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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