August 3, 2008

The Anniston Star, Ala., Laura Tutor Column: Laura Tutor: Hear the Song, See the Movie

By Laura Tutor, The Anniston Star, Ala.

Aug. 3--Twenty-three years, and the song still grabs you by the hand. Now it emanates from a television -- not a movie screen -- hawking back-to-school fashions for the 'tween and teen set.

"Don't you.... forget about me."

The kids are in the school library, thrash dancing near a sculpture. The boys form an Egyptian conga line on the stair balustrade. They run down the hall, not unlike cars racing four-wide at Talladega, smacking at the ceiling and shedding the confinement school seems to wear like a shroud.

"Don't you.... forget about me."

Today's back-to-schoolers watching the ad may wonder why their library isn't as cool.

The parents sitting next to them in the living room expect to wake up worried about acne or why their best friend acts like an alien since the new sweetheart came into the picture. They might want to rent The Breakfast Club, the 1985 John Hughes film that decoded teenagers' stereotypes of each other long before it became this summer's clothing pitch.

The movie's club consisted of five high school students who'd gotten sentenced to Saturday detention. Relative strangers, they sized each other up with thinly veiled contempt, hostility and fear. The only thing they were secure in was their notion of what the other students thought, felt and believed.

Each represented a different clique: an athlete, a prep princess (what we'd now call a Goth chick), a nerd and a classic troublemaker who viewed detention with the same regularity as brushing his teeth. The social hierarchy is the same today, no matter that the names might change.

Parents, remember.

Each day, in many small ways, parents try to communicate with their children. It's a connection that becomes tenuous, if not perishable, in the early teen and high school years. Many parents wash their hands of their older children when they hand over the keys, perhaps thinking their job is done.

Remember that movie? Those five kids each in their own kind of hell? Each trapped by their self-made image and others' imposed expectations?

The job isn't done when all that crap hits. It's just beginning.

"Don't you.... forget about me."

That Saturday in detention saw those kids, albeit fictional, illustrate the bombardment teens face each day. The star wrestler who bullied a nerd is suffocating under the pressure to be even better at sports, even though he's miserable in his studies. The beauty queen preppie who skipped school to go to the mall is ridiculed for being a virgin. The brain of the group? Well, he brought a flair gun to school and blew up his locker ... because he's failing shop, which turns out to be the best class for our veteran troublemaker.

The Goth girl had nothing better to do.

Over the day, the teens come to understand one another, and themselves. But they also understand that once that Saturday is over, they'll be forced back into the roles they seemed born to play. They acknowledge the power of the hierarchy the same way kids do today, the same way their parents did back then.

About Laura Tutor: Laura Tutor is the features editor for The Star. She is an enthusiastic cook, gardener and mother.


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