Bechdel Test results: Passed Gender, Failed LGTBQIA+ & Race
Rated 7.9/10 on IMDb
Through a brain, an athlete, a princess, a basket case and a criminal, John Hughes attempted to tackle high school cliques and stereotypes in Shermer, Illinois, 1984. Rebellious John Bender and silent Allison repeatedly call out Andy, Claire and Brian on their class privilege, jock Andy refuses to give Bender an excuse to be an outright ass, Claire polices all bullshit, and Brian reminds everyone to be themselves, bringing light to some mental health issues. But The Breakfast Club wasn’t created without being problematic.
Honestly, there’s no way of knowing what John Hughes intended to be in the movie, and what was his own sexist inclusion. Because even though Allison and Claire discuss the double edged sword of female sexuality, or known in sociology books as the double bind, he did absolutely nothing else positive for women in the movie claiming to be addressing the wrongs of society. Clear signs point to expressing rape culture, endorsing a patriarchy, sexual harassment, and plenty of self-objectification of Claire and Allison. Where do you even begin with how shitty women are portrayed in The Breakfast Club?
Out of the seven characters in Shermer High School that day, two of them are women, which is slightly under thirty percent of the cast. Which isn’t the most problematic thing in the world, except that one of the teenage girls doesn’t even speak until thirty three minutes into the film; promptly explained by Bender as “she doesn’t talk sir.”. All after Mr. Vernon, or Dick, if you will, looks directly at Claire when he tells the group not to talk, and Bender threatens at least twice to expose his penis; once in explaining that he had to pee, and the other in threatening to rape Claire.
John Bender frequently attempts to show his dominance over Brian Johnson, including his demand that he moves seats in the first scene, and the first time he addresses him directly, telling him, “Why don’t you close the door and we’ll get the prom queen impregnated?”. Bender’s vulgar comments to Claire don’t end; he says things such as “you couldn’t ignore me if you tried”, calling her a “cherry” throughout the entire movie, explaining to her that all she is is a fat girl and “there are two types of fat girls”, one’s that are born to be fat, and others who get married, pop out a few kids, and then get fat. Bender regularly harrasses Claire, and alludes to raping her, or forcing her to pay attention to him, and regularly objectifies her.
Perhaps the most alarming, aside from blatantly calling for group raping of Claire, is after Claire gives Bender her middle finger, it leads him to tell her, shamingly, “such obscene finger gestures from such a pristine girl.” She then continues to reply to his harassment, to which prompts him to say “Are you a virgin? I’ll bet you a million dollars that you are. Is it going to be a white wedding?… Have you ever kissed a boy? Have you ever been felt up? Over the panties, under the bra, blouse unbuttoned…”, shaming Claire for her virginity.
Andrew consistently attempts to stand up for Claire, which is problematic in of itself, showing a parallel of hostile and benevolent sexism. In this particular scene, Andy tells Bender, “you don’t talk to her, you don’t look at her you, you don’t even think about her.”, (even though Claire has shown frequently in the movie that she was not afraid to stand up for herself, calling Bender a coward on multiple occasions), to which Bender replies “I’m trying to help her”. These two lines of dialogue express perfectly the feelings majority of men have regarding women, and makes this entire movie fairly disappointing. Why did Andy have to be the hero? Why wasn’t Claire her own hero, as she has clearly shown that she could have been?
I have six pages of notes on why this movie is problematic, and most of them are Bender’s remarks to/about Claire. He insinuates that Claire is his lunch, comparing her to meat/food, ridicules Claire for eating sushi, but finding him repulsive, telling her that his “image of (her) is completely blown” when she applied her lipstick with her breasts and telling her to stick to what she knows (i.e nail polish), and “just wait for your fucking prom!”.
Yet, Claire still is shown sticking up for Bender. She doesn’t tell Vernon when Bender releases a screw from the door, preventing it from staying open, prevents Andrew from calling him out or eventually fighting Bender, and hides him under her seat when he was supposed to be in the closet, but snuck back to the library when he “forgot his pencil”. When I first saw this movie as a junior in high school, this is the only scene that made me uncomfortable and was the scene that originally changed my perspective of the entire movie. Because without this scene, I may still think that The Breakfast Club showcased diversity and was a great way to illuminate on issues of the generations watching it. However, there is no justifying Bender staring into Claire’s panties as she defends him. There’s no justifying him touching her legs, and sticking his head in between them; and there’s absolutely no justifying how mortified she was after, while all four of her peers laughed, and Bender saying “it was an accident, sue me”.