When you think of generation-defining films, The Breakfast Club is hard to go past.
But in 2018, in the wake of the #metoo movement, the movie is “troubling” to Molly Ringwald, the actress who rose to prominence on the back of its success.
Writing in The New Yorker, Ringwald, 50, said looking back on Hughes’s
Ringwald wrote of watching The Breakfast Club with her 10-year-old daughter and feeling uncomfortable during the scene in which one of the students on detention, John Bender (Judd Nelson), hides underneath a table Ringwald’s character Claire is sitting on.
“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.
“What’s more, as I can see now, Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film.
“When he’s not sexualising her, he takes out his rage on her with vicious contempt, calling her ‘pathetic’, mocking her as ‘Queenie’. It’s rejection that inspires his vitriol.”
Ringwald said she kept thinking about that scene after the viewing with her daughter — that it had taken on a darker significance in light of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.
“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.”
Ringwald said she remained proud of the film, which is marked by the US Library of Congress as being culturally significant and appeared on a New York Times list of the best 1,000 movies of all time.
It, and other Hughes films, did help teenagers who were struggling with their identity feel less alone, she said.
And she said it was tricky to look back on art that was created in an earlier time but that, by today’s standards, feels problematic.
“Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”