Aug 20th, 2008, 01:39 AM
Every character in a John Hughes movie is fucked in the head.
I just got done with watching Ferris Bueller and Breakfast Club on cable and with fresh eyes of a man well beyond high school, I just had to ask this question: what exactly makes Ferris Bueller so fucking smart in the movie?
Hughes showcases him as the Bugs Bunny to the world's Elmer Fudd, but there's nothing really to Ferris. Hughes takes great strides to showcase him as this free spirit/source of playful anarchy that sees through the world's bullshit and tells us to enjoy life. Yet, he doesn't really seem to even be adult enough to justify his pathetic and vague wisdom. "Life moves pretty fast, you have to stop and look around every once and a while" seems to be a half-hearted attempt to justify the conformity that Ferris inherently lacks. While the first part of his motto could be seen as true, the second part is mysterious. If life moves so fast and we must enjoy what we have, then why do we only have to stop and look around once and awhile? Ferris seems to accept that a human has to work for survival, but his methodology about it seems to embrace conforming one's life to work and occasionally breaking free to show one's self. In order to live, states Ferris, one must not be one's self, but mask it until it has to break out. Instead of being a free spirit, one's true self must be occasionally aired out like an old suit before going back into conformity. Hence, being free is a safety valve for the banality of existence. Ferris never addresses this banality, instead showing how one can circumvent it occasionally to reinforce it. He never questions why he must take a day off and go wild but supports it. He is simply not capable of asking why his life is so withdrawn and come to terms of fixing it. He merely skips along, becoming not the opposite to a strict corporate world but a part of it, showcasing how one could stand it but never thinking of why it exists.
In this vein, Ferris becomes the poster boy for conformity. Note his actions throughout the film: when his parents leave and he's free to be himself, he merely hangs around the house for a few hours. After goofing around, he reestablishes ties to the school and takes calls from freshmen and cons Cameron into doing his dirty work. Finally getting his party together, then Ferris goes into Chicago in the '80s and.....has the squarest time ever. Besides leaving a valuable car in a public parking structure to be used and abused, Ferris basically goes on an extended field trip that would bore even Brian from the Breakfast Club. Museums? Very turgid restaurants? A parade? The Sears Tower? Ferris escapes from high school only to regress back to Elementary School. He does nothing really worthwhile or moldbreaking from a pathetic suburban kid. And finally, in the centerpiece of his day off, he hijacks a float and sings two songs that were at least twenty years old. Exactly what the hell is the point in this regression?
Perhaps Ferris is trying to establish the False Past that were prevalent in the Republican-based '80s. The idea that the present is so screwed up because we 'diverted' from a pure past is a silly myth that both excuses the problems of the past with a rose-tinted view while emphasizing the problems of the present via nostalgia. Ferris is a good poster child for this as he merely takes on the corporate world that surrounds the parade (show with many camera shots taken high above the parade) by having several hundred people (and people above in the towers) dance to his songs of years gone by. He doesn't act out in any typical '80s way--his room seems oddly decorated in a lot of English Punk accessories but he never seems to listen to it within the movie. The only '80s music is shown to the audience through the lens of the film, not through the film's narrative in any way. This is telling: the film itself is masking itself as a teenager-knows-all film that Disney puts out even today, but pushes an agenda of falsifying a past in order to create a semblence of false logic that causes any adult in America to justify their hatred of change via Youth and settles into their own turgid ways. Ferris, in this sense, is a bum steer of Republican culture. He does not truly believe in questioning life, but releasing it in random bursts to keep the machine well oiled. The machine's purpose is still left unquestioned, however, but the idea of questioning is relieved by the occasional 'Day Off' burst that Ferris suggests. Behind all of the supposed anarchy that Ferris seems to back, the idea of a 'college-job-marriage' is still pushed as a certainty.
In this way, Ferris isn't a symbol of freedom at all. In many ways, he's like Anthony Burgess's own Clockwork Orange: a wild youth raises hell only to become a respectable and 'normal' member of society no matter what. It seems to be the way of the machine itself.