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The Breakfast Club

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The Breakfast Club.

Throughout the film The Breakfast Club, the characters within the movie express differing characteristics of morality. There are five main characters in this movie; the jock, the brain, the criminal, the princess, and the nutcase. During the film some of these characters appear to skip stages, which will be examined in relation to varies developmental theories. These theories include James Marcia’s identity theory, Lawrence Kohlberg’s morality theory and Erik Erikson’s theory of development. For the majority of this paper I will be focusing on the character Brian Johnson; the brain to explore these theories.

Brian the ‘brain’ begins the film by being told by him mother to “find a way to study” no matter what. At the beginning of the movie Brian’s behaviour can be applied to stage one of Kohlberg's theory of moral development, pre-conventional. Pre-conventional refers to obedience and learned behaviour, usually focusing on avoiding punishment. Later on in the movie John Bender, ‘the criminal’ takes it upon himself to take a screw out of the door holding the library open and Brian urges him not to as it will lead to more trouble. This is an example of stage three in Kolberg’s theory, conformity. This means that Brian is trying to fit into social norms as the others kids are also urging John Bender not to do it. Vernon, the guidance counsellor, comes back to address the group about the screw and Brian pretends he doesn’t know anything about it, showing his desire to conform with the group, as the group has all decided to take Bender’s side at this point. Brian shows characteristics of reaching Kolberg’s fifth stage of development, social contract orientation, when Andrew ‘the jock’ is looking through Brian’s wallet and to his surprise discovers a terribly made fake I.D, that would place Brian at the age of 68 years old. When Andrew asks Brian what he needs a fake ID for Brian says “so I can vote”. He understands and shapes his morals around the laws and duties of society, he believed it was his duty to vote in political elections.

Brian starts the film in a distinct role as the nerd; however, it appears he has not had the opportunity to explore different ways of being and has been cemented into this role by his parents expectations for him, and thus his own expectations of himself. James Marcia’s identity theory states that if you do not explore different identities, an adolescent may experience an identity crisis. Brian may belong to Marcia’s first of four processes, ’identity foreclosure’ which means he has blindly accepted the ideology he has been given. This is demonstrated at the beginning of the film when Brian is dropped off by his mother and is urged to find a way to study. Erik Erikson, a renowned psychologist who famously introduced the world to stages of psychosocial development, would have seen Brian’s behaviour as within the normal stage of development, as he has not experienced any role confusion for the majority of the film.

All the students can agree that their parents are vital in forming their future identities, or their parents are forcing an identity upon them. Andrew ‘the jock’ realizes almost halfway through the film that he doesn’t want to be the jock that his dad expects him to be, and

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