Part I

Introduction

This blog is an analysis of the movie The Breakfast Club. We will discuss this movie with emphasis on the psychological perspective and attempt to uncover each character’s internal psychological problems.

Summary

In the iconic film, The Breakfast Club, five random high school students must spend their Saturday together in detention.  Each teen is in detention for a different reason. The Jock, the Princess, the Brain, the Basket Case, and the Criminal must put aside their differences to survive their grueling eight hour detention with their psychotic and rash principal Mr. Vernon. While in detention, they are expected to write about “who they really are” in one thousand words. Throughout the day, their actions reveal their innermost struggle involving their cliques and their home lives. As the movie progresses, we find out the reason each teen is in detention that culminates in a climactic discussion about who they really are, which ironically answers the essay none of them were going to write (except Brian). In the end, Brian is manipulated into writing a group essay for everyone in which he gives each person their defining nickname. While each student represents a different clique, together they form The Breakfast Club.

Psychological Analysis

The Brain (Brian):

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Brian is subjected to stereotypes throughout the movie. A stereotype is a generalized belief about a group of people. For example, he has a balanced nutritional lunch and Bender associates this with him being a perfect nerdy child who has a loving mother who still packs his lunch for him. It was also simply assumed that because he was the “brain” that he would write everyone’s essay. Brian was also subjected to peer pressure. Peer pressure is social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take part in a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted. He was subjected to peer pressure when he decided to take part in smoking marijuana with the rest of the group.

The Princess (Claire):

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     Claire’s personality can be explained by reciprocal determinism. Reciprocal determinism is the interacting influences of behavior, internal cognition, and environment. Claire’s parents are divorced and she is often used as a weapon by each of them to get back at the other. The way she is treated at home effects her thoughts and feelings about her self-worth which leads to her seeking approval from others. In the movie, Brian describes her behavior as conceited because she is a “popular” and looks down on those “under” her on the social hierarchy. This shows that her behavior, internal thoughts, and her environment are all contributing factors to her personality.

The Criminal (Bender):

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In the movie, Bender falls victim to the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error is the theory that we explain someone’s behavior by crediting either the situation or the person’s disposition. Bender’s personality is described by most as freeloading, aggressive, and disrespectful. At home, Bender is treated badly. He is constantly being verbally and physically abused and has to fend for himself. In Bender’s case, everyone attributed his actions to his personal disposition and did not take into account his home situation.

The Basket Case (Allison):

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Allison’s reason for being in detention was not actually a reason at all. She was there simply because she had nothing better to do. One of the needs on Maslow’s hierarchy is the need to belong. In Maslow’s hierarchy, physiological needs comes first, followed by safety needs, and then the need to belong and feel loved. Allison had met the first two needs on the hierarchy and the next step was to fulfill the need to belong and feel loved. At home, Allison was ignored by her parents and at school she had no friends. These factors explain why she is so socially inept and served a Saturday detention that she did not even have. Allison admits to the group that she sees a shrink because she is compulsive liar. During her sessions, her shrink uses free association. Free association is a method of exploring the unconscious in which the person relaxes and says whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial or embarrassing.

The Athlete (Andrew):

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Andrew shows the frustration-aggression principle when he gets into an altercation with Bender. The frustration-aggression principle is the principle that frustration creates anger which can generate aggression. In this situation, Bender was disrespecting Claire and this frustrated Andrew which led to him becoming aggressive and pinning Bender on the ground. When Bender got up again, he pulled a knife out of his jacket which acted as an aggression cue for Andrew and prolonged his aggressive behavior.

Movie Accuracy

The movie was accurate in its portrayal of the psychological concepts and topics that are mentioned in the above paragraphs.

Conclusion

By the end of the movie, all of the characters have come to accept themselves and each other. Each character’s behavior can be related to psychological concepts. All of the psychological concepts varied which showed the differences between people and the affect of each person’s environment on their actions. The question of which had more effect on their behavior, the way the characters were raised or their personalities, shows the classic psychological debate of nature vs. nurture. This is what ties the psychological concepts to the movie The Breakfast Club.

Sources:

http://www.dictionary.com 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088847/?ref_=sr_1

Myer’s Psychology For AP

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Part II

Fundamental Attribution Error: It’s the Situation, Not the Person

This video further explains the Fundamental Attribution Error which is seen in the way Bender is treated in the movie. As shown in this video, people often forget how much our situations and environment affect our behavior. Like the situation with the driver, we tend to assume that people’s behavior is solely based on their personality, and this is not always the case. In the situation with the driver, someone cut him off and he immediately assumed the other driver was a jerk instead of considering the outside circumstances that caused them to behave the way they did.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1657515/fundamental-attribution-error-its-situation-not-person

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The article below shows a practical way of applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a management position. In the movie, Principal Vernon, who is in a management position, could have better handled the detention situation if he had considered the individual needs of the troubled students. For example, Principal Vernon could have reached out to Allison and helped her meet her severe need to belong by suggesting clubs or activities she could join. This would have satisfied her need to belong and helped her move up on the hierarchy.

http://www.netmba.com/mgmt/ob/motivation/maslow/

Reciprocal Determinism: The Bobo Doll Experiment

The Bobo Doll Experiment video below shows that when we see people do something we usually imitate their actions and behavior. This shows that we learn by observing people in our environment. Reciprocal determinism is the idea that behavior is controlled by the individual, through their thought processes, and by the environment, through certain stimulating events. In the Bobo Doll Experiment, children who observed adults being aggressive toward the Bobo Doll in turn acted violently towards the doll as well. In the movie, we see this played out with Bender’s character. At home, Bender witnesses his father verbally abusing his mother and is also a victim of the verbal abuse. Because Bender is constantly exposed to verbal abuse, he has a proclivity for verbally abusing others.

Frustration-aggression Principle: Alcohol’s Affect

In the movie, we see the frustration-aggression principle with Andrew when Bender pulls a knife. The knife acts as an aggression cue. Alcohol tends to affect one’s emotions and impairs one’s judgement, which can amplify the aggression cue.  The article below says that alcohol “may increase the likelihood of a frustrated person focusing on one small aspect of the situation, exaggerating its importance, and responding in an irrational, aggressive manner.”  Theoretically, if Andrew were under the influence of alcohol his reaction to the knife would have been much worse and he might’ve acted irrationally.

http://www.sirc.org/publik/alcohol_and_violence_4.html

Stereotypes In the Media

Stereotypes in the media is a controversial subject. To some this is highly offensive and must be stopped, while others think it is simply funny and do not consider it offensive at all. The article below gives numerous examples of movies and television shows that can potentially create a barrier between the races. For example, the show Outsourced shows stereotyping in the work place by stereotyping all Indian people as being technologically savvy. The movie The Breakfast Club  shows stereotyping in the high school setting. Each student is stereotyped from the beginning and gain nicknames based on their stereotype.

http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/are-stereotypes-media-funny-or-just-distasteful

Peer Pressure Kills

Peer pressure is often seen among adolescents. In the newspaper article below, we see that many teenagers have made decisions based on peer pressure that have cost them their lives. Teens tend to value their peers opinion far more than their parents and for some their peers opinions pose dangers to them. All of the students in the movie, are influenced by peer pressure to partake in smoking Marijuana. If the students weren’t confined to the school building, the smoking could have gotten out of hand and led to disastrous consequences like the teenagers mentioned in the article.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-06-19/news/9706190074_1_peer-pressure-alcohol-end-of-the-school-year