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Molly Ringwald finds The Breakfast Club “troubling” in the #MeToo era

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Susan Devaney
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Molly Ringwald, who starred in the cult classic film The Breakfast Club, has penned a powerful essay reflecting on certain film scenes from her earlier work that she now finds “troubling”. 

Since the #MeToo movement began at the tail end of last year, people have reflected on popular culture from other decades - the majority of which just wouldn’t work in today’s current climate.

A prime example would be the many reservations expressed by Millennials after Friends landed on Netflix UK for the first time. Watching the show again in 2018 resulted in people calling out the much-loved TV show’s (possible) transphobic, homophobic and sexist storylines. 

Now, actress Molly Ringwald has admitted the 1980s cult classic The Breakfast Club (in which she starred at the age of 16) has left her feeling “troubled”.

Writing in the New Yorker, Ringwald says she recently watched the film – about five different teenagers forced to spend Saturday in high school detention together – with her 10-year-old daughter. But before doing so she was apprehensive about it due to topics, such as sex and drugs, being discussed throughout the film.

“I worried she would find aspects of it troubling,” she writes. “But I hadn’t anticipated that it would ultimately be most troubling to me.”

Ringwald highlighted the references to sex and drugs used in the film as problematic, but added that there was one scene in particular which didn’t feel right.

“At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher,” she recalls. “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.”

Even though the shot was of another woman, and not Ringwald, her daughter found it distressing.

“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 starred in The Breakfast Club at the age of 16.

While Ringwald goes on to praise writer-director John Hughes’ work – including his other two films in which she starred, Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink – the actress adds that, in light of the #MeToo movement, it is important for her to access the role that older films can still play in day-to-day life in 2018.

“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.”

And the essay has been widely praised on social media.

“What a thoughtful and beautiful read from #MollyRingwald. Love how she examines the everlasting influence – for good & for bad – of John Hughes’ films. Gives you a lot to think about, and it’s written with great skill & love,” one user posted. 

“To all the people claiming that Molly Ringwald is ‘throwing John Hughes under the bus’ – did you even read what she wrote? It’s a pretty tender, fair-minded piece. She’s not ‘crying’ about #MeToo. She’s a grown woman examining her legacy and that of the man who helped shape it,” the author Jenny Han posted. 

You can read Ringwald’s essay in full here.

Images: Rex Features