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Grease v. The Breakfast Club: Finding Yourself Essay

The films “Grease” and “The Breakfast Club” feature the same strong theme: finding your identity. This theme is universal through many books, movies and even real life. The fact that these two films were filmed so far apart, “Grease” being filmed in 1959 and directed by Randal Kleiser and “The Breakfast Club” in 1985 directed by John Hughes, shows that this is a strong theme that sticks throughout the industry. These films have many characters that can be compared to one another.

The main characters are Claire Standish (played by Molly Ringwald) and Sandy Olsson (played by Olivia Newton-John) and John Bender (played by Judd Nelson) and Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta). The girls are your typical high school “girlie-girls” and the guys are your typical high school “macho men”. There is also a couple of less important characters in the films that can be compared such as Andy Clark (played by Emilio Estevez) and Kenickie (played by Jeff Conaway). They’re the kids who think they’re the big man on campus and better than everyone else.

The first obvious comparison is the leading ladies of the film. Sandy Olsson was a sweet, quiet girl when she first arrived at Ridell High. She felt pretty sure of herself entering the school, but when she joined a new group of friends and realized Danny Zuko’s real personality, she realized that she was not really the type of person that she wanted to be. With the help of her new friends, Sandy changed herself completely. On this path of discovery she was totally transformed in her looks and personality. She went from shy and unnoticed to sexy and confident. After the transformation, there was an occurrence that made her realize that she was just fine the way she was and didn’t need to change for anyone. In that time, she lost her true self trying to be something she wasn’t and then discovered at the end that she was always who she really wanted to be and no one could change her.

Clair was a stuck up, pretty, popular girl at her school. No one took her seriously. Stereotypical “pretty” girls are usually ditzy. That is just what people assumed of Claire. After she got stuck in detention with an unusual group of kids, kids she would normally have never interacted with, she slowly began to come out of her shell. Being in that new group of people was a way for her to let her true self out without worrying about people judging her. As the group of detention goers got closer and got to know each other better, it became apparent that Claire was not just a stupid, mean, pretty girl with lots of money. She was nice and smart. Her day in detention brought out her true identity, and let her along with everyone else discover who she really was.

The next comparison is between Danny and John. Danny Zuko was the leader of the T-Birds, the schools big gang of popular guys. He was the heartthrob of the school and his name was coming out of people’s mouths left and right. The word around the street was that Danny Zuko was a tough, badass guy and he didn’t care about anything besides himself, his T-Birds, and looking cool. It was a little hard to disprove this though because that is exactly how Danny acted in front of everyone. He was the epitome of a macho man.

The only time that he was his true self was during a summer before school when he fell in love with Sandy. He let his soft side show with her, but as soon as school started again, he was back to his old ways. This caused him to lose Sandy, and this in turn cause his realization that he was his true self with her and he wanted to be that again to make her happy. By the end of the movie, Danny has transformed himself into the nice sweet jock that he thought Sandy would love, only to realize that Sandy had transformed herself for him also, and they both discovered that they liked themselves and each other just the way they were.

A similar character to Danny would be John Bender. He was his school’s typical macho man who wouldn’t take anything from anyone or let anyone tell him what to do or how to behave. That is how he landed in detention. At the beginning of the film, he kept up greatly with his badass rep. But throughout the film, the kids in detention became closer and they all got to know one another. The true side of John Bender that came out was that his life at home was pretty tough and that caused him to have a rough exterior. The kids in detention as well as the audience saw past that though as the film progressed. The was a part of the film where all the kids were about to get caught leaving detention and John sacrificed his own self to save the rest from getting in trouble again. This showed that he was compassionate and not so self-centered afterall. After breaking down his rough outer shell, the kids in detention saw who John Bender really was, and why he acted the way he did. Some of that was understandable and they all became friends. John let his true identity shine to everyone.

As far as theme goes, the theme of both “Grease” and “The Breakfast Club” were pretty generic. The way they were showed though made them more interesting than other films. Showing the journey of discovering your identity through multiple characters gives the film viewers more to relate to and helps people to enjoy the movie more. Whether you’re the badass, the jock, the popular girl, the geek, the psycho, or the shy girl, you can relate to one of these films. Finding your identity is something that every person has to go through in their lives. That makes the theme universal. These two films correlate well with each other to show that you will always find yourself, it may be harder or easier for different people, but in the end you will be able to find your true identity and be happy with the person you are, and be accepted by others.


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