Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Ferris Bueller is a Bad Person

Ferris Bueller is supposed to be a loved character. You are supposed to envy him, to want to be him, to want to date Sloan Peterson, to want to help Cameron Frye and get the best of Principal Ed Rooney, and of course, you are supposed to outsmart your mom and dad and sister Jeanie.

However, Ferris Bueller is a jerkweed.

Cameron Frye and Sloan Peterson, following the lead of "Abe
Froman", the Sausage King
Let me back up... I'm sure you've seen the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Ferris is an iconic character, and one of the symbols of the 80s decade. Directed by the late, great John Hughes and released in 1986 to modest success, the movie has taken on a huge, cult like status. 

The lines from the movie are irresistible, and impossible to get away from.  Be it an imitation of Ben Stein's economy lesson, in a monotone, nasally voice saying... "Anyone... anyone?" followed by "Bueller... Bueller... Bueller... Frye?  Frye?" (and for the super fans, they will answer, "Oh, he's sick!") or Ferris himself saying "The question isn't 'what are we going to do', the question is 'what aren't we going to do'", or motto of, "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it", or Cameron's low song of "When Cameron was in Egypt's land.... let my... Cameron... goooooooo"

The movie is one that will be remembered when Campbell and his future sister Lorelei will watch when they get older... not at my urging, mind you, but probably something they will want to see as I raise them to be movie lovers as I am.  Meaning, this will be something they will feel like they should watch, as they try and see the 80s classics.  (though I will make sure they get the real classics like "The Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink", "WarGames", "Ghostbusters" and "The Goonies", among others as well)

Back to my point... and if you haven't seen this film and do not want to know the plot points and scenes of this movie, then stop reading, because I'm about to bust up all over these spoilers...

Ferris and his ways of fooling his parents to skip school
He's a jerk.  And he's someone that I would never want to be friends with.  He's narcissistic, obnoxious and... well, selfish.  He's got a best friend that has some serious family issues, as Cameron and Cameron's dad's relationship possibly being worthy of intense therapy... so what does Ferris do? He talks Cameron... no, he forces Cameron to take Cameron's dad's prized car, his Ferrari worth a cool couple of 100Ks and as an indirect result, ends up destroying that very car. 

He is a slacker.  He not only skips school not once, not twice but nine times (and that's just the recorded absences), he seems to have no interest in graduating with any sort of self-worth.  Perhaps in this day and age, a high school and/or college degree isn't as necessary as it once was, but I would think in the mid-80s, it meant something.  But hey, his dad seems like he's successful, so maybe he gets Ferris a job in his office, maybe the mail room or maybe as an assistant of some sort... but do you want Ferris Bueller working for you?  Taking short-cuts, calling in sick, slacking and trying to be cool... I don't want someone working for me who is just trying to be the cool-cat and unconcerned with the value of his work.

Ferris Bueller is that part of us who just wants to tell The Man to suck it, and take a long walk off of a short pier (why is it that no one uses this expression anymore?  this is hilarious, takes just a second to register and is fun to say.  we need to bring it back.  i'll start.)  Ferris is that piece of our soul who wants to skirt responsibility and accountability and do what makes us happy...

Perhaps the reason this movie is so popular is that for an hour and forty some odd minutes, that part of us who wants to tell our own bosses and authoritarian figures and such to kiss it and then walk out of our jobs defiantly to the raves and envy of all the other co-workers lives this very fantasy through the main character of Ferris. And its those traits that make him so appealing to us, because in this film, he gets away with it. Ed Rooney, the dastardly principal, gets his come-uppance, while his mom and dad are completely in the dark, and his sister even has a slight change of heart at the end... and because we know the world doesn't really work like this, we cheer him on.  We cheer Ferris on as he crashes a random parade through weekday downtown Chicago, or as he boldly proposes to Sloan in the rafters of the Chicago stock exchange, or as he races through the yards and streets of his neighborhood, desperately trying to beat Jeannie, who is desperately racing home in her car, trying to show her mom that Ferris is a big ol' faker...

As a matter of fact, if you are a sporto, motorhead, geek, slut, blood, waistoid, dweebie, pinhead... you probably adore him.  You think he's a righteous dude. 

And yes, we cheer him on as he destroys the emotion and psyche of Cameron Frye, his bestie.   Cameron has issues.  And Ferris is not the emotional support Cam needs... he's an enabler and a manipulator.  When Cameron posts strong, and well-deserved objections to leaving his dad's prized Ferrari in a random parking garage, Ferris doesn't even try to reason or argue.  He just tells Cameron that this is where they'll be leaving the car so he, Cam and Sloan can go out and do what Ferris wants to do. 

The Garage Attendatnt and the Attendant Co-Pilot
It is, of course, this action that leads to Cameron's meltdown at the end of the movie.  The car doesn't even make it into the garage wholly before Garage Attendant (as he's billed in the movie) and Attendant's Co-Pilot (also billed as such) hops in and speeds off, racking up several hundred miles on the odometer and doing who knows what kind of unseen body damage to the chassis, let alone the engine wear and tear on pushing a car that hard after being dormant in a covered, climate controlled garage (one can only assume that if Cameron's dad puts that much time and energy into a car, especially at the expense of his relationship with his own son, he would make sure that the car is care for in every way), all while unbeknownest to Cameron, Sloan and Ferris.

Ferris Bueller is not a role model.  He's not a very respectful son, nor is he any kind of a decent brother to his sister. Granted, his sister does seem a little bratty herself--of course, he got a keyboard while she actually got a car, plus she got to meet a young, not yet whacked out Charlie Sheen in the police station and even tell him to shove his thumb in his rear, so that counts for something.

In closing, I give you one six second scene that tells you exactly who Ferris Bueller actually is.  At the end, when he is running pell-mell (why don't we use 'pell-mell' anymore?  the same reason we stopped using 'higgledy-piggledy' to describe something chaotic or messy?  let's bring these back too) to get home, he does something very indicative of who he is.  We've already seen him profess his love for Sloan, not only in his proposal, but later on when he tells us, the audience, that he meant it... and we know that he has everything to lose by getting caught.  His mom and dad who believe in him so much will know he was faking the illness, and then will probably begin to wonder about the other times he was "sick".  Jeanne wins, because everyone will know she's right.  So getting home before his mom does is the most important thing he can possibly do--it will affect his life completely, at least for the short term future.

So, he jumps a fence and runs past two chicks in bikinis, lounging.  And then what does he do?  He stops, turns around and slowly walks back, sticking his hand out and saying, "Hi, I'm Ferris Bueller."  He who proposed to Sloan a few hours earlier, who is entitled to look but knowing he's committed, spends precious minutes talking to two scantily clad chicks who he's never met.  But he does it, because he's so arrogant, so self-confident, so narcissistic that he knows he won't get caught.  We only see a few seconds of this, but you know this conversation had to last at least a minute or two.  And because he barely makes it back in his bed, with nary a second to spare, before Mama Bueller checks on him, you have to understand that had he not stopped for the bikini chicks, he probably would have made it home with a few minutes to spare.

This is who Ferris Bueller is.  And Ferris Bueller is a bad person. 

And if you are wondering if I just spend a dozen paragraphs on the character of Ferris Bueller... well, you might be right.

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