Reader Chris from Dublin pens a stirring love letter to one of 20th Century filmdom’s most iconic (and loveable) alpha male jerkboys, and in the penning touches upon the abiding Heartistian sexual market truths that infuse the movie The Breakfast Club.
It was really only a matter of time before the Chateau would focus on John Bender of ‘The Breakfast Club’.
John Bender , brilliantly played by Judd Nelson (who was 26 at the time of shooting), easily ranks alongside Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ and James Dean in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ as one of the great cinema badboys, arguably the best of all because of his gritty suburban realism. It is deplorable that Nelson was not at least nominated for an Oscar for his performance and if he does no other work of note, ‘The Breakfast Club’ remains an outstanding achievement of his.
‘The Breakfast Club’ is John Hughes’s best film with a completeness that his other great work, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, slightly lacks. What both films share is an enigmatic and deeply charismatic central character around whom the rest of the film orbits. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ lacks the ensemble quality of script or performance of ‘The Breakfast Club’ and is also more of a straightforward fantasy (with it being generally accepted that Ferris Bueller is Cameron’s alter-ego, the man who the trapped and frustrated Cameron wants to be). Ferris Bueller is a far less likeable character than John Bender and, although no high-school bowsie like Bender would, in real life, possess the wit and articulacy that Nelson’s character has, this is no shortcoming of the film – it is, as the Chateau points out, a fantasy.
John Bender has an advantage over the characters played by Brando and Dean because, if for no other reason, ‘The Breakfast Club’ has a higher production standard than those films of the 1950’s and, as such, it is easier to watch. By the time John Hughes came around to the height of his career a more liberal attitude and practice had entered mainstream cinema allowing ‘The Breakfast Club’ to use explicit language and themes which would not have been considered in the 1950’s.
In terms of finding alpha moments, ‘The Breakfast Club’ has probably one of the richest repositories of such of any mainstream film. Bender spends nearly all of the film pissing off Princess Claire (Molly Ringwald) but the sexual tension between them grows incrementally and it becomes more and more obvious that Bender has seriously burrowed into her psyche – hear those tingles chime. When Brian interrupts their sexy ‘Moliere’ moment, Bender flings a damaged book at him in rage, but the sexual frisson is unmistakable.
As interesting is the vicious rivalry between Bender and Andrew Clarke (played by Emilio Estevez), the straight and serious beta jock who initially hits on Claire but gets politely declined.
Here’s why ‘The Breakfast Club’ is such a hit – it depicts the three levels of existence:-
Alpha: Bender and Claire
Beta: Andrew / Sporto and Alison / Emo (and they end up getting it on together by the end. Classic beta – Andrew doesn’t get alpha girl and has to settle).
Omega: Brian (who ends up getting nobody).
In that regard it is wrong to describe Brian as the beta nice-guy – Brian is the omega, while Andrew is the beta. Brian knows that he has no chance with an alpha female like Claire and can only fantasise, as Bender exposes him for doing, to his even greater shame. Andrew is not a nice-guy as such but he is a beta insofar as he is committed to conforming and playing within the system. Also his particular type of beta-dom manifests as butt-hurt and bitter rather than ‘nice-guy’. Remember that Brian ended up in detention for having a gun in his locker because he wanted to commit suicide. Andrew ended up in detention because he attacked a weaker boy in the locker room, very likely a subconscious manifestation of his frustration at having been pushed into an athletic lifestyle, to get a scholarship, that he did not want. Indeed, Bender makes a laugh of this scholarship nonsense during the film when he arses around in the gym and is taunting the deputy principal. This is another instance of Bender’s alpha-dom – he has taken a hit for the group by distracting the deputy principal (a great performance from Paul Gleason) while he lays on cannabis for the rest of the group (and see how that would go down in today’s America … !) As an alpha, the young prince is bestowing his weed upon the minions.
This film was released in 1985 and I remember that it made a huge impression upon us over here in Ireland – we were amazed to see how short Judd Nelson really is in real life (the photography had hidden this very well). At the time I was twelve, attending a bourgeois Roman catholic all-boys’ secondary school in Dublin, and Bender was like something from the space age, the man we all wanted to be, or to have like us. In hindsight our school was a deeply damaging environment of papist omega-dom and, in particular, our form teacher was a disgusting omega worm – unmarried, he spent his whole life in the school, engaged in the various ‘activities’ that seem to obsess such places and he boasted of how he had devoted himself to the “welfare of the boys” (* crickets *). I hated him from the start and it is interesting to recall that the other John Bender types at school felt the same way, and wanted nothing to do with him. That school was no proper environment for any impressionable teenage boy and it is significant that I felt the same way then as I do now, in my forties. As a place where adolescents could be moulded to cope with the realities of life it was hopeless and was no example for any boy.
Ultimately John Bender will always be a fantasy character, as the Chateau freely admits, but his defiance remains as inspirational and relevant today as ever before, leaving ‘The Breakfast Club’ as one of the greatest teen movies of all time.
Although the term beta gets tossed around here a bit cavalierly (as a matter of convenience and artistic license), in reality most beta males will wind up with a girl in their lives. The problem is that it will rarely be their first choice. (Omega males are the men who can spend years tormented by their incel.)
Game, or learned charisma, offers beta males the tools to increase their dating market purchasing power and thus to decrease the odds they will have to settle, or to settle very far down the female ladder. Charisma can help all men, but I believe the biggest benefactors are betas, due in part to their lower initial obstacles and to the law of diminishing returns (that latter being the reason why natural alphas are often given to scoffing at game).
In TBC, Bender was an alpha male… he got the hot girl that other guys wanted. Bender was also a specific class of alpha: The lone wolf, rule-breaking, leader of women alpha male who, I understand, would be called a Sigma Male by Vox Day.
In every respect, Bender was that cynical, aloof jerkboy chicks have a habit of falling hard for. He may not have been the most noble, or admirable, or competent man — he may even have had his personal moral and character failings that would disqualify him from leading men — but no one ever claimed that the alpha male was necessarily a paragon of virtue, nor that women would never choose men of Bender’s unruly temperament and poor character over better men. If we were to judge women’s characters by the men for whom they freely divulge their sex, I’d say the ledger of self-abasement is represented equally by the sexes.
Off-topic, Chris adds,
***** OTHER NEWS:-
Social meltdown has hit Ireland. There is a level of social unrest across middle Ireland, across the type of people who would never cause trouble in their wildest dreams, that is unprecedented. There is a particular type of person who, when they become angry, release all hell. It’s not entering the mainstream media of the UK or North America, because the powers that be are too scared. When Ireland explodes it will take the rest of the world with it – it’s begun.
Look up “Irish Water” and “Irish Water protests”.
Bring the flames …
Any Irish CH readers know something about this? What a teaser…