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Generations' Analysis in The Breakfast Club

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An Adolescent is a western construct of people who are traditionally between the stage of puberty and legal adulthood, mostly viewed as someone’s teenage years. A person’s adolescent years are a time of self-discovery, maturity, transformation through the process of puberty and the moulding years of that person’s personality. Due to the introduction of new laws, technology and media, changes with gender identity, different lifestyles and changes to do with feminism and work environments, the adolescent experience of Gender for Generation Z is very different to the adolescent experience of Generation Y. Through the use of a questionnaire and investigation into the 1985 film The Breakfast Club, while applying the Strauss-Howe generational theory to my findings, I will investigate the adolescent experience and how/if it has changed between these two generations. According to the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, historical events are related to recurring generational archetypes with her personas creating a “new era” where a new social, political and economic trend exists. These last roughly from 20-25 years. This means that with every generation a new wave of ideas and trends follow and because of this adolescent life will be very different with every generation. The New South Wales Board of Studies Society and Culture Stage 6 Syllabus says that Gender is the socially constructed differences between females and males [page 11]. The idea of Gender and Gender Stereotypes have changed significantly over the past generation with new thoughts on what it means to be a specific gender, and multiple new genders being created. For the majority of human beings, gender is either male or female. Due to genotypes and characteristics from DNA males will act differently to females and this is the origin of gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are “the patterns of behaviors, attitudes, and expectations associated with a particular sex” (Seifert and Sutton, 2019). 54.5% of people who completed the survey believed that their gender affected certain areas of their lives, either positively or negatively. 

A Gen Y Male said that they were “given more opportunities in the workplace” as a result of their gender and a Gen X Female said that “Just generally people always thought [girls] weren’t as capable as the boys”. This shows the gender stereotype that men are physically stronger and more capable than women and that people changing their beliefs on this still hasn’t changed in certain areas between the generations. A Gen Z female said “I’m assertive by nature and spent years changing that to make others comfortable. Whenever I was assertive I was always told I was ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive”. Almost always by grown men. It wasn’t until recently I’ve felt I have been able to really nurture that aspect of myself. In friendship groups I’ve never met the expectation of being maternal or even as compassionate as I think is expected of women”. This shows the still present stereotype that women should not be disruptive or loud and that they are viewed differently if they are either of those words. This is the same as the previous generation where women even more so were expected to be calm and collected, so in this area, the adolescent experience has not changed. 61.5% of people who completed the survey believed that gender stereotypes were re-enforced on them by their teachers. However, in relation to the Strauss-Howe theory, it is more acceptable now with Gen Z for females to be more masculine and males to be more feminine as well as the gender difference gap in jobs starting to become more equal. This is the result of Gen Y and Gen Z being seemingly more progressive in demolishing gender stereotypes. The Families and Work Institute Gender and Generation at Work study show that only 37% of Gen Y people surveyed prefer traditional roles for stereotype genders. 82% of Gen Y employees believe that “a mother who works outside the home can have just as good a relationship with her children as a mother who is not employed” (Generation & Gender in the Workplace, 2019). While 44.4% of people said that there was no dominant parent in their household, surprisingly 37% said their dominant parent was their mother, this 37% was a mix of Gen Z and Gen Y. 

This has changed a lot from previous, much older generations, where it is thought that the father would be the dominant figure in the house. 18.5% of people believed that gender stereotypes were pushed onto them by their parents as a child and 100% of them believed that this affected them in their adolescent years with one Gen Y female saying “I think that as a child there were female stereotypes pushed upon me so as I got older I wanted to push that away and act more masculine”. This demonstrates the journey adolescents tend to go through as they grow older and shows how adolescents particularly use their teens years to explore the masculine and feminine conventions that are put upon them. In the questionnaire, I asked “Have you ever had an experience where you felt discriminated against because of your gender?” to which 59.3% said they had. 25% of that answer were males and the remaining 75% were females. This result was expected due to the discrimination that women have faced in the past that only in the past few generations is being weeded out. The Breakfast Club is a movie released in 1985 that is very definitive of the Y Generation, although only being released at the start of the generation. This movie deals with gender stereotypes among adolescents at its core, roles each gender is supposed to endure and shows the audience the societal imposed split between the genders. John Bender, “The criminal”, is the stereotypical “bad boy”. He lashes out, does drugs and disobeys authority. Brian, “The brain/The nerd”, is put under pressure by his parents to achieve high grades which results in him attempting suicide. Andy, “The Athlete”, is expected by his father and society to succeed in wrestling and win every match. He has been very influenced by stereotypes as he believes he must lead and protect women. Claire, “The Princess”, she is seen wearing pink and only carries makeup in her bag. She is portrayed as a stereotypical girl. Allison, “The basketcase”, is the “weird girl” who is not accepted by her peers. She receives a makeover towards the end of the movie in which she is then accepted by Andy, pushing the stereotype that women need to be girly to receive a man’s approval. This movie and its characters, in comparison to Generation Z, is very different as those stereotypes have fallen out quite a lot. Girls are no longer expected to wear makeup or dress in pink or “girly colours” and boys are no longer expected by their peers to be leaders or to protect the women. The Breakfast Club portrays a stereotypical world very different from what Generation Z sees of themselves as they break through the barriers previously made for them. 

In conclusion, the difference between adolescent years for Generation Y and Generation Z are quite different from gender stereotypes being broken and becoming more progressive. However many still experience discrimination and exclusion based on their gender despite this progression, whether it be from peers, teachers or work. The Breakfast Club assists us in analysing the progression and change through the generations and provides us with knowledge on the behaviour of previous generations and what was expected of them. 

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Generations’ Analysis In The Breakfast Club. (2022, July 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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