This is an essay I wrote for my freshman inquiry class. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, so I thought I’d share it here. This isn’t due until Tuesday, so feel free to leave me constructive criticism.
“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, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” This is what Brian Johnson realizes in the movie The Breakfast Club after spending a Saturday in detention with four other students from different social groups. At first they fight and argue. But as they learn more about each other, they see that they really aren’t all that different. When I first saw The Breakfast Club, I was inspired. Not just because it was a good movie, but because it echoed one of my long-held beliefs. I believe that every person is unique, and beyond explanation by a simple stereotype.
Part of the reason this belief is so important to me is because it’s one I don’t often see practiced anymore. In The Breakfast Club, Brian Johnson is the “nerd” of the group. He feels pressure from his friends and family to be the perfect student. I identified with Brian Johnson. Not only were we similar in name, but Brian Johnson and I were similar in social group. In middle school, my English teacher passed back a grammar test and asked me to read my score aloud. Timidly I said, “100%.” Everyone else in the class had failed. As our teacher chewed out the rest of the class, I heard someone behind me whisper “nerd.” The kids around me chuckled, and I pretended not to hear.
That single word would come to be my label for several years. I was the “nerd,” and everyone knew it. In reality, I was an average student; English just happened to be my strong subject. But because of one test in middle school, everyone thought they knew who I was. Of course, I was more complex than being just a nerd. But many people didn’t see the point in looking beyond the label they had stuck on me, and as a result they assumed I was a person that I really wasn’t.
Society has made it too easy to summarize a person in one word: jock and nerd; Republican and Democrat; Christian and Muslim. We try to make the world black and white, because gray is hard to understand. It is in the nature of humanity to fear that which is different. So rather than try to understand people who are different from us, we instead mold them to a fit a definition we already know. But no matter how hard society tries, the world is not black and white. As Brian Johnson discovered, no one is as simple as a one-word label. No one is just a brain, or a jock, a basket case, a princess, or a criminal. We see others as we want to see them: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. Instead, we should try to see others as they truly are: unique.