Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Life moves pretty fast. So do lessons that Ferris didn't get.

Ferris Bueller. The name is legend. So much so that my Autocorrect wants to change "Bueller" to "BUELLER." (Actually that's not the reason, it's that I'm more likely to refer to the title than the character, but it amused me to say.) So much so that TV producers decided a TV version was a good idea. And that Charlie (not yet Charles) Schlatter would be a good replacement for Matthew Broderick. And that it was a good idea to insult the fans of the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off by having Schlatter insult a cardboard cutout of Broderick then chainsaw it in two.


That wasn't the only way the show shot itself in the foot: it had bad writing, screechy performances (think how charming Jennifer Aniston was later on Friends; none of that charm here), bad versions of the electronic music that'd been used in the film's eclectic score (and, if I remember correctly, almost nothing on the TV soundtrack BUT the electronic music), and the big issue that nearly, nearly, crippled the film:

Ferris Bueller is not a good guy. He's spoiled, entitled, and cheerfully ignorant. He feels no need to study European Socialism because it doesn't immediately affect his life. (I will admit, though, his coming up with "fascist anarchists" is nicely precise in how contradictory it is, so he's certainly not dumb.) He gripes about the computer he got (a gift, remember) that he uses to hack the public school database and keep it from saying how many sick days he's taken. He expects friends to say "How high?" when he says "Jump," which is how he treats Cameron. Cameron has his issues, and Ferris thinks he's helping him deal with them, but it's self-justifying bull on Ferris's part. He needs Cameron for his car, then for his dad's car; ah, there's THAT unfair escalation, mainly because Ferris feels entitled to driving it. (And "getting Cameron to relax" DOES NOT EQUAL "letting go of the steering wheel and looking away from the road and other shenanigans." This movie would play much differently if Ferris crashed.)

Like Magneto, Ferris makes some valid points -- there's more to being well-rounded than what you learn in school, and don't pass up chances to do something different and to learn -- and the film is set up to reinforce that we like him and cheer on his wish fulfillment, and Broderick is a natural likability generator, but Ferris goes too far in the opposite direction: School's useless, get out. Not a well-rounded thought, from a not-well-rounded person.

The character who has the largest character arc in the film is Cameron, as he learns how he needs to stand up to both his best friend and his overbearing father, but maybe overall the best character? Jeanie Bueller, played by Jennifer Grey a year before Dirty Dancing. She consistently points out that Ferris gets away with stuff she could never do. She's understandably mad about it and the circumstances that she ends up in as she tries to stop Ferris...and yet her love for her brother still comes through. We don't always like the ones we love, after all. Jeanie takes matters into her own hands, she inadvertently helps take down the creepy jerk Principal Rooney (how satisfying is her kick in his face?), and at just the right moment she gets Ferris in the palm of her hand and could destroy his plans by saying boo, metaphorically. His unspoken panic that only she sees is priceless. We can hope Jeanie taught Ferris a lesson.

The TV show forgot that lesson. And the few people who tuned in to that show realized that a little Ferris Bueller goes a long, long way.

In the film, Jeanie Bueller does see lessons, and her snark aside, opens up to them. Now I wish I knew how she turned out. I brought this up on Twitter, and singer-songwriter Marian Call mentioned how when she saw the film, she most sympathized with Jeanie and her fury at not being taken seriously. "I bet she kicks ass as an adult," Call said. Now I want to imagine: Jeanie, growing up and being a good, happy, fulfilled person. I hope fanfic has tackled that. I'm pretty sure the TV show didn't.

(Meanwhile, I like the theory that Matthew Broderick's future character, the teacher in Alexander Payne's 1999 film Election, is in fact Ferris Bueller a little more grown up, and with...issues. Good film, that.)

All this came to mind in the wake of an article that points out the Cubs game Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane attend happened 30 years ago on June 5th, 1985, but was brought up in a confusing enough headline that people were all "But Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out in 1986, NOT 1985..." (And June 5th, 1985 being the date Ferris took his day off is a matter of debate, too.)

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