07 May 2011


Locus Focus: Take Fifty-One!

Welcome to our "May at the Movies" Challenge Day!

Although I created Locus Focus to give me a weekly excuse to write about places in literature, I've twice indulged myself even further with "Movie Editions". During October, the month of Scary Settings, I took on Hollywood from Scream 3, loving the satirical question of whether the place which has given the world most of its Horror movies might actually be the most horrifying place of all. A few months later, when I featured "Worlds of the Future" all throughout January, I closed the month with Old Detroit from Robo-cop--moved by the sight of our own Detroit as a different sort of dystopian landscape.

But those two "Movie Editions" were also "Special Editions": they suited my mood at the time I was thinking up a new post . . . but I still could have gone with books. This month, however, I get extra special on you and make it so that I can't go with books. =P

Shermer High School Library
The Breakfast Club

It is now 7:06. You have exactly 8 hours and 54 minutes to think about why you are here . . . to ponder the error of your ways.

You may not talk. You may not move from these seats. And you may not sleep.

The main thing to note about Principal Vernon's "welcome address" to the five students unlucky enough to land in detention on a Saturday is that it's something any principal of any school could say to any students at the start of any day. There is no essential difference between nine hours of detention on a weekend and nine hours of compulsory schooling on a weekday. I've started listing the evidence that our developed world is actually a dystopia, and the first entry on it is the fact that institutions of learning are difficult to tell apart from centres for juvenile detention.

In this sense, Sherman High School is also Every School. And this seemingly ordinary Saturday in the lives of five students (and two employees) becomes a day as mythical as it is random. The teenagers trapped in the library and paying absolutely no attention to any of the books (You have no idea how symbolic this is . . .) are the microcosm of the entire student body: not just individuals, but also types. They are the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Brain, the Criminal, and the Princess--and everyone who has ever survived high school, whether or not he has also seen this movie, knows exactly who they are . . . and gets that half their agony comes from having to share space with each other.

But that's also where half the acceptance comes from. It takes them nine hours, but they do gradually (Ahem!) teach themselves something they would never have learned in the artificial world of their classrooms: that they are a little more--and a little less--than what anybody else thinks they are.

Yet the library is just as much a bubble as the rest of Shermer High; and it's not clear whether friendships formed under its auspices have any more of a chance of making it in "the real world." When I screened this movie for my high school students--all senior upperclassmen--they pretty much agreed that there was no way the Breakfast Club would be openly friendly with each other the following Monday. And yet . . .

Just because you couldn't keep something, should you wish you never had it? To steal another writer's metaphor, the Shermer High School Library on this specific Saturday afternoon is where you'd want to find yourself after going up the down staircase. It's the place where you realise that you don't have to be lost, if you don't really want to be.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

Image Source: The Breakfast Club poster


Kate said...

Oh, The Breakfast Club! I love that film. And is it me, or is it just incredibly well-written? Anthony Michael Hall's voice-over at the end of the movie always just warms me, holds me entranced. I'd love to think that some real connections were made in those nine hours, and even if they couldn't possible talk to each other on Monday, that they had all at least known that a connection was made.

Tangentially, have you ever seen the US TV show Community? The debut episode is heavy in its Breakfast Club referencing and is actually dedicated to John Hughes.

No post for me this week, I'm afraid, but hopefully back next!

Belfry Bat said...

51 means next week is the Anniversary Edition, eh? Wonder what I can cook up for that... !

Enbrethiliel said...


Kate -- I think it is well written and well executed. =)

I stopped wondering "what happens next" a long time ago, but I agree with you that if this happened in real life, there would have been enough of a connection to have made a bit of difference. Perhaps Bender would have silently looked out for Brian; perhaps Claire would have kept her friends from picking on Ally so much; etc. But I don't think they would have done anything openly until after graduation.

(While I understand why a sequel wasn't even attempted, a rash of surprisingly good sequels from filmmakers who have started to take franchises seriously are making me wonder what could have been . . . I would have loved to see them again at Graduation--another day of great mythic potential.)

Bat -- That's right! I was going to host a giveaway, but then remembered people don't really come here for those. If you do think of something, I'll be happy to read it. =)

The Mike said...

I just wrote a gigantic comment and blogger ate it. I called it a dirty name.

My points were, as best I can remember:
1) I adore this movie. I've had the poster in the kitchen of all my apartments for 10 years, because I find it funny to have a poster with Breakfast in the title in the kitchen.
2) I never noticed the ignorance of the books, which kinda scares me. Perhaps I ignore books too much as well! It's never too late for me, I hope...
3) I've always thought their friendship wouldn't last. I think back to all the group projects/activities in high school that brought me together with people I wouldn't have otherwise been involved with, and remember how we usually formed bonds that then didn't hold in the real. One of my most vivid memories, looking back at the high school experience, actually came from the first week I was at college. I ran into one of the more popular girls from my high school, who I had only known through a few forced encounters, and we shared a shockingly normal conversation because we weren't bound by the rules of the high school setting and its class structure any more. Since then that's always come to my mind when thinking of this movie, because I feel like these characters might forever have that reminder in their mind of a time when they were free to simply be themselves.
4) In that regard, it's funny to me that these characters' punishment did become a teachable moment - just not the one that their teacher intended it to become.

I think that's about it. Good work as always ma'am!

Enbrethiliel said...


If you run out of nasty names to call the comment eating monster, I'll teach you some in Filipino! ;-)

1) Who needs an interior decorator when you have posters and books? I just might steal that Breakfast Club poster in the breakfast nook of the kitchen idea! (Oh, forget the "just might"! You know I will . . .)

2) I think Bender even vandalises a book at one point. (Or is it just the card catalogue?) Claire knows about Moliere, but that seems incidental. It's also a bigger reflection of modern education, which expects students to learn from each other or from "real life" more than from books.

To be continued . . . because your #3 and #4 deserve more thought.

Enbrethiliel said...


3) I had a similar experience while still in high school, with a classmate who was so pretty and popular that she was several (hundred) rungs above me. We actually knew each other before high school, because our mothers were old friends; and whenever we met out of school, we could be as "shockingly normal" as you please. Although we were never officially "friends," whenever I remember her now, I think of her being free to be herself . . . and I hope that when she remembers me, she thinks of the same thing.

*cue nostalgic 80s soundtrack*

4) If anything, they taught the teacher, aye? I like to think that Principal Vernon was as changed as they were by that Saturday--even if he couldn't openly show it, either.