The Breakfast Club is a hallmark of 1980s cinema, and is frequently hailed as one of the greatest teen movies ever made. But in an essay for The New Yorker, Molly Ringwald, one of the film’s stars, says that upon re-watching The Breakfast Club some 30 years after its release, she finds it “uncomfortable” and “troubling.”
Several years ago, Ringwald watched The Breakfast Club with her 10-year-old daughter, who had never seen the film before. “I worried that she would find aspects of it troubling,” Ringwald writes, “but I hadn’t anticipated that it would ultimately be most troubling to me.”
The Breakfast Club — famously — follows five teenagers, each belonging to a different social group, as they endure a Saturday in detention. In her New Yorker essay, Ringwald zeroes in on a scene that sees “the bad-boy character,” John Bender,” duck under a table where her character, Claire, is sitting.
“While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately,” Ringwald writes. “I kept thinking about that scene. I thought about it again this past fall, after a number of women came forward with sexual-assault accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo movement gathered steam. If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic, and I believe that they are, it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes.”
The Breakfast Club was directed by the late John Hughes, who worked with Ringwald on several other teen movies. His films, which displayed unprecedented concern for the thoughts and feelings of teenagers, continue to be watched and loved to this day. But as Ringwald notes, Hughes’ movies are often problematic. Perhaps most egregiously, Sixteen Candles, in which Ringwald also starred, sees one character hand his drunk girlfriend over to another high school boy “to satisfy the latter’s sexual urges,” as Ringwald puts it.
“It’s hard for me to understand how John was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot,” the actress writes.
“How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”
Below, watch the scene that Ringwald has seen in a new light since the emergence of the #MeToo movement.
Read the full story at The New Yorker.