By Anushka Narula
Picture via Google.
Saturday, March 24, 1984 – the day that five kids of the Shermer high school got detained. The day they announced that kids do more than just ‘kid’ around. And they deserve more than to just be kidded around with. There may not be coffee on this breakfast menu, but boy do the beans spill! These five kids with little in common, or so the filmmaker wants us (and them) to think, have an uncomfortable dynamic with each other, much like they do with their respective realities. The story embraces the old adage that says that art ought to discomfort the comfortable, and the discomfort is in no way sugarcoated. It’s like wasabi. It’s gonna sting but you’re gonna let it. And you’re gonna want it to, again.
The movie embodies angst. The tone and setting, apart from the storyline, hold on to a certain flat, unsettling atmosphere. I mean, these kids are detained for 8 hours in a school library, not to mention on a Saturday- how does it get any flatter! And what’s insanely beautiful about the film is how the blandness of this Saturday does not in any way flatten the audience’s experience. An empty school with just five kids, running around in hallways, restlessly passing 8 hours in a library, dancing, talking (read: ranting), screaming, crying… it’s as though the film invites you to closely witness (and patiently observe, if you will) the teenage angst that is subject to adult dismissal and condescension.
Now as much as I very clearly find this movie every bit worthy of being in the league of classics, my cynic is itching to say a few things that may not go in congruence with the sanctity attached to the very concept of this league. But I owe it to myself and to all of them who watched this film for the first time a few years back and fell in love with it. Blind love. Without ever realising how John Bender should’ve made us all uncomfortable. The film endorses – “if a guy teases you, that means he likes you” as excitedly as a young school-going girl who believes in the same with all conviction. John Bender, is a beautifully layered character with oddities and depth, but in no way do I agree with his sniffing Claire up her underpants and his uncalled-for interest in her sex life. And to add to that, in almost an unsurprising ending, Claire falls for the very guy “who teases her”!
I do not know if I am being unjust to art or some artistic purpose of all that Bender’s character embraced, but to depict such an unlikely transformation in the characters’ relationship is to cross a line that then normalises toxic masculinity. The normalisation happened to such an extent that in everyday discourse the film remains an unscathed, flawless classic. I recognise that the “me-too” times that I have been influenced by may have interfered with my judgement of the film, but I do not regret the interference.
Having said all of this, as a devoted film-lover, I am and will remain in awe of the story John Hughes told the world, and the unapologetic manner in which he did so.
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