Saturday, May 27, 2006
Quintessential John Hughes Adult Dies
Actor Paul Gleason, who died today, embodied the essence of what it meant to be an "adult with authority" in the world of John Hughes teen comedies. His character -- principal Richard Vernon in the 1985 classic The Breakfast Club -- was exactly the type of brash, arrogant, yet deeply flawed adult, that populated the teen world Hughes so successfully created during the decade. Gleason -- who appeared alongside the likes of Paul Newman (in Fort Apache The Bronx) and Robert Duvall (in The Great Santini and Tender Mercies) -- is probably best remembered as the stern principal in charge of the Saturday detention class that made up the "breakfast club" -- a who's who of the then-popular "Brat Pack." In Hughes' comedies, adults are either marginalized, buffoonish dolts, or, as in this case, foils for the teen characters to play up against. In many ways, it was a brave move for Hughes to set The Breakfast Club in a single location, forcing dialogue and characterization to carry the film, and principal Vernon was certainly one of the meanest adults to live in the John Hughes world. For example, after verbally threatening one of the children in the detention class, Vernon goes on to ask, "What are you gonna do about it? You think anyone's gonna believe you? You think anyone gonna take your word over mine? I'm a man of respect around here. They love me. I'm a swell guy. You're a lying sack of monkey shit...a gutless turd." Given the role of "symbolically" representing all that Hughes believes teens hate about adults, Gleason's portrayal of principal Vernon did not disappoint. Just last year, Gleason participated in a mini reunion of The Breakfast Club (with Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald) on stage at the MTV Movie Awards.