Monday, February 15, 2010

Don't You Forget About Me

On this day in 1985, my favorite film of all time was released to the masses. It was, and is, the story of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

I was in the eighth grade in 1985. I wasn't apt to go to the movies much (my love of film came much later in life) and probably wouldn't have been allowed to go see an R-rated film, anyhow. But when I did see it, The Breakfast Club had quite the impact on my life. While all but just a few of my high school days were behind me by the time I first saw it, I saw a lot of myself in the film.

I am Brian Johnson.

I was the academic. I was the nerd. I was the one who cared most about trying to please everyone. And in the name of that, ended up letting a lot of people down (at least in my mind I did).

I tried to be friends with everyone, make everyone happy. In doing so, I was so unhappy.

The physics club wasn't my thing, but the National Honor Society was. The speech team was. The science fair was. The Foreign Language Festival was.

I quit athletics after seventh grade to focus on my academics. I went to games, always thinking how much fun it would have been to participate, but too worried to do it. Of course, in my mind, I also thought I wasn't good enough.

But I was an equal opportunity friend. While trying to fit into the "cool" crowd, I hung out at school with other nerds, misfits and basket cases. Did I think of them that way? No. But I have no doubt that others did. Did some of the "cool" guys join me when I would have lunch with Tommy Belt, a long-time friend, who by high school was a bit of a Robert Smith clone. No. Not one of them. But I don't really fault them for that. That's just the way it is.

Looking back, the "cool" crowd was not where I fit in, even though I tried to fit in all the way through college. I got along with them at school, sure, but outside that realm, totally different story. And it didn't help that I was a fat kid. But that's a whole other story. I tried to fit in so much that I forgot who I was and tried to be who I wasn't.

I remember playing these Fighting Fantasy books (I will be blogging about these separately in the near future) that Billy Brooks showed me. He would play at lunch, and often was reprimanded because they required dice and, well, dice weren't allowed at school. If I'm not mistaken, he always had a backup pair. He was resilient that way.

But I digress.

I related to that movie in so many ways. I knew those people. I wasn't familiar with detention, but I didn't have to be. I knew Claire. I knew John. I knew Allison. And I knew Andrew. I saw them in the hallways every day.

Most of all, I knew Brian. I never brought a flare gun to school, but I did, at one point, take shop class because I, too, thought it would be an easy A. I strived to do what I had to in order to make all A's. I was devastated when, as a senior, I made a B in AP English, the only B of my high school career. I felt I had let my parents down, let myself down. To this day, I still do. Without a doubt, I was... am Brian Johnson.

And John Hughes, somehow, knew what it was like to be a teenager. Whether it was the Breakfast Club, or Keith and Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful, or Samantha and Jake and Farmer Ted in Sixteen Candles, or Gary and Wyatt in Weird Science, or Andie and Duckie in Pretty in Pink, or even Ferris and Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Hughes was dead on accurate.

Have students changed today? I couldn't say. However, I can't help but express my disappointment in a group of what appeared to be high schoolers at a midnight showing of The Breakfast Club at the Kentucky Theatre a few years ago. While that film does have some funny moments, these "kids" laughed in all the wrong places. It made me sad. I worried that they didn't get it. I felt like I was the only one in the world who appreciated what it was saying. I'm sure I'm wrong.

So, The Breakfast Club is a quarter of a century old. I love it for so many reasons, but none more than because it knew who I was at a time when I felt like no one else did, not even myself.

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