn’t what it should be, you can usually tell from the actions and words of the adolescent.

There were certain things in and about The Breakfast Club that I thoroughly enjoyed. I truly loved how there was no actual plot for the movie. The Breakfast Club is a dialogue movie where a group of people are stuck together and a dialogue is started between the students and through their conversation they show the viewers who they truly were. I found this very refreshing especially since I always love a story with thoroughly developed characters. This movie was very refreshing. Another reason I enjoyed this movie so much was the characters. I believe that the main thing that drives this film is the characters. The whole movie is about developing these characters so that people watching are able to relate to at least one of the gang. The character who I felt I related most to was the criminal, Bender. I could understand his point of view and why he acted the way that he did. I neither had an abusive home life nor had people that verbally put me down much in school, but his actions and words were things I used to do and say in high school. I could relate to Bender’s point of view and I also found him the most entertaining of the Breakfast Club with his snide remarks and witty comebacks.

            All-in-all, The Breakfast Club was a fantastic movie that I value as a classic. I had never watched this movie all the way through before and I found it so enjoyable, I purchased a copy for myself. The inner stories of the teenagers might not completely coincide with me and my life, but I can relate to much of what they said. In fact, I was surprised at how relational the movie was given that it was made in the 80’s and we are about to hit 2011. I plan on watching this movie again.

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