The Breakfast Club is a seminal coming-of-age film from the mind of John Hughes. It’s as iconic as any ’80s movie, but it could have been a lot grimier were it not for Molly Ringwald. She convinced Hughes to cut a weird scene from the movie, and it’s certainly better off for it.
The Early Work Of John Hughes
Before he was the godfather of high school films, Hughes was a humorist regularly writing for the National Lampoon. Among his first stories, “Vacation ‘58,” became the basis for National Lampoon’s Vacation for which he wrote the screenplay as well. His writing at the Lampoon demonstrated his skill at writing for teens…and it’s all aged rather poorly.
Writing in the late ’70s into the early ’80s, Hughes’ writing repeatedly included rape and hatred towards women. It’s satire, sure, but it’s hard to feel like the target is sexism. His co-author Ted Mann recollected, “It wouldn’t fly today and it never should have flown then. … These were degenerate cocaine days.” You can generously call it a product of its time from a man still growing up.
The Strangest ‘Breakfast Club’ Scene
National Lampoon’s Vacation gave way to Hughes’ directorial debut: Sixteen Candles. It was his first collaboration with Ringwald, and the two remain forever linked. In 1985, Hughes had about as strong a year as any screenwriter ever has: The Breakfast Club, European Vacation, and Weird Science, although the latter is another movie that’s aged poorly in the #MeToo era.
While The Breakfast Club is hardly free of strange sexist themes and rape jokes, Ringwald told a story to the New Yorker about one particularly egregious scene that didn’t make it to air. Ringwald explains there was still some National Lampoon crassness to the whole movie.
Ringwald said: “In the shooting script of The Breakfast Club, there was a scene in which an attractive female gym teacher swam naked in the school’s swimming pool as Mr. Vernon, the teacher who is in charge of the students’ detention, spied on her. The scene wasn’t in the first draft I read, and I lobbied John to cut it. He did, and although I’m sure the actress who had been cast in the part still blames me for foiling her break, I think the film is better for it.”
It Really Is Better Off
It’s easy to imagine what this would have looked like: Mr. Vernon ogling a beautiful woman in a scene utterly untethered to the rest of the film. It sounds a lot like Porky’s actually. Ringwald aiding Hughes toward the right decision undoubtedly helped The Breakfast Club age a little more gracefully. There’s nothing wrong with loving this era of Hughes. His pop culture imprint speaks for itself, but it’s also important to note where people could have done better.