Tag Archives: 1980s

“The Simple Minds Effect” or: How I Learned to Stop Teaching and Start Loving ‘The Breakfast Club’

Graduation is over. Underclassmen are taking exams and cleaning out lockers. The countdown on my chalkboard will soon be at zero. All of this means one thing: “The Simple Minds Effect” is in full swing.

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Shermer High School. It may be fictitious, but it’s real to me.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did just make that up. Nonetheless, I am convinced it is a real affliction. All this pomp and circumstance, the call for reminiscence. Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” has been playing on a loop inside my head for a week. I’m about one chorus away from loading up a station wagon and moving to Shermer, Illinois. (That is, if Jason Mewes hadn’t already debunked its existence.)

Naturally, my connection with Shermer and Simple Minds is The Breakfast Club. That Hughes‘ classic was supposed to be the last movie covered in my film class, but we ran out of time. The kids are bummed they won’t be seeing it; I’m bummed because I won’t be the one to show it to them.

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My forever style–and life–inspirations. (Photo: liketotally80s.com)

My fondness for The Breakfast Club goes back about seven years, when I was the age of my students. I was a sucker for all things witty and offbeat, anything that could distinguish me from my peers. (Strange I didn’t know the definition of “pretentious” then.) I took to The Breakfast Club like a lawn mower to grass. I lusted after Ally Sheedy’s grey tote and Molly Ringwald’s boots. I quoted the movie to friends until they broke down and asked to borrow my DVD.

Things change, things stay the same.

I still quote lines and covet wardrobes. I hold onto my DVD, quietly awaiting someone to borrow it. Yet, as my fanaticism has mellowed, my appreciation for the film has only grown stronger. I get it now. I get why Bender was so damn angsty, why Brian just wanted to shoot his defective elephant lamp, and why Allison showed up to detention on a whim. Their stories are built on common ground: the need for attention and reinforcement. They are too old to act like children, too young to be taken seriously. Thus, they are dismissed.

It’s this revelation that made my first (and probably only) year teaching high school so difficult. For starters, I was only 22 when I began. I felt like an older sister, not an authority figure. After listening to my coworkers talk about parenting, marriage, and employee benefits, I couldn’t help feeling a kinship with folks a little younger. Students talked to me about interesting YouTube videos; I told them about my cat. We exchanged goofy banter. Then, gradually, they shared more. I learned about their issues with school, their troublesome relationships. I heard about their raucous weekends and their resulting mistakes. I went from not knowing their names to knowing their lives. I hardly think this would have happened had I taken the Richard Vernon approach to education.

I maintain that I am not “Star Teacher” material. I suck at discipline, I hate taking grades, and I fail at keeping my potty mouth in check. Still, this year has been one of the most valuable of my life.  I revisited high school and survived. I resisted using “the simplest terms and most convenient definitions” to categorize my students. In turn, they showed their vulnerability, uniqueness, and character.  I cannot say if they learned from me, but I certainly learned from them. Even though I never watched The Breakfast Club with my class, I will think of them each time I see the opening credits.

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Well said, Bowie. Well said.

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Desperately Seeking Moranis

There are certain movies that just stick with me. I have not seen Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in over a decade, but scenes of kids swimming in French onion dip and standing alongside an enormous Oatmeal Creme Pie still run through my head on a regular basis.

This past weekend, I saw Little Shop of Horrors for the first time and encountered that same sticking powerThe music! The colors! The abundance of goofiness! From Steve Martin’s sadistic tooth extractions to the sweeping refrains of “Suddenly, Seymour,” I was enthralled.

Moranis as Seymour in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

One could dismiss my appreciation of these films as part of an undying affinity for the fantastic–both exhibit overblown caricatures and hyperreal settings. Yet, when one looks past the wackiness of these ’80s gems, there remains a significant common thread: Rick Moranis.

Moranis–arguably the king of bespectacled beta males–has some golden film credits to his name. In addition to the titles above, he’s also been a part of Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Strange Brew, and The Flintstones. He became a ubiquitous figure by the mid-1990s.

Then he disappeared.

After scanning his artistic credits, it would appear that he has based recent projects on their level of anonymity or obscurity. Since the start of the 2000s, he has voice acted for children’s movies and written for a short-lived television show. He even released an album, “The Agoraphobic Cowboy,” in 2006 (which earned him an unexpected Grammy nod in the comedy category). While these projects are every bit as offbeat and creative as one might expect, many folks (including myself) hold out hope for an overdue return to the big screen. Moranis, however, has other priorities in mind:

“I’m a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.”

One can hardly disapprove of his decision to play the role of family man. Ultimately, he should be commended for taking a break when he did. His current elusiveness only increases my appreciation for his past visibility. (“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Right?) No matter how extended or how brief his hiatus, I can watch him rock Ray Bans and quirky sweater vests whenever I please.  That’s enough to appease any wistful fan.

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