Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Ferris!

On June 11, 1986, Paramount Pictures released Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  It is considered to be one of the most iconic movies of the 80s.  And for good reason.

John Hughes was the king of high school movies back in the day.  From Sixteen Candles to Pretty in Pink to the Breakfast Club and even to Some Kind of Wonderful, Hughes managed to capture our teen years in such a way that just about everyone could relate -- if you were a teen or had ever been a teen.  But Ferris stands out as just slightly better than the rest, in my opinion.  Here's why ...

Most teen movies (now called YA -- especially if they have shiny vampires or some dystopian element) rely too heavily on the stereotypes.  It's ironic because a lesson in most teen movies is to be yourself and not worry about the stereotypes.  But they all have the jock, the cheerleader, the nerd, the weirdo, and on and on.  There usually isn't much actual character development.  The Breakfast Club had nothing but stereotypes -- but it worked so well because all of the characters understood why they were stereotypes as Brian writes in his letter to Vernon on behalf of the group, "You see us as you want to see us."

Ferris is fantastic because Ferris is his own man.  He doesn't fit in to any group or clique.  Actually, he fits in to all of them.  As Rooney's secretary Grace describes, "He's very popular, Ed.  The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads -- they all adore him.  They think he's a righteous dude."

Ferris was a righteous dude.  He was nice to everyone.  Even the supporting characters, the ones who only have a couple of lines, they all know him and love him.  They way they talk about him shows that they consider Ferris a friend.  That was huge for me.  I don't understand why that wouldn't be huge for anyone.  It's so easy.  You want people to like you?  Just be a good guy, a righteous dude.  I think that's why Rooney couldn't stand him.  He was the ant-Ferris.  Bizarro-Ferris.  He was all about the rules and structure and he didn't care if anyone liked him.  I don't think Rooney disliked Ferris because of his blatant disregard for the rules. I think Rooney resented Ferris precisely because Ferris was a well-liked free-spirit and Rooney wasn't.

His friends didn't really fit in to cliques either.  Maybe Cameron was the geek and Sloane was the popular cheerleader chick.  But the cliques cross-bred.  Just like they do in real life.  It wasn't about cliques.  It was about characters.  And Ferris was cool because he wasn't wrapped up in labels.  He liked people for who they were.  He wasn't one thing.  He was every thing.  I mean, the guy went to a baseball game and a museum on the same day!

I won't say I idolized Ferris.  But I will admit, I wanted to be Ferris.  At least, my version of Ferris.  In some ways, I think I succeeded.  In other ways, I still aspire to be like that guy.  Someone who savors life and enjoys every moment.  The tag line, I think, is misleading.  Ferris wasn't about leisure and doing nothing.  He was about enjoying everything life had to offer.  And then sharing that joy with others.

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."


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