AP Language and Composition
24 May 2009
Gender: Writing Assignment
The Breakfast Club is a cult classic that has become popular over time. The film contains
multiple displays of gender roles, with each character showing different traits. The Breakfast
Club has influenced many other films, television episodes, and film directors. Therefore, many
of the stereotypes in the movie are still used in the film industry and real life today.
Before discussing the characters of The Breakfast Club and how they reflect conventional
gender roles, it is necessary to discuss what gender roles are and the different types. Gender roles
are different for males and females. In fact, “[c]hildren develop their gender identity (knowing
whether they are male or female) by the age of three” (Internet FAQ Archives). From that age
on, children begin to become influenced by multiple aspects of their childhood: parents, toys,
television shows, etc. These influences try to tell children that boys are adventurous and brave,
while girls are passive and caring. Gender roles only deepen and intensify from the age of three,
usually branching off the examples mentioned above.
Gender roles become prevalent with a person’s identity as a child grows up and
encounters high school, which is the basic premise of The Breakfast Club. At this point, peer
pressure becomes the most prominent enforcer of gender roles. This is because “[p]eers react
more positively to children who fit traditional gender roles” (Internet FAQ Archives). The
popularity or social status of a high school student can indeed be stemmed directly from how
well he or she chooses to apply to gender roles. The ideal gender role for a high school male is to
be the good-looking jock and for girls, being pretty and well-to-do. This trend is displayed in
plenty of schools, and if a student does not experience this behavior, they are still able to see the
impact of such gender roles in films or television.
The Breakfast Club is a perfect example of high school students experiencing the stress
and pressure of gender roles. Three of the five students are male and from the very beginning of
the film are categorized as “the brain” (Brian), “the athlete” (Andy), and “the criminal” (Bender).
These social titles from the start exemplify that the three described characters are males, which is
the first example of stereotypical male gender roles. Brian, being “the brain” of the group, is in
detention for stashing a flare gun in his locker, with which he was going to use to commit
suicide. Ultimately, Brian was going through the “damaging effects of living up to stereotypes…
[which] can lead to abuse and violence” (The Impact of Gender Role Stereotypes). Andy is in
detention for pulling a demeaning prank on a fellow student. Andy’s father pushes him to
succeed and be the best athlete possible, which leaves Andy feeling pressured to make his father
proud. The pressure Andy feels from his father caused him to pull the shameful prank; Andy
then felt like a “winner” when compared to his victim, which is what Andy’s father drives him to
be. Due to Andy’s upbringing, he feels he is better than others because he, or possibly his father,
has set goals for himself. Bender’s reason for being in detention is not given, but he is known as
“the criminal,” so any explanation is possible. Bender is the victim of child abuse, but he acts
tough to try to show he is a strong person. However, his act comes off as obnoxious to the others
and can sometimes intimidate them.
The other two high school students are Claire and Allison, the females of the group.
Claire is “the princess,” and is in detention for skipping school to go shopping. She often
remarks throughout the movie about her high social status in school and how she knows she is
better than others. Allison is “the basket case” and has no reason for being in detention besides
having nothing better to do. Allison hardly talks at all during the beginning and middle of the
movie and uses facial expressions to get her point across to the others. Unlike Claire, Allison has
no popularity at school, which ties into the fact that she does not follow any type of female
For most of the movie, the characters tend to clash due to their extremely different
personalities. However, Andy and Claire are similar in that sense that they are both popular at
school. Both of these characters admit that the only reason they act the way they do is because
they are pressured to do so: Andy by his father and Claire by her friends. They both have a
“weak sense of self” and live to “portray the perfect face, the perfect body, [and] the ideal build
images that are totally cool” (The Impact of Gender Role Stereotypes). In addition, Andy,
Allison, and Bender could be similarly categorized for being unpopular at school. In general, the
boys show typical male gender roles by starting physical fights, initiating adventures, and trying
to act tough. The girls demonstrate female gender roles by attacking verbally instead of
physically, and Claire tends to cry and show her emotional side.
The group as a whole tends to step out of his or her role near the end of the movie. After
a long day of fighting and arguing with each other, the five teenagers end up in a circle on the
floor of the library discussing their problems. All of the stereotypical gender roles have appear to
have disappeared, with everyone treating each other with equality. This period of sameness lasts
until Brian says he considers everyone else in the room to now be his friend. The others quickly
shut him down and say that none of them can hang out together once detention lets out. The
other four peers feel the pressures to live up to the standards of their image, and hanging out with
each other would rapidly shatter that image. All of them agree that ““going along with the
crowd”” is more important to them despite having to “[sacrifice] one's own principles” in order
to do so (The Impact of Gender Role Stereotypes).
The film industry creates and enforces gender roles because the audience can easily
understand and possibly identify with the characters. As mentioned above, “children have a
limited experience of the world, [and] they're particularly vulnerable to being influenced by
media stereotypes” (Media Awareness Network). Stereotypes of gender roles in children movies,
such as Disney movies, are easy to spot. There is always the “villain,” who tends to be the
unattractive, scary male or female, the “hero,” who is the opposite of the villain by being an
attractive and likeable male, and the “princess,” who like in The Breakfast Club, appears as the
attractive female who is perfect in every way. Still, these stereotypes of gender roles appear in
movies for all ages. These “oversimplified and inaccurate portrayals can profoundly affect how
we perceive one another, how we relate to one another and how we value ourselves” (Media
Awareness Network). This statement holds true for all of the characters in The Breakfast Club.
Overall, gender roles are prevalent in both the movies and real life. However, media, such
as the film industry, fuels the gender roles in today’s society. The gender roles could not exist
without the enforcement from such films as The Breakfast Club.
Film Reference. "GENDER AND FILM" 19 Apr. 2009 < http://www.diigo.com/05lbm>.
Internet FAQ Archives. "Gender roles" 2008. 19 Apr. 2009 < http://www.diigo.com/05lbn>.
Media Awareness Network. "Stereotyping in the Movies" 2008. 19 Apr. 2009 <
"The Impact of Gender Role Stereotypes" Media Awareness Network. 2008. 19 Apr. 2009 <
York, Frank. "Gender Differences Are Real" Narth. 3 Sep. 2008. 19 Apr. 2009 <