When someone hears the name John Hughes what comes to mind? More than likely what comes to mind are movies such as Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 16 Candles, and of course his most well known film, The Breakfast Club. The 1985 film, The Breakfast Club is a truly timeless film that previous generations, and generations to come are able to relate to. The Breakfast Club focuses on five high school students who were sentenced to a saturday detention because of poor behavior. Each student is a part of a different high school clique. On the outside looking in each student believes that they are all very different, but it is not until further discovery that they soon realize that maybe they are not so different after all. The Breakfast Club sheds light on many health issues, but the most prominent ones being suicide and personality disorders.
John Bender is portrayed as the always angry, defiant, troublemaker student in this film. Bender comes from a physically, and verbally abusive household which in turn makes it difficult for him to be able to form healthy relationships with people. One could also say the Bender has an identity issue. There is a particular scene in the film where Bender and the assistant principal, Mr. Vernon are in a storage closet. Mr. Vernon proceeds to yell at Bender who beings to almost shut down, and starts to realize that he does not want to engage in that abusive behavior anymore. Next is Claire Standish, the popular, attention seeking, and at times narcissistic student in the group. Claire believes that she is special, and that everyone wants to either be her or be her friend. Standish is wealthy and believes that money can buy her happiness, so she seeks out expensive items in order to cope with the intense feeling of emptiness. Being as though Claire is popular and wealthy, she is constantly looking for validation from others in order to maintain her position at the top.
The nerd of the group is Brian Johnson. Johnson is the nerdy, quite, reserved student in the film, who endures an enormous amount of pressure from him parents to maintain good grades, and oftentimes experiences stress, anxiety, and depression if he falls short of their demanding expectations. A scene in the film best describes just how bad the pressure can get at times when Johnson said he attempted to commit suicide because he would average a B in woodshop, which in his parents eyes was not good enough. The next student is Andrew Clark. Clark is the jock of the group, and he just like Johnson, deals with intense pressure from his parents. In Clark’s case it is his father that puts pressure on him to be this amazing wrestler. Clark is constantly worried about what his father will say or do if his performance does not meet the high bar set for him. It is almost as though Clark’s father is living vicariously through his son, and forcing him to continue wrestling because in the film Clark says sometimes he wishes he leg would give out again so he will not have to wrestle again. Lastly, there is Allison Reynolds. Reynolds is portrayed as the outcast, socially awkward, shy one of the group. Her character also suffers from a less than ideal homelife. Reynolds’ parents ignore her which as left her with the inability to form strong, stable relationships with people. Reynolds is also a compulsive liar, an ineffective thief, and at times seems to be disconnected from reality.
The contents presented in this film greatly relate to the discussions had in class because it illustrates comorbidity, and numerous personality disorders. It would be irresponsible of me to diagnose any of the five students in this film with a personality disorder because I do not have enough background information on each student to form an accurate conclusion. It is safe to say that some of these students possess DSM criteria for certain personality disorders. Starting with John Bender, based on some of Benders’ behavior he exhibits some symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Bender experiences “identity disturbance: markedly and presistantly unstable self image or sense of self”, he also displays “inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger”, and “impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self damaging” (Barlow, Durand, & Hofmann 470), in John Benders’ case that would be smoking, and having multiple sexual partners. Claire Standish also displays some characteristics that align with a personality disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Standish demonstrates symptoms such as “having a grandiose sense of self importance”, “believing that others are envious of him or her”, she also believes that “… she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people” (Barlow, Durand, & Hofmann 475). Let me reiterate, I am not diagnosing these characters with any of the personality disorders mentioned. As stated in multiple lectures, there is a spectrum that pertains to mental disorders and it just depends on where someone falls on that spectrum that may or may not warrant a clinical diagnosis.
Overall I found that The Breakfast Club was successful in its portrayal of mental illness. I say that because the film was able to be entertaining, but it was also one of the earlier films that really highlighted the gap between being okay, and on the verge of a breakdown. I applaud this film for attempting to break the stigma surrounding men and mental illness. I commend the director John Hughes on being able to find balance between writing with sensitivity, and telling the truth. This film reminds us to have compassion for one another because everyone is dealing with their own internal demons.
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