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Quick Bit: ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985) and the You Get The Horns Moment

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 coming-of-age comedy about a group of teens who spend a Saturday in detention, learning much about who they are what they mean to each other.

A diverse group of school stereotypes find themselves spending their Saturday in detention under the watchful eye of the principal, all learning a bit about who they are and how they aren’t so different from each other.

hornsQuick Bit: School Principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) is the hard case, the authority figure who periodically shows up to remind the misfits of their plight, attempting (but often failing) to level on them his unique brand of command. His biggest adversary is John Bender (Judd Nelson), a rebellious kid who is no stranger to detention and confrontation with the principal, a student with poor attitude who is more interested in causing friction than avoiding it. Right from the start, he faces off with Vernon when he makes a crack about the principal’s clothes being raided from Barry Manilow’s wardrobe. This garners him another Saturday detention and a stern warning: “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.” Of course Bender is a fan of the horns and later, the two have at it again, with Bender telling Vernon to “Eat my shorts” when the principal gets flustered and warns Bender that the next screw that will fall out will be him. This leads to a lengthy exchange where anything Bender says gets him an additional Saturday, steadily stacking them as the other students look on in shock. It finally ends when school geek Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) runs down the tally, though even he gets belittled by Vernon. As everyone goes quiet, the principal gives Bender one last look and a finger gesture depicting the horns of a bull and walks off, not even having to say to the words.

Why it Matters: Principal Vernon is himself a stereotype, one drawn from the way in which students view authority figures, with his outdated clothes and exaggerated swagger, to his clumsy physical skills to his obvious ‘don’t get it’ persona. Taking his place among a long list of outlandish school principals in teen comedies, Vernon stands apart from most with his bully-ish tactics and dark tone, though is generally made to look the fool at his own expense, now a trope firmly engrained in the genre.



John Hughes


John Hughes


Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Gleason

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