Before a screening to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Breakfast Club,” a choir of local Texas students marched on stage and began singing the movie’s theme song.
Three decades after the John Hughes film debuted, the questions posed in Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” still perfectly summarize teenage angst: “Won’t you come see about me?” “Will you stand above me?” “Will you recognize me?”
“We all feel alone, right?” said one of the film’s stars, Molly Ringwald, to the South by Southwest film festival audience after the performance had concluded. “And that message [from the movie] is very powerful, no matter what technology comes along.”
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Ringwald, 47, and co-star Ally Sheedy, 52, traveled to SXSW this week to celebrate the film’s latest milestone. The actresses had memorable roles in the classic 1985 film about five high schoolers from vastly different cliques who bond during detention.
Some of the film’s male stars, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall were planning to attend SXSW but had to pull out because of work obligations. Emilio Estevez, meanwhile, has not supported the film in years; he did not partake in celebrations for the film’s 25th anniversary either.
“They must have been busy,” Ringwald said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times after the special screening.
“I’m actually really glad it’s just us,” Sheedy admitted. “It’s so nice and calm.”
Ringwald is still acting and will next be seen in “Jem and the Holograms"; Sheedy teaches drama at a New York City high school. Flanked by posters advertising a new Blu-Ray edition of “The Breakfast Club,” the former co-stars sat together this week to discuss the movie’s continued relevance and how high school has changed in the digital age.
You’re both parents. How do you think social media has changed the high school experience for your kids?
Ringwald: I definitely think about that a lot, because we’re kind of in uncharted territory. It’s something my parents didn’t have to deal with. My kids are entering into this age where everything is online -- Instagram and Twitter. This new app called Meerkat terrifies me. It’s like we’re agreeing to our own surveillance. I think that has definitely made things more complicated for parents trying to navigate the safety of their kids.
Sheedy: I can’t. Becca is 21. She has a blog -- she has a whole bunch of stuff going on -- and I worry about it. She feels she really knows how to navigate it and who to connect to. Listen, when she was in middle school and high school when the computer thing started happening, I tried so hard to limit the amount of time she could be on that computer. I had a kitchen timer. I was like, “When this goes off, you have to get off.” And what a waste of my time. A runaway train!
Ringwald: My daughter is a digital native and no matter what, she’s always going to be one step ahead of me. Growing up in the house of somebody who has been in the public eye for a long time, I think she kind of gets it a little more than a lot of people do.
We don’t see many films about teenagers these days that don’t have a supernatural element to them. Why do you think that is?
Ringwald: Certain things kind of come in and out of fashion, and I just don’t think that’s the fashion right now. It’s the fashion to have these superheroes or women like in “Hunger Games” or “Divergent” -- this post-apocalyptic point of view is the trend right now. But it’s gonna swing back to something else. And I’m hoping it will come back to stuff that’s a little more realistic, because I think teenagers need that. I think it is very isolating to be a teenager. And I think the John Hughes movies we did have offered a lot of comfort and guidance to a lot of generations of growing kids.
How old were you when you filmed “The Breakfast Club”?
Ringwald: I was 16.
Sheedy: I think I was 22.
So you were actually in high school at the time, Molly?
Ringwald: I had a studio teacher with me on most of my movies. I was in a public school in middle school. I did have some awful experiences. I did my first movie when I was 13, and I had to show up at school two months after it began. All of my friends pretty much turned on me, and it was awful. That feeling of just being so isolated, like, “What did I do?” I missed the first two months, and cliques are formed. And schools then were not as on top of the bullying thing as they are now. There’s been so much more attention placed on that, which I think is a good thing.
Do you think it’s possible for schools to effectively combat bullying in the digital age?
Ringwald: I think you can to a certain extent. My daughter’s school is really on top of that. They have counselors and talk about stuff, and they try to get kids to talk about their feelings as much as possible. And they also use “The Breakfast Club.” I’ve talked to a number of teachers who’ve told me they have brought in this movie to start a dialogue with their kids at school. Unfortunately, the technology of the bullying that happens online is much harder to control because it’s not happening on a school campus.
Sheedy: I’m at a school every day, because I volunteer with theater and drama students at LaGuardia [High School in New York City]. The guidance department there is always vigilant because there’s just so much angst. Especially with so many artists in one place at that age -- teenage years are raggedy and jaggedy, I think.
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