The Breakfast Club is a 1980s classic, a film that speaks to any young person who has ever felt like an outcast at school or in society. It’s also, as highlighted by Molly Ringwald in a new piece she's written for The New Yorker, a piece of art with some worryingly sexist undertones as well as some explicitly problematic scenes.
Molly's fascinating piece relives her experience of making the film as a young teenager through her current lens as a feminist, 50-year-old adult. She writes: “At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. 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.”
According to the piece, Molly kept thinking about the scene after #MeToo allegations emerged last October – and the role she may have played in influencing culture in a way that negatively affected young women. “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,” she 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?”
Citing herself as John Hughe's “muse”, she claims she was able to get him to cut another scene in which an attractive female gym teacher swam naked in the school’s swimming pool as school teacher Mr Vernon spied on her, but recognises now that John Bender, who plays her character's love interest in the movie, sexually harasses her. “When he’s not sexualizing her, he takes out his rage on her with vicious contempt,” she writes.
Ultimately, Molly contends she is proud of being in John Hughe's films in so many ways, but recognises that they “could also be considered racist, misogynistic, and, at times, homophobic”.