Thirty-six years after appearing as Claire in the “Breakfast Club,” actress Molly Ringwald revisited the cult-classic film with her 10-year-old daughter and was troubled by the crotch scene in the wake of the #MeToo era.
In a new essay for The New Yorker, Ringwald wrote, “It’s hard for me to understand how [director] John Hughes was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot.”
“I thought about it again this past fall, after a number of women came forward with sexual-assault accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo movement gathered steam,” she continued. “If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic, and I believe that they are, it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes.”
The scene in question involved Judd Nelson’s Bender who hides under Claire’s desk while the high schoolers are in detention. “While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately,” Ringwald said. “I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential.”
The scene ended up being shot by an older actress because Ringwald (at 16) was still a minor. Even Ringwald’s mother protested the scene. “My mom also spoke up during the filming of that scene in ‘The Breakfast Club,’ when they hired an adult woman for the shot of Claire’s underwear,” the actress wrote. “They couldn’t even ask me to do it — I don’t think it was permitted by law to ask a minor — but even having another person pretend to be me was embarrassing to me and upsetting to my mother, and she said so. That scene stayed, though.”
Ringwald did commend Hughes — who died at age 58 in 2009 — for giving a voice to outsiders and the positive impact the filmmaker’s movies had on adolescent audiences.
“John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say,” she said. “Even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical.”
“If I sound overly critical, it’s only with hindsight. Back then, I was only vaguely aware of how inappropriate much of John’s writing was, given my limited experience and what was considered normal at the time,” she added.