The Breakfast Club: Family Style

I’m guessing you’ve seen The Breakfast Club unless you’re super young or super old or a foreigner. If you fall into one of those categories, I’ll help you out. The Breakfast Club is a movie about a group of high school kids – all very different – who meet in detention one Saturday morning. It’s all about the roles we play and our ability to transcend them and ends with the following voice over:

You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal….

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

Families are just like The Breakfast Club. Sometimes, we’re cast in our roles by birth order and sometimes we’re cast by some characteristic that we have displayed – even if that characteristic only showed in a flash. In my family, I was The Smart One, my sister was the The Beautiful One and my brother was The Rebellious One. My sister could have won the Nobel Prize and my parents would have commented on the way her hair fell on her shoulders. I came out as a big lesbo, shaved part of my head and wore combat boots and still wasn’t considered a rebel. My brother became a minister but still was seen as the black sheep of the family. In deeply philosophical terms – roles are a huge pain in the ass.

The obvious problem with roles is that they are limiting. You get typecast and, anytime you act out of character, someone is there to put you back in your place. Maybe you’ve always been the recluse who dresses in black but suddenly feel the urge to wear pastels – you’ll get the side-eye if you try. Maybe you trip over the door mat every single time you enter the house but want to be a gymnast – someone will say, “Oh honey…” Well, roles are dumb and we should break them into bits and set them on fire! Unless your family role is The Arsonist, then you should probably try a different approach.

Now that I am a parent myself, I have so many questions. Are roles inevitable? Am I typecasting my own children? Will I support them in trying new things even if I suspect they will be horrible at them? When they are in college/reform school/the homeless shelter, what will they tell their friends about my parenting?

So, talk to me. What was your family role and, if you have kids, how much money are you putting aside for their therapy?


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About Vikki

Vikki is a bored social worker by day and a mom/writer/pop culture junkie by night. She writes about GLBT issues and parenting at her personal blog Up Popped A Fox and her writing has also appeared at Grace the Spot and Autostraddle. She also has an inexplicable fascination with marshmallow Peeps. Don't ask.


  1. Jessi says:

    I was the smart one too and I really think I benefited from that. I might not have tried so hard if I didn’t feel like that was my “thing.” My ex and his family though had much more destructive roles and I try really hard not to do that with my kids. I also, on the other hand, try to encourage them in the things they care about. That makes it hard. I have a fashionista daughter and a mechanic daughter. I want to encourage them with things like dress forms and wrench sets, but I don’t want them to feel pigeonholed.

    I think you do the best you can and then help pay for therapy. That’s all you can do.

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  2. Megan says:

    I notice this profoundly with my husband’s family: He’s the responsible one, his brother’s the smart one and their sister is the flaky one. It amuses me greatly to watch from the sidelines with an outsider’s perspective.

    I have only one child, so I’m not sure if I cast him in a role or not. I’ll have to keep an eye on that!

    Me? I guess I was the strong, independent one and my brother was the fragile one.

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  3. Vikki says:

    I love watching other people’s families from the outside! So much more entertaining than dealing with my own.

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