Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Simple Joy of Ferris Bueller

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 15, 2018

Okay. I’m showing my age here. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a film that came out when I was still in public school. In case you haven’t seen it, it is the story of a high school kid in the mid-1980s who plays hooky with two of his friends, and pretty much has the ultimate vacation week in Chicago packed into a single day. And he gets away with it, because he’s amazingly good at winning friends, influencing people, and pulling off audacious stunts. All the time, he is pursued by a nasty principal and his jealous sister, anxious to catch him in the act so that he can suffer the full consequences of his deception.

The plot is ridiculous. It’s pure wish fulfillment as a kid, nothing more. I’ve read an earlier script that was quite a bit darker than what ended up on the screen in the final cut (Charlie Sheen’s character being one of the last vestiges of the original plan), but IIRC it was still pretty ridiculous and over-the-top.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

I have seen some fan-theories that suggest that the whole adventure–and maybe Ferris Bueller himself–was entirely the product of Cameron’s fevered imagination. The rationale? Because it’s impossible. There’s too much stuff to pack into a three-day vacation, let alone a few hours. And of course, it’s crazy to imagine one kid pulling all this stuff off.

John Hughes is sadly no longer with us to ask, but this is the same guy who later brought us a bunch of Home Alone movies with the same level of insane, ridiculous plot. Sure, in contrast with some of his more serious teen films, it’s more over-the-top… Ferris Bueller’s Day Off marked the beginning of a change of style for the popular filmmaker. Again, the darker original script suggests that he had something a bit more in-line with his more angsty teen films like Pretty In Pink or The Breakfast Club.

But this fan theory is… well, dumb, unimaginative, and downright nasty. You may as well assume that all of the Spider-Man movies are Peter Parker’s fever dream when he’s in a coma from radiation poisoning, because a human inheriting a spider’s powers is ridiculous. By that rationale, every single modern-era film with fantasy or science-fiction elements can have the same fan theory: “It was all just a dream.” BORING. Unimaginative. Lame. For that matter, any story in which the hero triumphs in spite of rather spectacular odds can be downgraded to just being someone’s dream or imagination run wild. I remember making that joke the first season of the TV show 24, because there was no way somebody could drive across Los Angeles during rush hour in the ten minutes or so the show indicated.

That is a nasty perspective to have. I hate the idea of relegating everything fantastic, impossible, or even improbable to the realm of lame. Sorry, fan theory people… you have to work a lot harder than that!

Filed Under: Movies - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Michael Anderson said,

    I was in college when Ferris Bueller came out, and it was a blast seeing it with friends during summer break as we were all working and a couple of years out of high school.

    I would use the word cynical for the fan theories you describe … and sometimes all of that makes me so happy I grew up in a time without social media or cell phones or even internet. I could like the crap I liked without concerning myself if it was highbrow or lowbrow or whatever.

    One thing I loved about all of these movies is that for all of the wish fulfillment, there were elements in all of them that were just a little too close to reality – there were more families starting to have two working parents, but it seemed like those who did were a bit pre-occupied and detached. And honestly in my high school it was the vice principal who I felt would be the one you would find at your doorway ready to put the hammer down.

    One of my favorites of that era, along with Real Genius and Better Off Dead and War Games and … aw jeez I am old! haha

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – likewise. And yeah, cynical. It’s like… come on. Wish fulfillment? YES. It’s just dang fun.

    Oh, yeah, and I loved the original Star Wars trilogy, too. Even though half of what happened in the movies were a complete and utter violation of all physical laws. So what? 🙂

    Real Genius quote: “I was pondering the immortal words of Socrates when he said, ‘I drank what?’ ”

    Better Off Dead: “Where’s my two dollars?”

    Good times.